Bitter Bench

Bitter Bench was a public intervention protesting the harassment of homeless people sleeping rough in Brisbane's inner city.

Under Lord Mayor Campbell Newman, Brisbane City Council introduced discriminatory police move-on powers, cut funding to homelessness programs, and removed key public furnishings where the homeless sought refuge.

Bitter Bench was a seat fitted with a solar powered proximity activated audio system that, as pedestrians approached, triggered recorded voices of homeless men and women, and then tilted forward, preventing anyone from sitting on it.

Engraved in large letters on the seat’s wooden slats was the phrase “BITTER BRISBANE” (from the City Council’s official slogan “Dedicated to a better Brisbane”). An official looking Council plaque accompanied the seat with a quote from The Lord Mayor’s repentant alter ego. It was installed without permission on the prominent site of a recently removed bus shelter that was popular amongst the homeless sleeping rough in the city.

The intervention only lasted 3 days, but forced the Council to publicly defend its abysmal response to homelessness, as well as replace removed street furniture, and with rare media focus on the issues, helped draw attention to a side of Brisbane airbrushed away in the interests of commercial priorities.

Collaboration with Michael Candy.