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Have you ever wanted to pass the time by standing on top of the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square? Well this may be your best chance; leading British artist Antony Gormley is inviting people from across the nation to take part in a ‘unique living monument’. Calling his creation One & Other, it is intended to act as a showcase of the country we live in and the people who inhabit it.
The idea is that between the 6th July and the 14th October, 2400 people will have spent an hour each on top of the famous plinth. Anyone who lives in the UK and is over 16 is free to take part and successful applicants will be picked at random. A person is allowed to do whatever they like for their hour (sing, dance, raise their college flag) and can take with them anything that they can carry up there themselves. Anyone not perched above Trafalgar Square will be able to watch online (www.oneandother.co.uk), and you will even be able to vote for your favourite ‘plinthers’.
Antony Gormley was commissioned to create this piece of temporary artwork by the Mayor of London’s Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group. It is intended to be one piece in a series of unique live events being planned by creative producers Artichoke, who are working in partnership with Sky Arts. Artichoke have engineered similar large scale public art shows, most famously by bringing The Sultan’s Elephant to London in 2006 and La Machine to Liverpool last year.
Antony Gormley said that he envisaged the project as making ‘the body become a metaphor, a symbol’, that when placed within the context of Trafalgar Square and the background of the Fourth Plinth it ‘allows us to reflect on the diversity, vulnerability and particularity of the individual in contemporary society’. If you go onto the project’s website you will find a video of Anthony Gormley explaining how this idea will express ‘the democratisation of art’. This plan is intended to help us to ‘see the world from the point of view of art’, a view we have apparently ‘inherited from the old order’ but he hopes that this will be the start of ‘a new order’. In a separate statement the artist summed up his creation by saying that ‘it could be tragic but it could also be funny’.
Anthony Gormley is no stranger to large displays of modern art which fly in the face of norms and conventions, being the designer of such landmarks as the Angel of the North and the metal men on Crosby Beach known as Another Place. Antony Gormley’s works have been put on display in some of the world’s most famous art museums and galleries, such as the Tate, the Hayward Galleries, the Louisiana Museum in Humlebaek and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC. His artistic creations have earned him a string of awards and accolades, including the Turner Prize, the South Bank Prize for Visual Art and the Bernhard Heiliger Award for Sculpture.
The Fourth Plinth itself has been the sight of many other important and influential works of large-scale art. The installation of art on top of the plinth began in 1999 when the Royal Society of Arts started the Fourth Plinth Project. This project was initially very successful, with work by Mark Wallinger, Bill Woodrow and Rachel Whiteread residing above Trafalgar Square up until 2001. Despite the plinth being empty for several years, it was decided that the use of the column as a site of artistic exhibition was the best way to utilise the space, and once again the plinth was used for the purposes of contemporary art. In recent years the plinth has played host to sculptures such as Alison Lapper Pregnant by Marc Quinn and Thomas Schutte’s Model for a Hotel.
Antony Gormley’s proposed plans have attracted a lot of positive attention from influential figureheads from the worlds of politics and art. Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, said: ‘It’s going to be a brilliant case of people coming to art and art coming to the people as the people become the art. A very public demonstration of democracy in action’. Moira Sinclair, who holds the role of Executive Director of the Arts Council of England, said that the project was ‘remarkable’ in the way that it ‘values the multiplicity of voices within the UK’. He went on to state that it will allow the people of the UK to ‘stand up and take their places amongst the luminaries of Trafalgar Square’ whilst simultaneously stimulating the debate about ‘the role of art in everyday life.’
Antony Gormley’s works of art have captivated the nation’s attention before in unique and interesting ways (whether you like the way the Angel of the North grabs your attention is up to you). If you would like to take part in his next masterpiece and cement your place alongside Nelson, George IV, James II and George Washington, then you can register online now for the chance.