Monday, August 21, 2017

What To Do With Those Empty Plinths

http://www.citylab.com


Hello Everyone:

Welcome to a fresh, rage free (for now), week on the blog.  Did any of Blogger's American readers catch the #SolarEclipse2017?  Pretty amazing to see.  Hopefully you were wearing the appropriate eye protection, unlike Mr. Trump who burns the best retinas, believe me.  Let us move on to today's subject, shall we?

As reported in Wednesday, August, 16, 2017, the city of Baltimore quietly removed four Confederatre-era monuments with deliberate speed not witness since the Colts left town.  Under the confident direction of Mayor Catherine Pugh, the city coordinated a group of contractors and law enforcement to quickly move through the city, taking down memorials to the "Lost Cause."  Maryland Governor Larry Hogan followed up by removing a statue of Antebellum-era Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney, the author of the heinous Dred Scott decision.  The Baltimore monuments had become a target of anger and violence; long past due for removal.  Over the weekend, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu posted a video, explaining why he supported removing Confederate-era monuments from public spaces.  Mayor Landrieu ordered their removal in May, explaining that New Orleans was no longer the city it was before, during, and after the Civil War.  It has embraced its historic multi-cultural character and celebrates it. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/national/full-speech-mitch-landrieu-addresses-removal-of-confederate-statues/2017/05/31/cbc3b3a2-4618-11e7-8de1-cec59a9bf4b1_video.html?utm_term=.c33470aefab3; May 19, 2017;  http://digg.com/video/mitch-landrieu-confederate-monuments; Aug 13, 2017; date accessed Aug. 21, 2017). Now the question remains, what will Baltimore do with all those empty plinths?

This is the question Kriston Capps considers in his CityLab article, "What To Do With Baltimore's Empty Confederate Statue Plinths?"  Yours Truly would like to suggest hollowing them out and planting large topiaries or using them as small performance spaces.  This is just a couple of thoughts about what to do with the empty and graffiti covers plinths.  Mr. Capps has his own ideas, "Baltimore could do worse than to take a page from London's Trafalgar Square."

Way back when, statues were planned for all four corners of Trafalgar Square but typically, by the mid-nineteenth century there was no money to finish the job.  Now pigeons and selfie takers have their choices of Britsh generals Henry Havelock and Charles James Napier, or an equestrian statues of King George IV.  Personally speaking, Blogger prefers the Lord Nelson statue in the middle of the square.  It seems that London never got around to installing a planned statue of King William IV.  Thus, the plinth on the northwest corner sat empty for 150 years.

Happily "Today it is home to the world's greatest placeholder: The Fourth Plinth [http://www.thersa.org;  date accessed Aug. 21, 2017], a program conceived by the Royal Society of Arts in the 1990s, invites contemporary artists to figure out something new to do with the spot every year."  The program launched in 1999 with Mark Wallinger's Ecce Homo, a majestic life sized Jesus Christ with his hand bound hind his back and wearing a town of barbed wire (http://www.stpauls.co.uk; date accessed Aug. 21, 2017). 

After a few iterations, the city decided to administer the program through the Mayor of London's culture office (http://www.london.gov.uk; date accessed Aug. 21, 2017).  Since 2005, eight different Fourth Plinth proposals have come to fruition, "...from the comically surreal (Yinka Shonibare's Nelson's Ship in a Bottle,...) to the conceptually tilted (Antony Gormley's One & Other,...)

Since last September, David Shrigley's perfectly ironic Really Good (http://www.theguardian.com; Sept. 29, 2016; date accessed Aug. 21, 2017) went up just in time to congratulate everyone on a job well done on the #Brexit vote.

What will Baltimore do now that it has four empty plinths of its own?  Blogger does not suppose that turning them into giant plant boxes is one idea but it could be.  Wisecracks aside, the four newly empty plinths are a blank canvas for the city's artists to create something meaningful.  The fertile creative minds are having their say. Kriston Capps reports, "One artist erected a giant papier-mâché sculpture of a pregnant woman made from old copies of the Baltimore City Paper in opposition to the Confederate memorial in Wyman Park Dell well before the rally in Charlottesville." (http://www.baltimoresun.com; Aug. 16, 2017; date accessed Aug. 21, 2017) 

Perhaps four different contemporary art programs might be a wee much.  Who knows, maybe Blogger's suggest of incorporating the plinths into a performance space might be something for the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts (http://www.promotionandarts.org; date accessed Aug. 21, 2017) to seriously consider.  Regardless, while the plinths remain empty for the time being, Baltimore's thriving art and design community has a golden opportunity to do something exciting and wonderfully creative them. Now that would be really something.