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Art & Public Space, Art Projects, Commissions & Projects, Sculpture, Uncategorized

The Fourth Plinth 2012/2013: Elmgreen & Dragset / Katharina Fritsch

The six artists for the Fourth Plinth commission in Trafalgar Square were Allora & Calzadilla; Elmgreen & Dragset; Katharina Fritsch; Brian Griffiths; Hew Locke; and Mariele Neudecker.

The winning artworks  by Elmgreen & Dragset and Katharine Fritsch will be installed on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square for 2012 and 2013.

Based in London and Berlin, Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset have worked together as an artist duo since the mid-1990s. Powerless Structures, Fig 101 is a bronze sculpture of a boy on a rocking horse. In this portrayal, a child has been elevated to the status of a historical hero, though there is not yet a history to commemorate – only a future to hope for. The work proposes a paraphrase of a traditional war monument beyond a dualistic worldview predicated on either victory or defeat. Instead of acknowledging the heroism of the powerful, Powerless Structures, Fig. 101 celebrates the heroism of growing up. It is a visual statement celebrating expectation and change rather than glorifying the past. The artists consider that the sculpture is not about victory or defeat. “It’s about play, being part of a game. It’s maybe not about winning or losing. It’s easy for us to stand up here today and say it’s not all about winning, but… We wanted to put something among all the admirals and generals in Trafalgar Square that would perhaps be mocking, perhaps change people’s perspectives.” Elmgreen & Dragset, however, are known for their slyly ironic stance and the sculpture can also represent a symbol of resistance to modern Olympic ideals. The rocking horse is a metaphor representing impotence and immobility. It is moving on the same spot, taking part in a race never to be won. It suggests the pointless and futility of the quest for medals. The child represents both the poignancy of impossible hope and the innocence of participation. The gold is the symbol of Olympic victory.

Katharine Fritsch was born in 1956 in Essen, Germany, and lives and works in Dusseldorf. She describes Hahn / Cock, a larger than life cockerel in ultramarine blue as a “wake up call”. It communicates on different levels. Firstly, with the formal aspect of its placement: the grey architecture and environment of Trafalgar Square is given an unexpectedly strong and colourful focus; the unusual size and colour of the animal making the whole situation slightly surreal. The cockerel is also a symbol for regeneration, awakening and strength. The work also refers, in an ironic way, to male-defined British society and thoughts about biological determinism. The French symbol of Le coq is also a counterpoint to Lord Nelson.

Hew Locke was born Edinburgh in 1959 but lived in Guyana from 1966 to 1980. He studied BA Fine Art at Falmouth and MA Sculpture at the Royal College of Art and lives and works in London. Sikandar replicates the statue of Field Marshal, Sir George White (1835 – 1912) in Portland Place, transforming it into a fetish object, embellished with horse-brasses, charms, medals, sabres, ex-votos, jewels, Bactrian treasure and Hellenistic masks. Sikandar, translates as Alexander in Urdu; Khandahar being one of the cities Alexander the Great named after himself. Alexander’s military empire was short-lived, but his Hellenic cultural influence lasted centuries. The work intended to bring a social and historic focus to the Square, contributing to its role as a place of dissent and celebration. The proposal is not an anti-military critique. It is an investigation into the idea of the Hero and the problematic and changing nature of heroism.

Mariele Neudecker was born in 1965 in Düsseldorf, Germany, and lives and works in Bristol. It’s Never Too Late And You Can’t Go Back is elevated above the Plinth and represents a fictional mountainscape. It is ‘specific in its dramatically modelled detail’ and if viewed from above reveals the flipped and reversed shape of Britain. From below, the map is the right way around and more familiar. The juxtaposition of different views shifts the observer’s perception of the mountain from majestic and generic landscape to territorial space. Historically mountains represent monumentality, conquest, glory, ownership. In turn, the sentiments frequently attached to landscapes have often served as reminders of our more fragile, human, moral and mortal positions in the grandest considerations of the sublime.

Brian Griffiths studied at Goldsmiths College in the late 90s. Battenburg. The Battenberg cake was invented on the advent of the marriage of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter – Princess Victoria of Hesse – to Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884. The Battenburg name was changed to Mountbatten before 1914. As such, the pink and yellow confectionary is a commemoration of the Victorian era and a wry monument to monumentality. The cake is fashioned from traditionally made household bricks, Increased to gigantic proportion, and placed on a plinth alongside other Victorian statues in Trafalgar Square. The sugary and rather vulgar cake shows a symbol of supermarket consumerism as a work of public art and the decline of Imperial values and royal subjects as a subject of sculpture.

Jennifer Allora, born in 1974 Philadelphia, USA and Guillermo Calzadilla born in 1971 in Havana, Cuba, live and work in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Untitled (ATM/Organ) consisted of the installation of an automated teller machine (ATM) in the Fourth Plinth, connected to a functioning pipe organ to produce sound by driving pressurised air through pipes selected via the ATM machine keyboard. Each time customers pressed the ATM keyboard to access bank accounts worldwide to make cash withdrawals, credit card cash advances, account balance inquiries and so on, it would have triggered the pipe organ to produce a range of notes and chords at varying degrees of loudness to reverberate throughout Trafalgar Square.

The decision was made by the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group.


About jeh

Jeremy Hunt is Director of the AAJ Press (Art & Architecture Journal / Press) – a writer and consultant on art and public space


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