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20th September 2009

Second Exonian takes the Plinth!

Graduate student Naomi Walker (2001, European Literature) this month became the second Exonian to take a spot on Trafalgar Square’s empty fourth plinth, as part of Antony Gormley’s One and Other project. Naomi explained to us what made her apply for a spot on the plinth – and what she did with her time above central London…

Being a “Plinther” by Naomi Walker (2001, European Literature)

When I applied to be a “plinther”, I had no real expectation that my application would be successful. I have always admired Antony Gormley’s work and seeing the Angel of the North some years ago made a great impression on me, so I was keen to apply to take part in his “Fourth Plinth” project.

I loved this latest idea of letting members of the public become “art” without imposing any pressure or element of competition. Participants were allowed to do absolutely anything they wanted to on the plinth (providing it was legal!) and there wasn’t any kind of assessment process for the activities that would take place. This, I felt, was the most refreshing element of the project in today’s audition-obsessed world.

Upon receiving the news that I would have a place on the plinth from 3-4pm on Thursday 17th September, my feelings were a mixture of disbelief, delight and some disquiet as I pondered what I could possibly spend my time doing.

I hit upon and discarded various ideas before settling on my final plan. The notion of doing something striking or educational was obviously a temptation, but I realized that these ideas were filling me with more anxiety than anticipation. I resolved to resist the pressure to try to be anything but myself on the plinth, and therefore settled on the idea of spending time with “My Favourite Things”.

This involved taking up a suitcase of various materials, some of which actually were my favourite things, and some which represented them. Thus, I had a flask of coffee, the Bible, a favourite book (Don Quixote) and a vase of flowers in my suitcase. Once on the plinth I read my books, drank some coffee, waved to people, threw out sweets (and ate some myself), put on my favourite pair of red sparkly shoes, painted my nails and spoke to loved ones on the phone. I also set out some photo boards of friends and family which I had put together in advance; I had contacted the people in the photos to let them know that they would be on the plinth with me, as it were, in photographic form! Pictures of some of my favourite places featured among the photos too (Exeter College one of them, of course!)

My time on the plinth was extremely enjoyable, and in that sense it turned out exactly how I had hoped. I truly did have a lovely time! Some of my friends came to Trafalgar Square to watch me for the hour, and it was extra-special to know that friends and family scattered in various places around the world were also watching online. The hour seemed to pass incredibly quickly, proving the adage that “time flies when you’re having fun”!

The whole experience was made even more special given the Exeter connection with Antony Gormley, as he had visited College to unveil one of his sculptures on 15th February 2009. I had the chance to meet him and hear him explain his artwork, so it was even more of a privilege to be a part of his latest project. I am so pleased to have been a “plinther”; it was a truly wonderful experience and one which I shall remember very fondly for many years to come.

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