Page last updated at 13:48 GMT, Wednesday, 14 October 2009 14:48 UK

Godzilla, strippers... but was it art?

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Tales from atop the Fourth Plinth

By Tim Masters
Entertainment and arts correspondent, BBC News

It was a platform for exhibitionists, campaigners, monsters, musicians, and a woman in a wheelchair dressed as a Nazi.

Emma Burns and Antony Gormley
60 mins of fame: Emma Burns meets artist Antony Gormley on her descent

In one performance, a naked man named Gunter jumped to freedom - leaving behind a live chicken.

But now it's all over - the 100 days and nights of artist Antony Gormley's Fourth Plinth art project in London ended just after 9am on Wednesday.

During the One And Other project, a different person stood on the plinth every hour for 24 hours a day.

The 2,400 individuals who took part could do whatever they wanted as long as it was legal.

Balloons at dawn

On the final morning, as dawn broke over Trafalgar Square, the penultimate plinth dweller stood attached to hundreds of pink balloons and juggled balls - in support of a breast cancer charity.

"But is it art?" - is a question Gormley hears a lot during the final hour of his marathon project.

He motions to the Fourth Plinth behind him: "This is a piece of 19th century art furniture we are experimenting with, and whether it's art is irrelevant.

"We are asking very important questions about who can be represented in this extraordinary square of patriotic value - it's become a place of protest, it's become a place of celebration."

First and last

Rachel Wardell
Rachel Wardell was first on the plinth in July.

As the last "plinthian" Emma Burns, from Darlington, is lifted into position at 8am, the crowd begins to swell, and a smattering of applause briefly replaces the din of rush-hour traffic.

One of the people watching is the very first person to take position on the Fourth Plinth on 6 July.

Rachel Wardell, from Sleaford in Lincolnshire, says it now seems "like a lifetime ago". She used her 60 minutes to raise awareness of the NSPCC.

"My life has pretty much gone back to normal, I've been dipping in and watching as much as I can," she says.

"Most people applied because they were passionate about the idea of the project - it was only once they'd got a place that they decided what they were going to do."

Andrina Boyle
Andrina Boyle was inspired to take part by Liverpool's City of Culture status

She adds that there's already talk of a reunion on the first anniversary - 6 July 2010.

Andrina Boyle, who took part in week 8, still vividly recalls her 60 minutes of fame on the plinth.

"My slot was 8am. When I first went up there it was fine, the adrenalin was going, and then halfway through I got vertigo and I thought what am I doing here, it's a bit high!"

She adds: "It allowed people all over the country to have not just 15 minutes of fame, but a whole hour. Is it art? I don't care!"

Human nature

Emma Burns on the plinth
Emma Burns used her time to remember the football fans who died at Hillsborough in 1989

The art critic Peter Whittle tells the BBC: "I think the last thing it could really be called is art. This crowd is not that typical. Most people have actually been quite indifferent.

"I travel this way every day and the crowds have been quite small on the whole, and quite rightly - what is there really for them to see?"

After Emma Burns has descended, I ask Gormley what view of British life did we get from the Fourth Plinth project?

"It was view of us as a people with a fine appreciation of eccentricity," he says. "Also a people with hearts and minds that care about a wide range of things - both personal loves and losses, but also big issues that are facing the globe."

And what does he say to critics who say this was just a high-brow version of Big Brother?

"I think it has used the form of the spectacle to do something much more existential. This is an enquiry into human nature now," he says.

"The amazing thing is people have endured the rain and the darkness and the burning sun - and we've done it."



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