Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Plinth-Watch: High Art - or Reality TV at its Worst?

This week marked the beginning of Antony Gormley’s ambitious “One And Other” art project – a human art installation which invites members of the public to spend an hour atop the empty fourth plinth at Trafalgar Square.

Gormley has managed to attract more than 21,000 applicants for the 2400 places available over the 100 days the project will run for. For those of us who hail from the Big Brother generation, obsessed with experiencing their Warholian 15 minutes of fame no matter what inane or humiliating depths they must sink to in order to achieve it, its popularity should come as no surprise.

However, having tuned in to the One and Other webcam at various points during the past few days ( if you’re interested) I can’t help but feel disappointed at the standard of those selected to take part. Let me paint you a picture. So far, the spectacular turns atop the fourth plinth include: a bloke in a panda suit on a mobile phone (think Trigger Happy TV but without the humour); a man with a blackboard and chalk who’s ‘thing’ was to scribble smart arse comments (which he clearly thought were great witticisms) and offer them out to the crowd of bemused tourists who were more interested in taking their picture with the stone lions; and a Christian Aid worker collecting for charity (inoffensive enough –but come on, it’s not art, is it?).

Maybe I’ve missed the point, but I thought this was an art project – not an opportunity for every X-Factor reject, fame-seeker or do-gooder to use the plinth as a soapbox. It wouldn’t be so bad if they genuinely had something interesting to say (or do) but for the most part, they don’t. The sad thing is, while people are attracted by the idea of being the centre of attention for a fleeting moment, when the moment comes, the majority haven’t really got anything of value to contribute.

Perhaps Gormley is trying to make some sort of incisive comment about the banal, navel-gazing nature of modern culture. Then again, he might just be as disappointed as I am.


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