That story came to mind when I first heard that the wonderful Anthony Gormley (see also here) had come up with a scheme for filling the fourth, vacant, plinth in Trafalgar Square (up-stage right of Horatio Nelson) with living statues twenty-four hours a day for 100 days.
The One & Other project has been running for several weeks now with a different member of the public on the plinth every hour, day and night, come rain or shine.
I tried to persuade David to put his name into the lottery so he could get up there and do an hour of magic but he was having none of it and, of course, it would have been a unique opportunity for a Buttons photo-shoot...
Anyway, there have been some interesting plinthians' (a coined word probably already destined to make it into the OED), though fewer actors, artists and musicians than I'd expected. There have been cricketers and conductors and people dressed as aliens and cartoon characters, someone organised a teddy bear's picnic and someone else drank tea out of a union jack mug while wearing a Danish t-shirt and playing Abba music! As I write this there's a guy who is not too successfully attempting to make a large inflatable hand by blowing up black bin liners...
However tempting it is to mock, at least they tried. Quite a lot of people, rather shamefully, have done nothing more than sit and read or make mobile telephone calls which activities are, frankly, at the bottom end of my creativity-appreciation schedule!
On Thursday - for the first time - someone was on the plinth whom we knew, so off we went up to Trafalgar Square to provide a little support in their, literally, making an exhibition of themselves.
SALLY, had a turquoise umbrella inscribed with messages of peace and good wishes and spent the hour turning it into a cross between a mobile and carousel by hanging up fluttering strings of beautiful white linen birds and leaves.
Each of the leaves was inscribed with the name of someone she knew who was in the square or, if she didn't know, them a description of what they looked like or were wearing.
It was a particularly successful piece of plinthing, because it was visible from all points and because it developed both as an event and as a piece of creativity...
Sally's plinth-stint ran from 6 to 7 o'clock in the evening (she was, as it happened, the last plinther for several hours that day to plinth in the dry!) and I took advantage of the late afternoon sun to take some photographs of the famous fountains down below in the Square...
I absolutely loved Sally's plinthing, but, to be honest, I'm not sure whether I think Mr Gormley's plinthians are, for the most part, 'ART' - at least as we know it, Jim... However, they are most certainly part of a diverting and intriguing 'event' - a 'happening' - and, as such, are to be applauded for bringing a few smiles and thoughtful moments into our currently harried lives.
If you want to check out what the current plinthers are up to (and they will be at it until 14 October) you can visit SkyArts website with its live round-the-clock camera coverage.
(However, I'd give the next half-hour a miss if I were you as there's some young cove up there 'playing' the violin so badly as to make Jack Benny sound like Yasha Heifitz!)
Going back to that production of Oedipus Rex, it's said that when, on the opening performance, the phallic set-piece was greeted by an astonished gasp from the audience, that deliciously wicked lady, Coral Browne, looked up from her programme and observed to her companion: "It's alright, dear, it's no one we know!"
Images: Brian Sibley, © 2009 uploaded via flickr