02 September 2009

Art historian becomes art on fourth plinth

Colchester Campus

Dr Ruiz-Gómez on the plinth. Credit: Raffi Yegparian


University of Essex art historian, Dr Natasha Ruiz-Gómez, became a living sculpture for an hour – on top of Trafalgar Square’s ‘empty plinth’.

Dr Ruiz-Gómez stood on the plinth as part of a major art project led by renowned artist Antony Gormley, creator of the iconic Angel of the North sculpture.

Every hour, 24 hours a day for 100 days, a different person has the chance to make the plinth their own. The project, One and Other, aims to provide a portrait of the UK in the twenty-first century. Anyone can register to be a part of it and Dr Ruiz-Gómez was one of 2,400 chosen at random to fill the empty plinth.

She said: ‘When I heard about the project, I registered immediately. I moved to the UK from New York less than two years ago to join the University; by participating in this project, I had the opportunity to be woven simultaneously into the fabric of the history of British art and the history of Trafalgar Square, one of the most culturally important sites in my newly adopted country.’

Participants can use their time on the plinth as they like – to perform, to demonstrate, or simply to reflect. Dr Ruiz-Gómez used her hour as an opportunity for reflection: ‘It was a luxury to have a full hour to spend in contemplation, and a peculiar privilege to have it on that spot. I spent a lot of my time on the plinth thinking about how I've gotten to this point: the child of Cuban immigrants to the United States, now an immigrant myself in a new country.’

A specialist in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century French sculpture, Dr Ruiz-Gómez, of the University’s Department of Art History and Theory, described standing on the plinth as ‘an extraordinary experience’. She said: ‘I was thrilled to have the chance to be a living sculpture for an hour. It was incredibly peaceful - most people below went about their business but there was a constant stream of people staring up at me with gaping mouths or clicking cameras. It occurred to me while I was up there that I will probably appear in hundreds of photo albums around the world!’

The project aims to create a living monument and a representation of the whole of humanity, something which Dr Ruiz-Gómez recognised from her experience: ‘The most appealing and significant aspect of this project is hidden in plain sight on the plinth, behind all the media hype: a celebration of the quiet heroics of quotidian life.’

One and Other is in Trafalgar Square until 14 October. You can watch Dr Ruiz-Gómez on the plinth at: www.oneandother.co.uk/participants/Natasha.


Notes to editors
1. Photos of Dr Natasha Ruiz-Gómez on the fourth plinth, and her view from it, are available on request. Please contact the Communications Office for more information or to interview Dr Ruiz-Gómez, telephone 01206 872807, e-mail comms@essex.ac.uk.

2. One and Other began in Trafalgar Square on 6 July. Dr Ruiz-Gómez spent her hour on the fourth plinth from 12noon-1pm on Saturday 18 July.

3. The Fourth Plinth is in the north-west of Trafalgar Square, in central London. Built in 1841, it was originally intended for an equestrian statue but was empty for many years. It is now the location for specially commissioned artworks.

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