Trafalgar Square has four plinths–20+ foot high structures to support statues–but only three have statuary upon them. For ten years the local government has chosen artists to fill the fourth plinth with work. This year, Antony Gormley, who is known for making works from his own human form, was chosen to create a work. He ended up choosing to put a rotating selection of randomly chosen persons up on the plinth. The Telegraph tells the story of the work, called One and the Other which begins on Monday:
“I couldn’t really continue to use myself as a test ground so I thought I’d see if I could get statues of lots of people on the plinth,” he explains. “But then I realised it would be silly to make sculptures and much more fun to put real people up there. Here is this old plinth, full of old ideas about what constitutes a statue – elevated and idealised – and the rest of us, by mere implication of being beneath, are lesser beings. So I thought it would be an interesting experience to see what it feels like to be rather high, rather alone, and rather isolated in a very public place, exposed to the world’s gaze.
“Trafalgar Square is a position for national heroes, where the machinery of established values whirrs away. So I thought let’s try and question this English obsession with heritage and values – let’s have a real person up there who hasn’t ever been idealised or idolised and see what happens. It’s about what you think, feel or do when…” he trails off. When you are put on the spot? “Yes, exactly, when you’re on the spot.”
More than 14,000 people have so far applied to take part in the project, with participants chosen at random by a computer, which is programmed to select an equal number of men and women and to find candidates from as wide a geographical spread as possible.
The first 615 volunteers who will have their one hour of fame have been selected. They include Gwynneth Pedler, 83, the oldest “plinther” selected so far who plans to ascend in her wheelchair and signal messages with semaphore flags. Then there is Oliver Parsons-Barker, 26, an aquatic scientist who wants to highlight the global shortage of clean water by dressing in a “poo costume”, and Hannah Pringle, a 20-year-old student who will celebrate her birthday on the plinth with cake. During his 10pm slot, David Rosenberg, a 41-year-old architect, will mount his pink, folding bike and pedal to power a specially designed pink-lighted suit.
“It’s not about being asked to behave in a special way,” Gormley insists. “All that’s being asked is to go up there and be yourself. It’s not about ‘doing’, it’s about ‘being’. The unpredictability of what people might do is one of the most exciting things. When it’s windy and raining at 2am, and it’s just you up there, it will be tough. And then you’ll have the passers-by who will yell ‘Oi, you up there, who do you think you are?’, it will be quite a challenge.”
Bloomberg profiles Rachel Wardell, the first person up:
While Wardell hopes to highlight its work and helplines, she said the logistics are tricky: She can only take what she can carry, must go alone, and has no power sockets to work with. So Wardell plans to make a silent visual statement.
Her eldest son Harrison, 5, was baffled by her decision. “His response was, ‘Oh, why?’ when I told him I’d be standing up like a statue,” she recalls with a giggle.
What she wants to convey to her two boys is an anything-is- possible message: that even someone living far from London cultural circles can be in a work of art, and “Why shouldn’t Mum be able to do that?”
Antony Gormley: Who Will Be A Star on My Plinth? (Telegraph)