Monday, July 13, 2009

is it art?

A new art installation is taking London...for that matter, the entire storm. It's simply Antony Gormley's "One and Other" 4th plinth project in Trafalgar Square. Some people say it's art, others that it is a performance, and still others say it is nothing but a stunt. Whatever it is...I have to share the concept with you all.

As most of you who have been to London or who have ever seen a picture of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square will attest, there are 4 plinths surrounding the column. Three of these "bases" (another word for plinth in this example) have sculptures affixed to the tops of these plinths (more on those dudes later) but the fourth plinth is empty. Apparently, money for a 4th plinth was never successfully raised; although other public sculptures have temporarily graced the 4th plinth for limited periods of time over the last 10-15 yearrs. Hence, the idea for the biggest art project in London in fill this plinth with human sculptures.

Here's how it works: Antony Gormley, a world renowned (and UK) sculpturer conceived a project to fill this 4th plinth with a different human sculpture every hour for 100 days. That is a total of 2400 human sculptures. The idea is that these sculptures will answer the following questions: "What is Britain all about?", "What makes Britain great?" "Where do I fit in the world?" and "What is a living picture of life like in the UK?"

Before the project begun, the other 3 plinths had bronze sculptures placed there using public funds. All heroes of the day, the other three statues are of (a) King George IV, (b) Henry Hadlock, a UK soldier in India, and (3) Charles Napier, one of Wellington's men. (Yea, not names that roll off the tongue). To be pickedas a human sculpture, one must enter one of three random drawings, with the first one already being held. To date, over 25, 000 people have entered the lottery for one of the 2400 coveted spots. And before you ask...yes...I have entered, but I think it is a long shot! Still you got to be in it, to win it.


For those lucky enough to be picked, you will be hoisted by a crane onto the top of the 4th plinth at your appointed hour. The plinth itself is 7 meters high (about 24 feet), 1.5 meters wide (about the width of a public sidewalk), and 4.2 meters long. For those of you with vertigo, no need to apply. Health and safety codes being what we know they are in the UK, there is a giant net around the plinth (sorta looks like a giant trampoline in the air) so IF a sculpture topples off by harm, no foul :-).
The project formally kicked off with its first plinth sculpture on Monday, July 6th at 9 AM with Rachel Wardell, a UK housewife and mother of two, who wanted to raise awareness for the NSPCC (National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children). She simply donned a T-shirt, was hoisted onto the top of the plinth by a crane, and stood there for the entire time allottment holding a big lollipop with the NSPCC hotline phone number printed on it. To each their own..guess that is the concept!

Essentially, there are very few rules, and the selected "human sculptures" can do almost anything they want or then again, nothing at all. Come rain, shine, high winds, or boredom, these sculptures will be on display on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square for 1 hour in a manner entirely of their choosing. Participants do not even have to float their sculpture idea past anyone to be selected. There are a few rules which are not in the least bit onerous and entirely understandable:

(1) selected sculpture winners must occupy plinths alone

(2) take only what you can can carry onto the plinth

(3) sorry, no pets!

(4) you must stay on the plinth for the entire 60 minutes

(5) keep "it" legal

That's it! For those of you living in the UK, consider it a lark and sign up for the lottery. For those of you coming to the UK, be sure to stop by for a personal can't miss the 4th plinth as it is right outside, in front of the National Gallery. For those of you who want to participate virtually, the human sculptures are on display 24 x 7.

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