"Nonstop imagery is our surround, but when it comes to remembering, the photograph has the deeper bite....
In an era of information overload, the photograph..is like a quotation, or a maxim or proverb."
(Susan Sontag: Regarding the Pain of Others 2003)

09 July, 2008

ArtLondon #1 - Plensa's Monument to Fallen Journalists

(Breathing 2003-2006: Copyright Channel4) In London recently, I caught for the first time a glimpse of Jaume Plensa's new art work which glows above the BBC in Portland Place, as a memorial to journalists & crew who have died upholding freedom of speech. Entitled 'Breathing', the site specific, glass and steel sculpture which was unveiled in June is engraved with a meditation upon silence, life & death. Veteran hack Robert Fox has written movingly about the dedication service for the memorial, which he suggests is highly timely - given that, despite every advance in technology, news gathering around the world continues to be a highly dangerous business. You can read the full article here: http://www.thefrontlineclub.com/club_articles.php?id=412

"Breathing" is certainly both elegant and thought-provoking. To date, I had not taken Catalan artist Plensa (b.1955) terribly seriously, dismissing him as a Turrell wannabe and his huge outdoor installations such as Gateshead's "Blake" (1996) the laser beam outside the Baltic and Chicago's mirrored "Crown Fountain" (2004) as rather gimmicky. This new work has made me think again and I look forward to finding out more about the artist's latest public sculpture for this country. A model of the landmark, entitled "Dream", was first seen in May. Commissioned by St.Helens Council as part of The Big Art Project, an ambitious public art initiative from Channel 4, supported by Arts Council England & The ArtFund, the 20 metre high sculpture will sit on top of the former Sutton Manor Colliery, overlooking the M62 main east-west arterial motorway which effectively bisects England.
For the unveiling of "Breathing", the BBC also commissioned a new poem from former war reporter and foreign correspondent James Fenton (b.1949). It is elegiac and apposite. You can read the text here:
For a slightly more accessible but equally beautiful memorial to fallen journalists, I can highly recommend the simple side altar at St Bride's Church in Fleet Street upon which tributes to those reporters, cameramen, photographers and fixers who have all paid the ultimate price still appear with depressing frequency.