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Art shortlist for Trafalgar Square fourth plinth

By Stephanie West

Updated on 19 August 2010

As six new contenders battle for a place on the Trafalgar Square fourth plinth in 2012, Channel 4 News's Stephanie West discusses the sculptures and ponders the start of an exciting new cultural tradition in London.

Trafalgar Square's Fourth Plinth: new art is shortlisted.

Today's unveiling of contenders for the fourth plinth left me wondering how long selecting a new installation every year or so will continue.

Could it be so popular it'll carry on for centuries? An exciting new tradition.

And if so, in 2500, what will occupy this base that sat empty for a century and a half after it was built in 1841, waiting for a statue that never came because of lack of money. 
And what, in retrospect, will they make of our choices? Will they pore over the footage of those who took part in Antony Gormley's 100 days of public display? Will the performers look fascinating and other-wordly and tell them much about how we lived?
Currently, Yinka Shonibare's painstakingly crafted 'Nelson's Ship in a Bottle,' sits on top of the plinth, a colourful miniature of the warship the naval hero commanded in the Battle of Trafalgar of 1805. 

He wanted to make something that was connected to the history of its home, Trafalgar Square. But what place will Nelson have in 2500, what new heroes might go alongside him, and what kind of ships, if any, will we collapse into bottles then?
Which brings us to the six artists proposing installations and works to replace the ship in 2012. Hew Locke is pitching an equestrian statue of Field Marshal Sir George White, entitled, 'Sikandar,' for the plinth (see above).

But the other proposals range from a cockerel to a sponge cake.
A giant organ, operated by a cash point keyboard embedded in the plinth, is the suggestion of Allora and Calzadilla.

They have not given it a title, but say the cathedral-scale instrument would produce sounds to reverberate through the square. Will we still have cash points in 2500, I wonder, looking over our shoulders to make sure nobody is clocking our PINs? Will we have cash? Maybe, we are after all, still waiting for the paperless office.

A huge electric blue cockerel, 'Hahn/Cock,'  proposed by Katharina Fritsch, would symbolise regeneration and awakening, she says, referring to a male-defined British society and the male military presence in the Square.

It is no way intended "to imply Nelson was a cock," she reassures us, but says that it intentionally evokes the connotations you would imagine. Such double entendres will surely still be around in centuries to come.

There is a model of an imagined relief of Britain, Mariele Neudecker's It’s Never Too Late And You Can’t Go Back, is an outline of our shores, covered in huge imagined mountains.

There is a suggestion we should have a golden boy on a rocking horse, from Elmgreen & Dragset, Powerless Structures, Fig.101.

As ever, the proposals are food for discussion and thought, including the pitch to create a giant Battenberg Cake made of bricks.

Pondering an enormous brick sponge cake sat alongside Nelson and the lions, could leave you mulling over modern headlines it might provoke if chosen.  Hard to swallow?

Brian Griffiths – Battenberg cake But the artist's reasons are all about modern Britain and its link to the past.  Brian Griffiths, a sculptor who says he grew up on this teatime staple, points out the Battenberg Cake was created for the marriage of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Princess Victoria of Hesse to Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884.  He wants to use Victorian, Edwardian and modern day bricks. A gigantic sponge partly to bring a smile to people's faces, but also to leave us pondering an emblem of a long gone era, and what else links us to that time.
As a big fan of the Battenberg, beyond pondering whether this cake will make it onto a plinth, I find myself hoping it will make it to 2500.

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