Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Taking aim at Nelson

I have put in a bid for a place on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. At the time of writing, there are 11,037 applicants for the 2,400 one-hour slots in Antony Gormley’s living monument to the people of Britain, which runs for 100 days beginning in July – so the odds are rather better than for winning the National Lottery (one in 13,983,816 to win the jackpot, one in 56.7 to win a tenner, since you ask).

Coincidentally, I was interviewing Bob and Roberta Smith the other day for Channel 4’s Big Art Project. Bob was one of the shortlisted artists who lost out to Antony Gormley in the contest for the next artwork to stand on the empty Fourth Plinth. So I was thinking of offering him my hour, if I get it, to display his rejected artwork, FaĆ®tes L’Art, pas La Guerre (Make Art, Not War), an illuminated peace sign, powered by wind and solar energy.

Failing that, and the too obvious option of holding down a pigeon for an hour and crapping on its head, I’m planning on donning a liberty cap and dressing up as the French sharpshooter who took out Nelson in 1805. I’ll need a musket and four musket balls for full dramatic effect. (‘If I don't kill him with these three, I'll blow out my brains with the fourth,’ the French sniper is reputed to have said as he set about his task.) But when I’m done it will be some sort of revenge for my country having been on the wrong side in the wars against revolutionary France – and a reminder that the man whose monument celebrates him as a hero of the Battle of Trafalgar should also be remembered as the Butcher of Naples for his vicious subjugation of the Jacobins there in 1799.

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