Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The Fourth Plinth.


So, it has begun. Yesterday morning at 9 of the clock, the first "living statue" clambered up the plinth in Trafalgar Square in London. Antony Gormley - the architect of the project - says that the intention is to portray the nation in an up-to-date version of how painters like Gainsborough and Reynolds showed it; the difference being that in the nineteenth century it was the landed gentry - the ruling classes - who personified the nation: now it is the ordinary "man-in-the-street."

I would have loved to apply for a slot - thousands did apparently - but a) could I clamber up - I doubt it and b) I suffer from vertigo - could I last an hour at that height. Gormley will no doubt be pleased that the plinth was hi-jacked by an anti-smoking campaigner before it got started. That's what it is all about.

People's reasons for wanting an hour slot standing in the open air in the nation's favourite meeting place are interesting -

""I don't imagine it will be easy or comfortable. The idea that captivated me was celebrating humanity through the ordinary and everyday in us, letting the light shine through the cracks", said a 42 year old man from Derby.

"I want to give my grandson something to remember," said a 54 year old Londoner, holding up a placard saying 'I am not a pigeon.'"

And the lady in the picture? She is a housewife aged 35 from Lincolnshire.

Although I don't think you can see the project as in any way "profound", it is sure to be a popular one as the tourist season gets into full swing. Rachel Campbell-Johnston, writing in The Times this morning, reminds us that the fourth plinth is "as much about the debate that takes place around it as it is about the art work on the top."

I love the idea. She says she feels that Gormley is still in control and that the plinthers will be seen as "Gorms" (the nickname of the figurines in the sea off Crosby - if you don't know about those go to Art Propelled where Robyn has an excellent post on the artist.)

Is it art? What do you think?

16 comments:

Reader Wil said...

Even though I like demonstrating for a good cause against something bad, which I frequently did twenty years ago, I would never get up on that plinth for the same reasons you have Weaver! The lady standing there, is very brave!

jinksy said...

I guess if it makes people use their eyes and brains, it might be classed as 'art trouvé'...

Derrick said...

Hello Weaver,

I saw this on the news and was amused by the idea that even the hours through the night have to be filled. That could be a tad boring - and cold - for the plinther!

I don't think it's art. Lots of other things, maybe, but not art.

Cathy said...

Will people really "see" what it is supposed to stand for? I doubt it. Gosh, I'm a downer this morning. I think some will be well meaning but there's probably some fringe element in there that could "spoil" good intentions. Not my idea of art and I'm getting more afraid of heights as I age too.

steven said...

hi weaver, i saw this on the beeb's webpage and wondered as well about what could be said that would last an hour. or, are you compelled to stay there an hour even if you've given your all? i'd love to see a "request" system put in so that at least once a day, someone well-known or accountable in some way had to show up and discuss their work / behaviour / ideas! can you imagine? who would you like to see up there?!!! have a peaceful day. steven

Heather said...

I suppose the plinth people could be seen as a living installation but I don't see the project as art. However it is interesting and does give each participant an opportunity to bring their pet subject to public notice. I love the 'Gorms' - Antony Gormley is a very clever artist. I'd need a chair up there for an hour or I'd wobble off!!

Pondside said...

This has been all over out news. I don't see it as art, though there may be someone who makes his/her stint a living installation. I'd guess that for most people it's more an experience than an expression.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Nice to know friends that when we get to a "certain age" we all feel we would wobble off! I would point out that there is a safety net round it and according to the farmer a fork lift to hoist people up - but oh the indignity of not being able to scramble up or of having to be rescued (like a beetle on its back) from the safety net!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

We were reading about this over coffee this very morning. Much discussion about what we would each choose to do if we were up there for an hour ourselves. Knowing me, I'd probably get woozy at that height and have to sit down, which would be most humiliating.

I think it's a great idea, though. A wonderful snapshot of humanity in 2009.

willow said...

First of all, I wasn't sure exactly what a "plinth" was, so I looked it up and also saw lots of other interesting folks making a statement up there. I think it's wonderful, and yes, very brave.

Leenie said...

Gives being "put up on a pedistal" a whole new meaning! I don't know about making oneself a target/point of interest unless it was for a worthy cause. Nope, not art in my book.

Penny said...

changed your header, its lovely although I loved your last one too.
My granddaughter saw these yesterday on her one day in London, Oxford today and then off to be with Welsh Pony people, first stop the Royal of England, she is so lucky I am green with envy.
Yes enjoying the collages

Carolyn said...

I think this is just such a fine idea and I only wish someone would do it here in Canada....hmmmmmm!?! Thanks for posting this and sharing.
Smiles

Cloudia said...

Performance art for the rest of us!
Aloha-

Comfort Spiral

Kim said...

The eternal question of "Is it art?" This always generates discussion and differing opinions come to the fore. Yes, it probably is technically art, just not art that I appreciate in any real way. I look and understand the intention and concept but realistically don't see the value except in it's ability to generate discussion. Umm... does that mean then that I have answered myself, and yes it is art? LOL

The Weaver of Grass said...

There was a lovely article in The Times today by Libby Purves. Her brother had a night-time slot on the first night (3am to 4am), when he stood on the plinth in full Morris Dancing Gear and played tunes on a melodion for an hour. She stayed in London overnight and went to watch him, along with a few policemen and a lot of arguing seagulls! She loved it. Almost makes me want to go to London to see it. Thanks for all the comments.