Monuments have had a hard time of it lately, what with all the being chucked in harbours and getting knocked down and vandalised that’s been happening. So GCCA has asked 47 artists to propose new monuments, ones more fitting for 2022 than a statue of slaver or a fountain for a princess.
Migration pops up repeatedly, like in Adham Faramawy’s film about a parakeet garden, or JJ Chan’s installation of rocks and sickbags. There’s a lot of inversion, too: Edward Thomasson wants a sinkhole as a monument to a sinkhole, Aaron Ratajczyk wants to dig a huge cave in the middle of London, both trying to turn monuments inside out.
There’s a lot of drawing, text and video here, but the best works are the actual models for monuments. Olu Ogunnaike’s Fourth Plinth made of discarded wood veneers is sharp and smart, Dominic Watson’s working fountain of a prime minister getting a booze enema is hilarious and satirical, Monster Chetwynd’s giant beast’s head is ridiculous and silly, and best of all is Ghislaine Leung’s amazing inflatable pub, because if there’s anything we can all agree should be celebrated it’s the local boozer.
It’s not all fun and ales though. Roger Hiorns’s display of placards against the vCJD scandal is brutal and moving, Oscar Murillo’s chairs covered in charred bricks is a memorial to the loss of working-class identity and Yuri Pattison’s passport control desk is a great up-yours to borders everywhere.
Look, this show’s a total mess. It’s ramshackle, incredibly over-wordy and quite a lot of these artists have absolutely phoned it in. Some even seem to have totally missed what a monument is. The exhibition would be an absolute stunner if it was 15 amazing works, instead of such a huge over-ambitious mixed bag.
But it’s also fun, moving, intelligent and full of ideas. We should build them all, and let future generations push them into harbours, it’s what monuments are for.