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The hunt for the sculptures to sit next on Trafalgar Square’s famed Fourth Plinth is over. As the Mayor of London announced, the small but towering stage for public art — arguably the most prominent in the world — will host works by the Chicago-based Michael Rakowitz and Londoner Heather Phillipson in 2018 and 2020, respectively. They represent the 12th and 13th commissions for the pedestal since the launch of the government-funded program in 1998.
Chosen from a short list of five proposals, the works will follow the contentious reign of David Shrigley’s massive thumbs up. Rakowitz’s “The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist” takes the form of a colorful Lamassu and is part of a project he began in 2006 to attempt to recreate over 7,000 archaeological artifacts either looted from Iraq’s National Museum or destroyed during the war. The tribute, to be made of empty Iraqi date syrup cans, is also intended to draw attention to the nation’s once-thriving industry.
While Rakowitz pays homage to the past, Phillipson alludes to a disconcerting future with her candidly titled “THE END,” which consists of a saccharine dollop of whipped cream topped with a cherry and parasites in the form of a fly and a drone. The mini aircraft will also house a working camera; pedestrians will be able to view the live footage it records on their cellphones.
According to a press release, “‘THE END’ represents exuberance and unease. Topped with a giant, unstable load, the plinth becomes a monument to hubris and impending collapse.” Whether or not you appreciate its physical form, it’s definitely a fitting metaphor for the current state of our world.
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To do so before they have returned the Maqdala treasures and the Benin Bronzes and the Easter Island statues and the Maori heads, before a coherent set of precepts for decolonization has been articulated, would affirm the wrong principle.
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