Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Making memorials: time to forget polar oppositions

  • Comment

A day before Tessa Jowell made her decision to choose for the nation Gustafson Porter's Diana memorial, I received a telephone call. It was from a diligent BBC TV reporter, attempting to get in place some commentators for her report the following day. Could I, she asked, perhaps talk about the design? Difficult, I said.We've seen the Future Systems (which, strangely, rarely gets a mention) and Anish Kapoor 'Dome'proposal, but nothing yet of the socalled 'favourite'. Well, then, could I talk about what a shame it is that the 'traditional', rather than the modern, was getting the nod? That's tricky too, I replied, for much the same reason: we haven't seen it yet. A little more exasperated now. How about what a shame it was that a Brit was likely to be left on the sidelines, with a foreigner taking centre stage? More similar calls followed from radio and TV, but we chose not to get involved in what became something of a rerun of the 'waste of money'or 'but is it art?'pieces you see just after the Turner or A N Other Prize.

Leaving aside the obvious flaws in most of these attempted lines of enquiry (such as the fact that Neil Porter of Gustafson Porter is a Brit and Jan Kaplicky of Future Systems is not, or even that Gustafson's work is essentially Modernist), there is at work here a depressing element of either/or thinking. Things are black or white, chalk and cheese, flipsides of a single coin. Is this a peculiarly British tradition? A common mindset among the populace, or just the media? Whichever, it is problematic that many good proposals are cast into shadow by their rivals, pigeon-holed and attacked to promote the winner by comparison.

Gustafson and Porter must be wishing they had never entered such a contest for the flak their proposal has garnered. In the public's mind's eye was the traditional image of a fountain, which was not delivered. The jury process leading to the decision was a farce - though compounded by the death of ninth judge David Sylvester. And it took too long, certainly. But the Diana decision was also hampered by a lack of visual material for the public to go on. And by a British refusal to think beyond binary oppositions.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.