This is a proposal for an essay I did for my curatorial unit, whereas I would love for this to become a reality the proposal task had no limits and this is reflected in the ambitious nature of the proposal, but enjoy anyway.
You are the curator. What would be your ideal project or exhibition, how would you ‘frame’ your exhibition critically and why? Who would you include in your exhibition or project, and where would it be located?
Blackfriars Plinth Project, is my proposed project to be located on the site of the 1864 Old Blackfriars Railway Bridge, between New Blackfriars Bridge and the Millennium Bridge . The Old Bridge consists of 12 pillars, from the original structure rising from the River Thames. I would work with a number of artists for the duration of the project, ideally getting them to create a site specific work, or body of work that would be displayed on the pillars. Artists I have considered that would fit this project include Erwin Wurm, Jeff Koons, Angela de la Cruz and Claes Oldenburg. The work needs to be bold and eye-catching so as to be seen from a distance. These artists fit this concept. The idea is to remove art from the typical white cube style gallery and into the immediate view of the public. The sites location means works could be seen from both sides of the River, by pedestrians on the Millennium Bridge and for a fleeting glance, passengers on the train traveling over the new railway bridge. By making the work more accessible, the relationship the art has with the viewer changes and as a result the way the work is perceived, which also changes its context and culture. The old pillars of the bridge, will act as outdoor plinths. The idea is to redesign the role of the plinth. These plinths will be more than an overlooked object in a gallery used as a means of often bland presentation, becoming a platform, a part of the work, in addition to becoming a site.
When it comes to the way the exhibition would be ‘framed’ critically I think that would vary on an individual exhibition basis. For the initial exhibition of this project I would ideally want to work with, Jeff Koons. The vibrancy and playfulness of his work “Balloon Dog” (1994-2000) would be very approachable and engaging to passers-by, and the colours and style of the work would fit in with those of the Southbank Centre’s festivals. Koons’ work stems from the human body and the way in which we breathe becoming a symbol of optimism and future. The reflective surface of his sculptures creates a dialogue between it and its surroundings. It is this aspect that I believe would work well in this location. I would want to work with Koons to create a new piece of work that would fit into the Site and the culture of London, potentially working with Koons’ existing theme of childhood playful objects. The site would allow any piece to be viewed through 360⁰, meaning the surrounding landmarks would become distorted in its surface.
“Balloon Dog” (1994-2000), Jeff Koons
Alternatively the work of Erwin Wurm could be used. His pieces from his Fat Cars series (2001), or his sculpture “Am I a House?” (2003) could be altered or redesigned to become site specific. “Am I a House?” in particular would work well, supported by the foundation pillars of the bridge. This strange building would look out of place along the River Thames, with a defunct function. No interaction would be possible and this relational aesthetic could frustrate and or confuse the viewer. Wurm’s work critiques consumer culture and the West’s need for material objects. Putting such a piece in a prime consumerist location would reinforce this element. Not all the plinths have to be used by every installation, the House would take up the entirety of the middle 6 pillars with the front facing towards the Southbank Centre.
“Am I a House?”(2003), Erwin Wurm
The initial idea for this project came from “The Forth Plinth Project” on the empty northwest plinth at Trafalgar Square. A project conceived by the Royal Society of Arts in 1998, changing to “The Fourth Plinth Commission” in 2005, led by the Mayor of London’s culture team, commissioning artists to give life back to the plinth with site specific sculpture and performance. This project has been very successful and included commissions of artists like Marc Quinn, Thomas Schutte, and Antony Gormley just to name a few. It would be good to replicate this success with the Blackfriars Plinth Project.
The Site is a grade II listed structure, so planning would take time, consulting with the local planning council and English Heritage. Alteration or addition to a grade II listed structure has to be agreed on, although the alterations I plan are temporary and not designed to harm the structure in anyway. As far as funding goes, this project would be very expensive and would rely heavily on donations, sponsorship and council funding. In addition to Arts Council England and the local councils I would also consider contacting both the Haywood Gallery (Southbank Centre) and the Tate Modern, as the bridge is located almost equidistant between the two, there may be opportunities for collaboration with one or both of these galleries, whether it is for funding or sponsorship.