The lift in the Royal Festival Hall is my favourite lift by a country mile and though in all respects it’s a perfectly nice, if a little ordinary, lift, it’s not about the lift’s appearance or the views of the Southbank afforded by a journey in it, good though those are. No, this lift contains art.
Yinka Shonibare MBE, Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, 2010
Vehicles? Mention of the fourth plinth? Those who have been paying attention could probably have predicted Yinka Shonibare’s Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle as the subject of my next post. And here it is. (Those now thinking the next one will be about Elmgreen and Dragset’s haven’t been paying attention quite long enough though; I’ve written about that already.) I’ve liked quite a few of the works commissioned for the fourth plinth – the plinth in the North West corner of Trafalgar Square in London originally intended to host some general or other on a horse, I think – but Sonibare’s is definitely one of the ones that I enjoyed the most. It’s the sort of work I couldn’t resist going to have another look at when I was nearby, the sort of work that unfailingly made me smile even on the greyest day.
Though I’ve mentioned this work in a previous post, it seems pertinent to make it the subject of a post now given that, like David Černý’s Quo Vadis, the basis of the work is a car as a signifier of world events. The car in Jeremy Deller’s It is what it is, was destroyed in a suicide bomb attack in Iraq in 2007. The mangled wreckage here, as is often the case in media reports of war, stands in for the destruction of human life, in this case the deaths of thirty eight people. Though we are all too used to seeing images of such vehicles, finding oneself confronted with the real thing is a wholly different experience. Deller has gone beyond this though and taken the wrecked car on a road trip around America, using it as a catalyst for discussion about Iraq.
Though not the first thing that’ll spring to mind when we look back at the summer of 2012, bus-based art has been a bit of a theme this year. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration but I’ve seen two examples which is approximately two more than usual. While Richard Wilson’s Hang on a minute lads, I’ve got a great idea… played on our fondness for nostalgia by referencing a film that tends to be thought of with a smile, David Černý’s London Booster played to our fondness for proper London buses, albeit by suggestion rather than authenticity, since – bus pedant alert – London Booster is built around a Bristol Lodekka rather than a Routemaster (I’d like it known that I’m not enough of a bus geek to have know that without the aid of Google; all I knew was that the bus wasn’t an RM).
Londoners come from anywhere and everywhere. Once you move here, you become a Londoner whether you came here from Surrey or Sudan. With the world coming to London for the Olympic games, The Photographers’ Gallery decided to commission a series of portraits of Londoners for a public art exhibition called The World in London. The aim was to find and photograph a Londoner from each of the 204 countries sending a team to the Olympics. They almost managed it; there are two or three places from which no Londoners have yet been found: American Samoa is one, Nauru another (there may be more that I’ve forgotten about), but the exhibition lives up to its title.
Krzysztof Wodiczko, City Projections – Nelson’s Column, 1985
Commissioned to make a projection onto Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Sqaure for two nights in 1985, Krzysztof Wodiczko focused on the military aspects of the square and decided to project an image of a missile wrapped in barbed wire. But while in London for the event, Wodiczko realised that the square, as home of South Africa House, also played host to a longterm protest against the apartheid regime still very much in charge of South Africa and supported by then British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.
Redirecting his projector, Wodiczko changed the image…
Elmgreen and Dragset, Powerless Structures Fig. 101, 2012
If, in a public square in a capital city, you have an empty plinth intended for a statue of a figure on a horse then what better to put on it than a statue of a figure on a horse? After testing a lot of alternatives on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, the plinth that never quite got its statue, it should come as no surprise that the powers that be have yielded to the inevitable and installed the statue that was always meant to be there. Sort of.