What were the objectives of the project, and to what extent were they achieved?
Antony Gormley aimed to present a cross section of the UK in 2009. This was interpreted to mean a largely random selection of applicants, with the only selection criteria being an equal number of men and women, and a proportional geographical spread. For example, if 11.6% of the population live in the North West, 277 places (11.6% of the 2400 slots available) were allocated to applicants from the North West.
Overall the project was remarkably successful in fulfilling these targets. We maintained the equal gender split (49.8% male, 50.2% female). We remained within 10% of our regional target numbers on the majority of regions. Only two fell outside this margin. Northern Ireland was the least successful region: we allocated 80% of the Northern Ireland slots to applicants from that region, while London had 136% of its allocated slots. This was perhaps to be expected, as we did not offer to pay travel costs (which would have made the project prohibitively expensive) and many last minute cancellations were necessarily replaced by London inhabitants.
What was the relevance of the location? Why is London so attractive for public performance?
The location was decided before Antony was commissioned, as part of the Fourth Plinth project. However, both the Plinth and Trafalgar Square were important to the ideas behind One & Other. The project aimed to reclaim the square – traditionally a place of military figures – for the public. As Antony himself said, “The square has its history as a place of national identity. My project is about trying to democratise this space of privilege, idealisation and control. This is about putting one of us in the place of a political or military hero. It’s an opportunity to use this old instrument of hierarchical reinforcement for something a little bit more fun.” [Interview with Alastair Sooke, The Telegraph, 26 February 2009].
Was the project intended primarily as entertainment, or were there deeper artistic and perhaps philosophical roots?
One & Other was an entertaining artistic process that showed us British society in all its forms. It could be (and was) read as many different things: a comment on reality television; a progression of Warhol’s prediction that one day everyone would have their ‘15 minutes of fame’. Perhaps it was both of these things.
What communications activity took place during the project?
The website was a key means of communication to participants and those who already knew about the project. Provided by our sponsors, Sky Arts, the website featured a live feed of the plinth throughout the project, allowed participants to upload individual profiles, and enabled viewers to leave comments for the Plinthers. In total there were over eight million hits on the website since its launch. In fact, we had the power of the internet to thank for much of the discussion that occurred around the project: there were more than 160,000 tweets using the hashtag #oneandother, over 4,000 photos on Flickr and the two facebook groups (official and unofficial) had over 4,000 members between them.
Most people heard about the project through the huge amount of press and media coverage, which had an equivalent advertising value of around £2,750,000. We received 246 pieces in national newspapers, 1391 pieces in regionals and almost 400 television reports across the country. Around 50 pieces were published internationally. We also persuaded the writers for Radio 4’s long-running soap The Archers to weave the project into their storylines for four months.
Finally, we were keen that people who may not usually attend arts events hear about the event. To this end we collaborated with various organisations including every regional Arts Council and the National Association of Housing Associations. We were moderately successful in this goal: 37% of participants stated that they attended arts events either never of less than 3 times per year, while 53% had not previously taken part in an arts activity.
Would you agree it was an 'interruptive event' in that it significantly changed a particular urban space for a certain amount of time?
One & Other was perhaps more ‘immersive’ than ‘interruptive’. On the one hand, the project attracted many extra people to see the Plinthers (our evaluation counts 50,000 as a conservative estimate) and many people who were passing through the Square stopped and had a look at what was happening. On the other, Gormley pointed out on 6th July 2009 that “After 10 and a half hours it’s already just one of those things. It’s part of the summer season: there’s the Chelsea Flower Show, Henley and the Fourth Plinth.” [Katy Guest, Independent, 8 July 2009]. There were several of what might be termed ‘interruptive events’ during One & Other, such as the freestyle championships which also took place in Trafalgar Square.
Are there similarities between the projectand Flashmobs?
Some of the Plinthers’ acts certainly had similarities with flashmobbing: there was a Plinther who held a fake Olympic Games in the Square, and many others who got people below dancing. Flashmobbing implies doing something extraordinary as a group of people without going through the usual permission processes. As such, while One & Other as a whole may not qualify as a flashmob event, some of the activities begun by the Plinthers may.