the fourth plinth

The Fourth PlinthI’m a big fan of the fourth plinth. No, not Dan Brown’s new novel, the empty plinth in trafalagar square, erected in 1841 for a statue that never got built.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s the best showcase for public art in london, and has been host to some brilliant pieces in the past, including Mark Wallinger’s Christ figure, and Marc Quinn’s Alison Lapper pregnant, both sculptures that quietly subverted the colonial grandeur of trafalgar square.

So, passing the square the other day on the bus, I was quite excited to see a big sheet over the plinth, and that evening, coming back, the new commission was in place. And here it is:

This is Thomas Schutte’s ‘Model for a hotel 2007’, made of coloured glass. The press release says it’s a utopian architectural vision that is “multi-layered, mysterious, and promising to sparkle like a brightly-coloured jewel.”

Now, I’m no stranger to utopian architectural vision, but try as I might, what it reminds me of most is Rotastak’s ‘space command unit’ for hamsters, a “fantastic space themed unit that has all the necessary components to provide out of this world housing for your pet.”

Perhaps I’ll warm to it.

Helvetica went to see this rather nifty little movie on my way home last night, partly because it tickled my repressed inner geek, but mostly out of curiosity – how do you make a film about something as simple and unassuming as a typeface? And what kind of person would go and see such a film?

Anyway, it was more interesting than you might imagine, a celebration of 50 years of Helvetica, a font that engenders passionate responses from the designers interviewed. Some think it’s perfect, wonderful, the apex of simple legibility. Another declares ‘I am morally opposed to Helvetica’ and goes on the blame the font for the Iraq war, albeit in a tongue in cheek fashion.

Best of all though, it’s one of those movies that changes the way you see things, draws your attention to things normally overlooked. Although it’s about Helvetica, it’s also about global design culture, about the ideology at work behind our visual communication. And that, I find quite fascinating.

Anyway, here’s a sample, and I recommend it. If you’re in London, it’s showing at the ICA until the end of the month.

Live Earth

Tim and I went to the Wembley gig yesterday, Caz got some free tickets, so we got to enjoy the corporate hospitality of Stony yogurt, whoever they may be. Whatever my reservations about the idea as a whole, they definitely put on a good show. Special mention to Foo Fighters, who I’ve always wanted to see, and Black Eyed Peas, who wrote a song specially and were rather good.

Best act: Foo Fighters, who know what to do with a stadium.

Worst act: Spinal Tap, replaying the dancing dwarf scene from the film and thus being essentially a tribute band to themselves.

Least succesful attempt to engage with the issues: ‘Let’s save the polar bears, let’s save our children’s children… let’s a least have a go, you know?’ The guy from Kasabian.

Least appropriate song: ‘Que sera sera’, sung by David Gray and Damien Rice and summing up the exact opposite to the attitude needed.

Defining song: Madonna’s theme song, which had a choir of about 30 children singing ‘you must first love yourself, then you can love someone else, if you can change someone else, then you have saved someone else, but you must first love yourself… etc’ Yes, a song about loving yourself sums up the whole thing quite nicely really.

Fopp is closed

Alas! One of my favourite shops closed today. I went past it on the bus and noticed it was shut, and sure enough, Fopp has gone into administration. I thought it was a little suspect when they stopped taking credit cards a couple of days ago, but then they did sell everything so cheap, no wonder they couldn’t keep up. I regularly used to go into Virgin, listen to an album on their listening posts and then buy it for half the price round the corner. And they had books as well. Good thing I raided their bargain basement on wednesday.

Anyway, Fopp was the UK’s largest independent music supplier, which is a bad sign for music shops everywhere. And no, Amazon and itunes are not music shops.