So today marked the beginning of Antony Gormley’s “performance piece” on the empty plinth on Trafalgar Square. The idea is that for the next 100 days anyone can apply for a 1 hour spot to mount the plinth – a focal point in one of the most photographed places on Earth – and do “whatever you like”.
In terms of art, the man’s a genius.
Since arriving home I caught on the live webcast the last 20 minutes of a woman apologetically shifting from side to side dressed as a pigeon, and now there’s a bloke, who looks like a geography teacher, taking photographs.
Once you get past the idea that you’re watching something a bit boring, there’s a few things that come out of it. Firstly, it becomes painfully obvious just how long an hour is. The girls dressed as a pigeon clearly thought it’d be hilariousn and for 5 or 6 minutes it probably was, but in putting yourself on a pedestal, so to speak, you’re demanding the attention of whatever audience there is. Crucially, the live internet feed guarantees you’ve got no idea who or how many are watching at any point. The photographer bloke lasted about 6 minutes actively photographing before he sunk into talking on his mobile phone – for all intents & purposes a form of hiding whilst in plain sight.
There are 2400 “places” in total, counting down as of earlier this afternoon. It’ll be interesting to see what happens – the human need to impress will mean that people are going to want to steer away from replicating the plinth piece of others, and yet ARE people going to be able to come up with 2400 different ways of occupying a plinth? Reading the list of the first day’s worth of participants, it seems that several of the “acts” don’t know what they’re going to do, and some are planning to “raise awareness” for various things. 3 of the first 24 have pre-determined that they’re going to dress up as something out of the ordinary (town crier, androgynous person, cow), and a further 6 don’t seem to know what they’re going to do (of those, one elected to dress like a pigeon).
Overall, as with many of Gormley’s pieces, I think we’re going to get some very interesting reactions, and it’ll be as much about watching the way the public interact with what’s going on on the plinth as it is about what’s on the plinth itself. A parallel I discussed with my mate Dave just now was Big Brother – however thinking about it, that’s probably easier, as those people are confined in an unusual envorinment, and have others to direct the focus away from them. On the plinth, you can’t hide. 4 of the first 24 claimed to be doing it for a cause, or to raise awareness of something – assuming that’s a reliable statistic, that means approximately 400 people are likely to be pushing awareness of a cause or issue over the next 100 days. Is the volume going to overwhelm the message? Or will it be counterbalanced by the statistical 200 hours of people who are going to sit/stand up there and read?
It’s all a bit potentially exciting. It promises to be inordinately tedious in reality, but in concept, brilliant.
And thumbs up too to Gormley who, without lifting a finger or having to stand on a cement slab for an hour, guarantees himself 100 days’ worth of media spotlight.
Oh look. The girl up there now is drawing a sketch of the people looking at her – primarily, the video suggests, drunken idiots. Never mind, in a few short hours it’ll be sober idiots, just as short of witty heckles.