Mimicry and mockery: the latest Trafalgar Square sculpture

Bronze statue of rocking horseA quick post to alert you to the latest sculpture on Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth. I haven’t seen it in the flesh, but my initial reaction is: how subversive and playful!

One only has to compare the sculpture with this one of George III in Windsor Great Park to see the allusions. I am reminded of the ideas of playwork academics Stuart Lester and Wendy Russell, who describe children’s play as in part about the ‘mimicry and mockery’ of what they come across in the world around them.

The Guardian has more on Powerless Structures (a title with more than a nod to the supposed innocence of childhood). Given its location in such a prominent spot in the heart of London, I hope that – amidst the usual hullabaloo from the artistic and cultural world – it triggers some reflection and discussion about playfulness. My hunch is that Brian Sutton-Smith  – for whom play is essentially a matter of the exploration of primary emotions like fear and anger – would love it. What do you think?

7 responses to “Mimicry and mockery: the latest Trafalgar Square sculpture

  1. Lovely stuff! It does play into the innocence construct and also mocks the pomposity of statues of great men. I’d love to be able to lay claim to the ‘mimickry and mockery’ line, but I think its originator was the great BS-S himself. Sutton-Smith says that children appropriate aspects of their own evreyday worlds and either copy or subvert them, rearrnging things in any way they choose.

  2. Superb! Excellent quality artwork. Links humour with professional visual arts. That’s actually OK???? Promotes play to the world. But then. . . Isn’t it dangerous to encourage riding a hobby horse atop a plynthe??????

  3. Yes it’s lovely to have a child on a plinth in Trafalgar Square. But i am not sure about the rockign horse though i can see the allusion as Tim says. I can’t help feeling that rocking horses are a bit too Victorian nursery and that a child riding a real horse would have been freer and more fun! It just seems too much like an adult’s view of a child. Still…

  4. Wendy, Bernard, Anna – thanks for the comments. Source of ‘mimicry and mockery’ duly noted Wendy – must listen harder to you and Stuart in future! Bernard – the plinth is not very accessible. However, the (permanent) lions are, and are played on by people of all ages; despite being slippery and several metres above granite paving. I once contacted the Mayor of London’s public space management team to find out how many accidents they had recorded, and was told that it was not seen as a health and safety problem. I can only assume that by and large, people take care. Risk compensation in action. Anna – it is indeed an adult’s view of a child; after all the artists are adults. It’s the playful mischief and the pin-pricking of pomposity that pleases me.

  5. Postscript: my friend Sue in Sheffield has pointed out that this sculpture may not be the most original. Check this link to Big Bertie, aka The Horse is a Noble Animal, currently on display at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (a wonderful visitor attraction with a commendable approach to playful exploration, in my view).

  6. Update: I’ve now seen the sculpture. Well worth a visit if you’re in the vicinity.

  7. Pingback: When art meets free play, who wins? | Rethinking Childhood

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