The Big Blue Cock

On the

On the Plinth this afternoon

Down to Trafalgar Square at lunchtime, with the idea of wandering through the National Gallery for a few minutes. Before I got there I was assaulted by the sight of a monumental statue of a blue cockerel on the northwest plinth that is the revolving ‘contemporary’ spot. It looks curiously proud and dignified I thought, yet obviously joky next to the grandeur of the National Gallery Facade and Trafalgar Square. How had I not heard about this? I have not heard of Katherina Fritsch prior to this, but the whole thing was reminiscent of Barry Flanagan whom I have lately learned to love.

cock2

 

Several thoughts occurred to me at once. Firstly, was that it looked very French despite being the work of a German. In this square that is a celebration of our giving the French a beating in 1805. I am told that in France children learn that they won the battle of Trafalgar, because Nelson was mortally wounded. Pretty sure they didn’t.

Which leads me to my second thought. Such a prominent monument to a military hero would be utterly unimaginable today. Our view of ourselves in Britain is changed beyond recognition. With Nelson’s column in the background the Cock is a perfect example of our love of ironic re-presentation and ephemeral whimsy. Even I (not a fan of ephemeral whimsy as a rule) liked it. A little. Nelson on his fluted pillar looked remote – heroic no doubt, but not part of a cultural dialogue (hate that expression) with the viewer.  Monumental sculpture of the past was busy cementing a precise view of history in the minds of the (national) public in a way that did not invite criticism, discourse or interpretation. Nelson looks down from a great height imposing his authority, the Neo-Classicism of the pillar reinforces the notion of Albion as the heir of classical civilisation, which it can uphold with force. Now it seems our civilisation is upheld by a crushing irony, an iconoclastic irreverence which would never let anyone grow so tall.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s