Stephen Bayley called it ‘art for the Facebook generation’, which is kind of flattering when you’re old enough to remember waiting lists for telephone lines. But I got my hour on the ‘people’s plinth’ in Trafalgar Square on the opening day of Antony Gormley’s ‘One And Other’ project and I am now officially a work of art in the same portfolio as the ‘Angel of the North’ and ‘Another Place’.
I’d already ditched my idea of spending the hour as the sniper who shot Nelson by the time the day came around. This was partly because I decided against re-fighting 200-year-old wars when there are more than enough present-day ones to be going on with, and partly because I’d not properly considered the logistics of getting hold of an authentic Napoleonic musket, let alone brandishing it in the heart of 21st-century London. The National Theatre props department ‘doesn’t do guns’ (though it does do a very tempting line in steel cutlasses); and the most promising theatrical outfitters went very cold on the idea when I couldn’t answer their questions on security and police licences.
Other possibilities came and went (lying down for the hour so that no one could see me was one of them). But as soon as I got to the square I realised that what the public wanted from this latest manifestation of public art was a performance not a statue, living or otherwise. So, armed only with a blackboard and a bag of chalk, I did my best to find the lowest artistic common denominator and scribbled a succession of unethereal messages for the Twitter generation watching online (www.oneandother.co.uk/participants/steveplatt, if you have an empty hour to fill).
One of them said ‘I’m better at football’, which prompted a particularly snooty bystander to remark ‘Well that says it all.’ ‘The real art’s in there,’ she added, gesturing to the National Gallery on the north of the square. And maybe it is, but I bet the Fourth Plinth project has got more people talking about art than the Littleton Pilaster Saints, much as I love the gallery’s latest acquisition, ever did.