It is like the start of a joke… A man walks into a plinth…
It is Annie Wu’s sculpture for Plinth Projects in Edinburgh’s Gardens in Melbourne’s suburb of North Fitzroy. Plinth Projects, an artist-run public art program supported by the Yarra City Council, first used this vacant pedestal in March 2013. A suburban version of London’s Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, temporary public sculpture on an unused plinth.
Edinburgh Gardens is a large park that was established in 1862. The centrepiece of the park, amid a semi-circle of mature elms is an empty pedestal that once held a statue of Queen Victoria. The plinth stands a circular garden bed.
The old plinth had been erected for a temporary memorial statue for Queen Victoria in 1901 immediately after her death. Melbourne would have to wait until 1907 for the permanent white marble and granite memorial to Queen Victoria paid for by public subscription. It is not known who was the sculptor for the statue of Queen Victoria In Edinburgh gardens but it is similar to the figure of Victoria on top of James White’s marble figure on top of the permanent memorial, depicting the Queen holding an orb and scepter.
The marble plaque on the plinth: “ Presented to the citizens of Fitzroy by the Hon. George Godfrey MLC 1901.” George Godfrey (1834 – 1920) was solicitor born in London who arrived Melbourne 1858. He was the representative for the seat of South Yarra in the upper house of the Victorian Parliament from 1895 to 1904.
The original statue is often described as ‘timber’ but from an image on an old postcard it likely that it was made of ‘stuff’ an inexpensive mix of plaster, straw and timber frame that was often used for temporary statues in the 19th Century. The statue of Queen Victoria went missing over a century ago – council workers probably removed it after the period of official mourning and when it started to deteriorate and the timber frame was exposed.
The plinth remained, left empty almost a century. Plinth Projects’ has a seasonal exhibition calendar with a five-month-long exhibition over the winter and month long exhibits during the more pleasant seasons. The old plinth is in remarkably good condition and has been repainted by the Plinth Projects.
In March Oscar Perry placed a cylindrical bale of hay on the plinth in his Harvest Showdown / Early Classics, Hits and Rarities. It was a strange memorial to the death of ELO’s Mike Edwards in 2010 when a bale of hay rolled down a hillside and collided with his van. In April Spiros Panigirakis, A Tentative Sign examined the privileged position of the plinth adding an overturned lectern in front and a ladder up to the plinth. Mutating over a period of five months between May to September, Sarah crowEST presented a human proportioned lumpy form of paint splashed material on the plinth. Renee Cosgrave painted colourful designs on the plinth in October.
Annie Wu A man walks into a plinth… painted the same colour, Wu’s sculpture doubles the hight of the plinth and mirrors in a pared down, in a simplified modern form, the three steps at the base of the plinth. The title brings a sense of irony to its austere form.
I went to see the current installation; I would have gone to the official launch in the park but the weather last Sunday was unpleasant. There are other temporary public art programs in the city. On my bike ride to Edinburgh gardens I went past a few remaining installations in MoreArts, another inner city suburb temporary art exhibition organized by the Moreland City Council (see my post on this years MoreArts). There is a lot of graffiti and street art along the bike track, another part of Melbourne’s temporary public art.