When I heard about this project at the start of the year, I was keen to write about it to try and encourage students to get involved (imagining a Brighton student writing about their time on the plinth lol), but like Gormley’s ideas for the 4th Plinth at Trafalgar square, it was not as exciting as we dreamed it to be. This piece was published in The Pebble, March 2008.
What do Jesus Christ, David Beckham, and Alison Lapper all have in common?
In fact, they have all been immortalised on the infamous ‘fourth plinth’ at Trafalgar Square, by Mark Wallinger, Madame Tussaudes and Marc Quinn respectively. But the real question is, do you fancy joining them?
Antony Gormley is a sculptor is well known for his exploration of the body and its relationship to memory, transformation, and the human condition. He is best known for ‘Angel of the North’ (1998), a 66ft tall steel angel towering over Gateshead, seen as the gateway to the North of England. For his latest commission he has decided to include 2,400 members of the British public in this work, a national living monument. The concept is simple; between 6th July and 14th October, 24 hours a day, someone will be on the plinth, speaking, performing, and doing whatever the public wants them to see or hear. These events will be fed 24 hours a day via Sky Arts, thus made available to the whole world. The Fourth plinth will be transformed into a glorified soapbox, to give anyone who wishes an hour to do with what they wish. Although, in the setting, it is worth considering that voice alone will not be enough to attract attention, a much spectacular visual display is needed. For Gormley; “Through elevation onto the plinth and removal from the common ground, the body becomes a metaphor, symbol, emblem – a point of reference, focus and thought,” although he admits “I will be very upset if somebody doesn’t take off their clothes when they get there.”
The Fourth plinth at this popular tourist spot has had quite a troubled history. Initially designed by Charles Barry in 1841 to hold an equestrian statue, it was left empty after its erection due to lack of funding. Ever since, people could never agree on the appropriate figure to be placed on it. The Royal Society of Arts took ownership of the plinth during 1999-2000, exhibiting works by 3 contemporary artists. In the year’s in-between the Greater London Authority took responsibly for its lodgers, it was occupied unofficially by a Channel 4 ident, David Beckham waxwork during the 2002 world Cup, and there was even discussion of a Nelson Mandela statue. In September 2005, Marc Quinn unveiled the much publicised and critised ‘Alison Lapper Pregnant’, and Thomas Schütte’s ‘Model for a Hotel’ occupies the Plinth to this day.
What is important to remember that while anyone can apply, Gormley has specified that the people selected will be representation of the whole of the UK, thus there should be equal numbers of people men/women, north/south etc. Gormley has applied for his hour, but he has just as much chance as you do. If you would like to get involved, please visit www.oneandother.co.uk.