Friday, July 10, 2009

Getting plinthed


Ciara from Ireland had the right idea. If you're going to bore everyone to death during your time on the Fourth Plinth in London's Trafalgar Square, you might as well have a good time in the process. So she took up a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and got slowly plinthed over the course of her sixty minutes of fame — a full four times the Warhol quota.

Antony Gormley's latest project — entitled One and Other — is open to anyone 16 years of age or older who is resident in, or staying in the UK. At time of writing, there were 23,408 applicants hoping to bag one of the 2,400 hour-long slots on the famously vacant Fourth Plinth.

You can take anything up onto the plinth as long you can carry it yourself. So you can't take a horse up there, or a blast furnace, or your car, but pornographic magazines, a few lines of coke and small improvised explosive devices are probably OK as long as you're subtle about it.

It's hard to believe it is almost half a century since the artist Vito Acconci curled up under a ramp in New York's Sonnabend Gallery and masturbated while the public walked above. Vito, London calling! There's still time to grab one of the 2,400 places!

But perhaps Acconci, Arnulf Rainer, Chris Burden — who nailed himself to the bonnet of his VW Beetle — and their crazy '60s avant-garde cohorts are to blame for raising our expectations where contemporary public art is concerned. Today it's enough to just sit up there like Ettie did this afternoon (above left), quietly reading her book on the Mitfords, knowing that in the process she was "being a tiny part of something huge."

But I need more than this from contemporary art.

The American art critic Rosalind Krauss wrote of "sculpture's expanded field" to denote the diversity of objects, activities, practices and processes that now qualify as sculpture. That field has become so vast and heterogeneous, and its perimeter fence so porous, that just about anything qualifies for access. In an act of uncritical generosity, Antony Gormley has just ushered in 2400 members of the British public.

Good luck to them. I'm off to get plinthed.

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