This is The End

The End by Heather Phillipson

The 4th Plinth on Trafalgar Square has proved to be a brilliant lens for Britain to look at itself through. The commissions are so varied that taken together they are also a rich record of British identity and state of mind at different times. Each commission takes into account the resonance of the location and its relation to surrounding public art, buildings, environment and the history linked to them. 

Heather Phillipson’s ‘The End’ is a worthy addition to the chain of public art that has temporarily inhabited the free plinth. It looks particularly good against blue sky and the collapsing gobbet of cream topped by the falling cherry matches the colours of the Canadian flags behind it on Canada House / La Maison du Canada. 

On one side is a huge fly, undermining any initial joy at the prospect of some kind of knickerbocker glory. On the adjacent side is a drone, on a different scale, with moving propellors.

a backdrop of the National Gallery

What does it all mean? There’s a sense of imminent collapse. An indication of rottenness. And a strong hint of surveillance.

The stalk paralleling Nelson’s Column

‘The End’ officially took up residence on the plinth on 30th July 2020, the 13th commission there (the first was in 1998). At 9.4 meters height it is the tallest so far and one of the brightest. 

The drone transmits a live feed of Trafalgar Square at www.theend.today Here’s what it looks like right now, the eye of the sculpture itself:

What’s the legal status of those two people? Is it legit to spy on them for artistic rather than security reasons?

The artwork reflects Trafalgar Square’s heritage and function as a place of both celebration and protest, as well as its highly surveilled state.

VE Day (8th May 1945)
Anti-Lockdown protest (26th September 2020)

Phillipson came up with the idea in 2016, in the shadow of Trump’s election and Brexit. 

“For me, we’ve been at a point of some kind of entropy for a long time. When I was thinking of this work there was a sense for me of an undercurrent that was already there … this feels like a continuation of that.”

It was unveiled in the middle of Covid19 year, delayed a few months by the pandemic. The perfect temporal setting for the piece. 

This is the end

Beautiful friend

This is the end

My only friend, the end

Of our elaborate plans, the end

Of everything that stands, the end

No safety or surprise, the end

I’ll never look into your eyes again

Can you picture what will be?

So limitless and free

Desperately in need

Of some stranger’s hand

In a desperate land

Jim Morrison & The Doors ‘The End’

Despite the title the artist does not envision the work as a dead end. 

“In the end there is the possibility of something else forming. There’s the chance of radical change inside any ending… there is potentially hope for something else.”

The artist

‘The End’ ends in Spring 2022.

The End

No comments yet

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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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 )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: