Britain: In Trafalgar Square, the statues are alive – literally

Ben Quinn
Julia Lalla-Maharajh after her stint on high.

A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

LONDON – Visitors passing through Trafalgar Square to inspect the paintings inside Britain’s National Gallery are being treated to art of a unique kind, the sort that lives and breathes.

Members of the public are being selected to make an exhibition of themselves by standing on an empty plinth in a corner of the square every hour until Oct. 14 as part of a project conceived by British sculptor Anthony Gormley.

Julia Lalla-Maharajh recently used her 60 minutes to promote a campaign against female genital mutilation. “It was exhilarating and also quite humbling at the same time,” said the Londoner, who donned T-shirts emblazoned with the names of countries where the practice takes place, before throwing them into the crowds of curious tourists and others below.

“To be able to do something like that in the heart of a city I consider as the home of democracy was a privilege,” added Ms. Lalla-Maharajh, who was preceded by a man wearing a gorilla costume to raise awareness of the animals’ endangered status. Not all participants are campaigners; some have been happy to just watch the world below.

By the end of the One & Other project, some 2,400 people will have stood on the square’s empty fourth plinth, which was intended for an equestrian statue when it was built in 1841, but has been empty for many years and now serves as the location for specially commissioned artworks.

The project’s aim is to paint a picture of modern Britain and provide a contrast with the surrounding monuments to historical figures. Judging by the reaction of the crowds flocking to the fourth plinth, Trafalgar Square now has a star attraction.

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