On A High
Antony Gormley looks back at day one of his One & Other project
Royal Academician, Antony Gormley, is having a very busy summer. Not only does his work appear in this year’s Summer Exhibition, but also his fourth plinth project, One & Other, opened on the morning of 6 July. For 100 days, until 14 October, 2400 randomly balloted volunteers, proportionally representing different regions of Britain, will occupy the plinth for one hour each. Andy Murray talked to him the day after the opening about his experiences with the project.
Artist, Antony Gormley RA on the first day of the One & Other project
© Matthew Andrews/Artichoke How did the first day of the project begin for you Antony?
It was a very busy day and it started early. I had to be up at around 6.30 to arrive at the plinth at around 7.15. As soon as I got to Trafalgar Square I had to deal with around 30 journalists from different networks asking for interviews and statements - including several Arabic networks.
It was quite a stressful morning then?
Not so much stressful, just a case of having to deal with a lot of people who were very intrigued and engaged with the project.
Were you anxious?
Yes, I’m still anxious, but I think its going well. It’s an ongoing project and there are still loads of things that need to get sorted. I hope over time the project evolves, and doesn’t get too conventional. I hope it keeps a real mixture of responsible people doing their own unconventional things.
What were the ‘plinthers’ you met that morning like?
They were very varied. Rachel Wardell, the first to go up, was very good at dealing with the press. Another I met was a chemistry professor who wanted to read out Oliver Cromwell’s speech that dismissed the Rump Parliament - he called them a bunch of self-serving, corrupt, degenerate betrayers. I thought that was a very good idea.
Rachel Wardell, first official ‘plinther’, attracts the attention of the press
How did you feel towards the protester who stole the first moments on the plinth?
[In the minutes before the event was due to start at 9am, Stuart Holmes climbed on to the plinth and unfurled a placard that read ‘Ban tobacco and actors smoking’]
I thought he was fine; I wasn’t too worried by him. He was a good man – it was decent of him to get off the plinth on time at 9.am.
It started raining very heavily around 11pm. Did you feel for Jill who was releasing balloons from the plinth at that time?
Oh yes, I met her this morning and she survived unscathed. I think she did very well. She was very imaginative, tough and determined with her hour. She was very pleased that her family watched her live from Australia. I was pleased for her too; she used her time to help many good causes.
Did you get time any time off during the day?
I didn’t have lunch. At 2pm I had to go in the National Portrait Gallery where I was involved with the documentation of the project. After an hour and a half of that I did manage to go for a quick sandwich at Prêt, but then I went back to the square. I didn’t leave until the evening, and I’ve been back there today. It’s very compelling. I went to the after-party at Trafalgar Hotel, but the day didn’t stop there. I had to make a speech, which got a good reception. I then went for dinner with my wife and daughter, which was lovely.
As Antony Gormley and London Mayor, Boris Johnson, launch the One & Other project, protestor Stuart Holmes preempts the proceedings
And what time did you go home?
Well, I then went back to the plinth and stayed until midnight. I watched the chemistry professor doing what he could to make the world a better place. He was suggesting we all give each other money, or something. I also enjoyed watching a girl who was on the plinth dressed as a pigeon. I don’t think she was a protester, but she was holding a sign saying ‘Feed the Pigeons’. She replaced an unfortunate Welshman who was getting a tough time from some passing drunks.
Did you go home after that?
Yes, but I was up late in bed at 2am following it on the Sky Arts website on the internet.
You’ve applied to go on the plinth yourself? What will you do while you are up there?
I don’t know what I’d do if I was on the plinth. But I don’t think I’d tell anyone even if I did. I’d keep it to myself.
One & Other can be seen in Trafalgar Square, London, 24 hours a day until 14 October 2009. The project can be also followed via live, streaming video at www.skyarts.co.uk and www.oneandother.co.uk. If you would like to stand on the fourth plinth for an hour, applications can still be made online at www.oneandother.co.uk until 1 September 2009