In London, Antony Gormley’s monumental One and Other project has just kicked off. The empty fourth plinth in Trafalgar Street will be occupied by a different member of the public every hour for the day for the next one-hundred days. The 2400 participants are effectively drawn from a hat, meaning that applicants are not decided based on any form of merit or perceived position of privilege. In short, this is an exciting piece of public, democratic art for the 21st century.
There are a number of satisfying aspects of this project that warrant some consideration, particularly for the authorities administrating Australia’s state and territory capital cities. Art is often rightly viewed as an elitist enterprise. What people with an interest in art consider to be “groundbreaking” art is often out of reach of ordinary Australians, by simple virtue of the fact that is housed in galleries, which a large percentage of the population simply do not visit. In contrast, One and Other is free, open to the public twenty-four hours a day, and is has been placed smack bang in the middle of one of the most central thoroughfares and meeting places in Central London. Even people living or working in London without an interest in art or public art projects are likely to stumble across this work during their day-to-day lives and become interested. Furthermore, the sheer volume of people involved in the project will do wonders for the project’s reach. The 2400 people who will stand on the plinth during One and Other’s duration have friends and families.
What a wonderful collision of art and democracy in one of the world’s greatest cities.