This is not really film-related, but I thought I’d post it here anyway, in the hope that it might be of interest to anyone whose film-fixation extends to other media, in this case contemporary art. I’ve been selected to take part in Anthony Gormley‘s latest public art project, One and Other; from 6th July until 14th October, 2400 people will occupy the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, London, for one hour each. At 8am on 23rd July 2009, I will take my place on the Plinth, 8 metres above the ground. Since 1999, the plinth has been a platform for a rolling sequence of contemporary art that provides a contrast to the military and monarchical statuary that marks the rest of the area. It has most recently been occupied by Thomas Schütte’s “Model for a Hotel”, which I photographed a while ago:
In the past, it has served very different artistic aims. Rachel Whiteread filled it with a mirror-image of the plinth itself:
The first piece to be installed was Mark Wallinger’s Ecce Homo, a lifesize (and thus vulnerable, ordinary-looking) statue of Christ that subverts the convention of aggrandisement and exaggeration conventions of this kind of likeness:
Also subeverting the expectation that statues are for men with military backup was Marc Quinn’s “Alison Lapper Pregnant”, a giant sculpture of the disabled artist:
All of these are confrontational in their own way, usually by striking up some friction with the surrounding area and its customs. By giving the plinth over to a bunch of nobodies like me, Gormley might risk making it utterly ordinary, but the artist has suggested that he would be disappointed if his project failed to provoke controversy:
I would be very upset if somebody didn’t take their clothes off. They have got to stay within the law, but unless there’s a degree of contradiction this (project) will have no teeth at all. I can imagine there will be occasions for arrests, and we have to deal with that when it happens. There will be self-selecting exhibitionists burning to use this for their acts, but there will be others who just want to be there to represent their communities just by standing. I really don’t think that there is anything that people can do up there that is not acceptable.
I’m happy to report that I will not be that naked exhibitionist. Unless it’s really sunny. I’m not sure it needs to provide that kind of sensationalism to be an interesting experiment – there are already opportunities to debase oneself or get arrested in London, and isn’t the notion of exhibited people enough?
So, I’m open to suggestions on how I should spend my hour as a living sculpture. This is public art, so the public should shape it. But I’m not sure it become a kind of busker’s performance space, or a speaker’s corner, or a political bandstand. London already has plenty of designated places for those things. It’s not a talent show, and nor should it be an audition for other media appearances: it will be televised, and covered round-the-clock by webcams, but it’s not reality TV. At least, I hope that’s not what it becomes. That said, the excitement of the project is that anything (within reason) can happen, and the artist has to sign away some of the ownership of what goes on. The application process doesn’t prescribe what you should do once you get onto the plinth, but people will no doubt feel some pressure to perform, to do something unique. I heard Gormley speak at the Hay Festival a couple of weeks ago, and he did hope that some people would “do nothing”, i.e. they would simply embody the experience of being on display by “being” themselves rather than putting on a show (which might be seen as a mask rather than a self-representation). I thought I might pose as William IV: the plinth was built in 1841 with the intention of offering a giant equestrian statue to the king, but funds ran out and he was, by most accounts, an unpopular buffoon of a monarch, so there wasn’t much incentive to memorialise him. My other option might be to record (with a paper and a pen – I don’t fancy taking a laptop up there if it’s going to rain on me) my responses to the experience and blog them immediately afterwards: I’ll scan in my notes rather than typing them up. It might be intimidating, exhilarating, possibly dull. It might also be a good chance to get some peace and quiet – paradoxically, it’ll be very public, but I’ll also have 60 minutes to myself where I can’t be contacted, if I choose to leave my phone at home.
Let me know your thoughts, or if you’ve also been picked, let me know how you intend to use your hour. Whatever happens, I’m sure it’ll be better than Tracy Emin’s plan to put some meerkats up there.
It’s not too late to apply for your place on the plinth:
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