Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3
In the Guardian last week there were several interesting pieces, especially in G2 on Friday.
One & Other
The cover article in G2 was on Anthony Gormley's fourth plinth project in Trafalgar Square, which has been regularly covered by Sky Arts, a channel I'm becoming very fond of. One & Other is coming to the end of its 100 days and nights, i.e. tomorrow, during which time each of the 2,400 participants will have been up on the plinth for exactly 1 hour.
Trust the Grauniad, though, to print this - “It has been widely celebrated as a democratic portrait of Britain in the 12st century.”
Jonathan Jones wrote:
“Like a previous attention-grabber on the fourth plinth, a marble statue of Alison Lapper commissioned from Tuscan craftsmen by Marc Quinn, it is a heroic work, one that appeals to that most basic expectation of public art – that it should celebrate courageous people. But in this case, the people are celebrated for being ordinary, not extraordinary. It is the heroism of everyday life that is on display, and the daring to stand up and be counted, at least for an hour.”Typical of JJ, though, is his usual shallow and groundless conclusion:
“If One & Other is an image of British democratic life in our time, it is a pessimistic one. It is a portrait of a society in which people will try anything to get their voices heard, even stand on a plinth, but where no one can hear what they're saying. "Attention must be paid," Arthur Miller's Willy Loman said.
On the plinth you can have that attention, but only in the form of passing interest – because frankly no one can stand watching you for a whole hour. Even the webcam coverage is channel-flicking stuff, like tuning in late at night to the Big Brother house, in the days when people used to watch that. Its final message may be that we have become boring to one & other.To which barcelonessa wrote on CiF,
"Hmm. One of the things that surprised me when I saw it was how close you are to the person on the plinth - you can call things up to them, it's much less high-up and aloof than I'd been expecting. And my impression was that it's supposed to be a channel-flicking, online artwork as much as an installation.
If it's a portrait of Britain then it shows a country that's sometimes earnest, sometimes eccentric, and quite often very attention-seeking and desperate for its 15 minutes in the spotlight. I'd say that's pretty accurate."Alex Needham wrote a good column about the project, explaining why he loved the fourth plinth:
"Antony Gormley has said that his intention in One & Other is "to celebrate the living who make up Britain in all its magnificence. We are creating a picture of Britain, and we don't know yet what that picture in composite will be." As the 100-day project draws to a close, that picture is almost complete, and it shows that British individuality and creativity is thriving still – albeit alongside banality, pointless exhibitionism, and people who want the spotlight but then waste it all by wittering away on the phone.
The genius of One & Other was that it didn't make artistic judgments; it simply provided a platform. It was down to the audience to decide whether it was any good or not – and they did, either by heckling and applauding in Trafalgar Square, or by posting comments online. In a very short space of time, One & Other created a real and virtual community."
"National attitudes to sex and nudity were also tested by a succession of people who took their clothes off, to responses ranging from "Get 'em on!" to the woman who gave one naked hunk her phone number.
Others participants needed to get something off their chest in a more figurative sense. The site of protest from the Chartists onwards, Trafalgar Square was an appropriate place for myriad issues to get an airing . . .
There was also something very poignant about the sight of a single human on a space designed for a massive statue. Gormley championed the little guy against the intimidating grandeur of the square's institutions . . .
What artwork has ever given 2,400 ordinary people the chance to become art itself? Far more than just an upmarket Big Brother, One & Other was a corrective to these grim, pessimistic times – a life-affirming portrait revealing Britain's better side."
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One Dirty River
This was an interesting article about an interesting river, a river I frequently walk along when I need to get back to nature, and a river whose water these days is so clear I find walking companions frequently notice it and comment on it.
Regents Canal Junction (c) Oxzen
“The Lee is representative of [many different] pressures – as a journey along its course shows. It meanders through areas of intense agriculture and heavy industry, and passes through some of the most densely urbanised areas in the country as it drops down through London.
Does it matter that rivers such as the Lee are polluted, or sucked dry, or both? Campaigners and volunteers who do their best to keep them clean certainly think so. Rivers, they argue, are many important things: a vital habitat for wildlife; a shamefully underutilised mode of transport; an increasingly important place of leisure and relaxation; and, perhaps most significantly, a telling indicator for the wider environmental health of the area they drain. In other words, we ignore the symptoms of a sick river at our peril."
Olympic Stadium (c) Oxzen
"It wasn't until the 18th century that the Lower Lee was canalised and, a further century still before it became an integral outlet for London's burgeoning sewer system. As Peter Ackroyd writes in 'Thames: Sacred River', his biography of the capital's river, the river Lee was primarily used during the Victorian era, and up to the mid 20th century, to serve and flush east London's infamous "stink industries".
"Everyone is looking at Stratford now. It's a big driver for change."
"It's easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm some have about the Lee's future, particularly for the stretch around Stratford. Both the Environment Agency and ODA are promising large-scale improvements for the years ahead. But the Lee is also symptomatic of our national attitude to rivers: they quench us, transport us and pleasure us, and yet we turn a blind eye to the fact that they are often little more than an extension of our sewers, another place to toss our waste.”
Lea Bridge/Millfields (c) Oxzen............................................................
Pamela Stephenson's column was also worth a quick read: