What does this space know?

Some thoughts from Rupert Meese

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What was it like up there?

Posted by Rupert Meese on July 7, 2009

So, I put myself there in the public gaze for an hour on the 4th plinth.  I didn’t know that the experience would be so hard to make sense of. My instinctive response is silence, to withdraw from it for a time, and I’m also driven to write, so here is what happened as best as I am able to tell it.

On the plinth

I checked in at the One and Other reception at 2:30 ninety minutes before I was due to take my place on the plinth.  Reception is a portacabin on the opposite side of Trafalgar Square to the plinth.  I opened the door to a buzz of activity and a crowd of assistants in red and white ‘One and Other’ tea shirts.  I got the friendliest and most  attentive welcome along with the invitation to make myself at home among the organized chaos.   I was photographed and interviewed by a charming assistant, given a cup of tea, a safety briefing and lots of words of encouragement.  The staff all seemed really enthusiastic about the project.  Antony Gormley came and went, emitting precise and unequivocal instructions on camera angles, procedure and so on and making sure that everything was as he wanted it.

Around quarter to 4 I got ready.  This consisted of me getting rid of my phone, watch and junk from my pockets.  My intention being to be there without any kind of prop or distraction, nothing to fiddle with, just to be there.  I refused the radio microphone for the same reason.  The radio mic was an option to allow those watching the internet feed to hear me.  I wasn’t planning on saying anything at all really.  At around ten to four the wind picked up, the sky turned grey, rain started and the team got motherly.  Did I have an umbrella, a rain coat, a warm top?  It was cold up there, and so on.  It was very sweet.   Until then, and in line with my principle of no props, I had been planning on going up wearing only a shorts and a shirt, on the principle that it was a summer day and if it rained I’d get wet, and that would be fine.  I like to walk and I know weather.  More importantly I know that I can adjust my blood flow to be comfortable in a cold wind, and I can adjust my heat production and metabolism to dry out in the wet and be well in the cold.  However, constant rain might not be nice, so I grabbed my umbrella and then capitulated and put on my wool over shirt.  We went out the the JCB Cherry Picker behind the cabin and climbed in to the cage that was to lift me to the top of the plinth.  My sense of wonder started the moment the cage lifted about a foot from the floor and the JCB started to trundled slowly around the corner and towards the plinth.  The whole thing filled me with joy, like being a kid and getting to ride on a fire engine.  The JCB moved through the crowd, people smiled or looked disinterested or unimpressed as they liked.  I was beaming as the cage lifted up, past the current plinthian – a man in the panda suit with his phone number on a board.   high above the plinth, forward and then down to land on the edge.  The door opened I exchanged good wishes with the panda suit man, he stepped in, I stepped out, and I was there on top of the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square being a piece of Antony Gormley artwork.

To be continued…


4 Responses to “What was it like up there?”

  1. Ivan Pope said

    Well done, I enjoyed your obviously thought out approach. Doing nothing was a good thing to do.

  2. Jordy Waring said

    Sounds like it was an unforgettable experience Rue.
    I’m sure if i was up there i’d… first; be wetting myself haha. but after i time, once the surealism died down, it must really bring out the emotions…

  3. Beating-Drum said

    Wrote a whole long slitherum and then it told me it needed an OK email. Then it all vanished.

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