Elmgreen and Dragset’s Fourth Plinth

By complete chance, Thursday enjoyed both beautiful weather, and the the unveiling of the new installation on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.  I had a couple of hours to kill in London, and, reminded by a friend of the unveiling, I went to have a look.

With nodding, and sly, reference to the tradition of equestrian statuary which usually commemorate great leaders or dead generals, the installation, Powerless Structures, Fig 101, is a shining sculpture of a young, curly haired child riding a rocking horse.  Where the triumphant military leader might be depicted sitting bolt upright on a noble steed, one of its front legs raised as if in sedate and dignified procession, the boy waves his arm in the air, imagining himself, perhaps as a rodeo rider or jousting champion, astride the wooden horse rocked back as far as its rider can achieve.

The accompanying information speaks of celebrating potential rather than historic achievement, and there is a wit and humour about the idea of this juxtapositioning of the toy and child in the Square otherwise occupied by Nelson, monumental lions, the fountains, thousands of tourists, as many pigeons and the ever present street performers painted in bronze or silver standing immobile for hours hoping for the chance of some coins in the hat on the pavement.

I’m not sure the sculpture would look like much anywhere else.  It’s the positioning of it; the monumentality of the plinth and its location that makes us look at what is otherwise a rather plain, albeit, very shiny, piece.  It raises questions about what it is we memorialise in this public way, in these great civic spaces, and it raises a smile.

It’ll be there for a while; go and make up your own mind.

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