Page 2 of 2   <      

The British Eccentric, Live and in Public

Video
In London, an art project called "One & Other" allows everyday people to take center stage -- 22 feet above ground.

Popular pastimes on the plinth have included promoting causes, from cancer research to ending cruelty against redheads; hosting one-person tea parties; and dancing and singing, often in flamboyant costumes.

"It's been a very British thing, a fascinating microcosm of the weird and wonderful nature of British culture," said John Cassy, director of Sky Arts, a television channel that runs the Web site.

Not everything is destined for a run in the West End. One woman sounded like Bridget Jones might, rambling on about her personal life, but looking deeply embarrassed about it. Others have pushed the boundaries of bearable tedium by simply standing, or sitting or sleeping for their hour. Some are just plain weird, like the man with the 11 p.m. slot on a recent Monday who repeatedly ironed his own body with an unplugged iron.

The British filmmaker Mike Figgis is making a documentary on the project.

He will have plenty of material. More than 34,000 people applied for one of the 2,600 places on the plinth. Participants have to be at least 16 and are filtered by the region they live in, but otherwise are randomly selected.

On a few occasions, selected plinthers have backed out, causing organizers to scramble to their waiting list, which is how Sandy Nairne, director of London's National Portrait Gallery, came to sit on the plinth. He spent his hour sketching the scene.

The plinth was built in 1841 with plans to erect an equestrian statue. But because of lack of funds, it remained empty until 10 years ago, when the mayor's office started commissioning temporary artworks to reside on the plinth.

"It was fun, but quite cold up there," said Robertson, the naked plinther, in an interview afterward. "I don't think the project could run for more than its 100 days. Hypothermia would set in."


<       2

© 2009 The Washington Post Company