As I sit here typing this there is somebody stood on top of a plinth in London. This plinth just happens to be in Trafalgar square. It just happens to be the vacant fourth plinth. After one hour that person will come down, to be replaced by another person. This procession will go on until the 14th of October. In total 2,400 members of the public will stand atop of the plinth. All of these people have been randomly selected by computer and can do anything they like during there allotted hour. This is art in its modernist form, or it is according to Antony Gormley the artist behind One and Other.
According to Gormley this represents the true spirit of Britishness. To get over our generally reserved nature and to reveal what we really are underneath. What this has in fact revealed is that we are a strange bunch and given an hour to entertain, both ourselves and other people, we find it very difficult very quickly. In the exposed environment of on top of the plinth we stumble a bit but generally we pick ourselves up and simply carry on, all dignity intact. This is what we appreciate in ourselves and others, the ability to carry on regardless.
What is also interesting and could almost be considered part of the work itself is watching the public’s reaction to this spectacle. There may be little comments passed, mocking the current participant baring themselves on the plinth. In the most part however these comments are passed in jest. In truth most of the crowd gathered will be supporters. They will be wishing the current ‘Plinther’ only well. I imagine that if you listen carefully you would hear a whisper ripple through the crowd; so many people will be saying the same thing “I couldn’t do that”.
Really that is why so many of us love this way of using the controversial plinth. It may not be art but it is fun. It shows that ordinary British people do have the courage to perform even if their performance is merely to stand there. We always celebrate courage and I personally think that this project is something to celebrate.
Some of the fusty intellectuals at the national gallery may declare that this cannot be called art. Probably they are right to run from such an embracing piece. It exposes art to and includes the masses in a very unique and strangely British way. They are scared art is been taken away from those in higher places and given back to the public to enjoy how they should be able to enjoy it, out in the open in a gawking, reserved way. Because that is really the way we are in this country and deep down we all know it.