Real People Fill In For Statue In Trafalgar Square In the northwest corner of Trafalgar Square, in the heart of London, there is a base, or plinth, for a statue that stands empty. Now, an artist is putting it to use for a project that involves 2,400 members of the general public each doing whatever they want atop the plinth for one hour.

Real People Fill In For Statue In Trafalgar Square

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Finally, to an art project that's playing out in the heart of London. In Trafalgar Square, there are four stone plinths. Statues of British heroes stand on three of them, and the fourth is empty.

Well, starting today, that plinth is being put to use for a work of art with grand ambitions.

NPR's Rob Gifford went to Trafalgar Square to take a look.

ROB GIFFORD: They're calling it the ultimate democratization of art, whereby Joe or Josephine Schmo get to stand on a plinth in the heart of the nation's capital for a whole hour under the gaze of Lord Horatio Nelson, the hero of Trafalgar, and other heroes of the Empire such as Sir Henry Havelock, who put down the Indian mutiny.

Mr. ANTONY GORMLEY (Organizer, One & Other): I think that in a way, this place is all about people who have done great and heroic deeds in the past.

GIFFORD: The organizer is sculptor Antony Gormley.

Mr. GORMLEY: I'm more interested in now. I'm more interested in, in a way, discovering what we are now, and this is a way of doing that.

GIFFORD: Officially called One & Other, it will involve 2,400 members of the general public in all, chosen randomly from 18,000 applicants, acting, singing, jumping, shouting, or doing whatever they want upon the plinth for one hour each, around the clock, for 100 days.

(Soundbite of bell)

Mr. SCOTT ILLMAN: Oyez, oyez. I hereby announce…

GIFFORD: One of those getting his four-times-fifteen minutes of fame on the opening day was 34-year-old Scott Illman, dressed up as a town crier, who stood doing nothing more than advertising his two bars in London. Then there was 51-year-old Jill Gatcum, who released 60 green balloons for 60 charities before she was winched down to safety.

Ms. JILL GATCUM: Fantastic. I really - and I launched all my 60 balloons. So, I was really pleased by that. So, it's fantastic.

(Soundbite of applause)

GIFFORD: But, as always, there's just that nagging question: Is it art? Plenty of the bystanders, like Londoner Denis Brooks and visiting Frenchman Ben Borrell, seemed to think so.

Mr. DENIS BROOKS: Each person gets to choose what they want to do, so in their terms, I think it's art, yes.

Mr. BEN BORRELL: But I would say yes, probably. So, we are all involved. You and I, we're involved in the art-making, in a way, and I like it. Good concept.

GIFFORD: John Clothier, visiting from Toronto, Canada, wasn't so sure.

Mr. JOHN CLOTHIER: Well, I guess it's a bit of a joke, really. I can't see it as being art, that's in no way at all.

GIFFORD: And with that, he turned and headed for the National Gallery behind him to go and see some more traditional forms of art.

Rob Gifford, NPR News, London.

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