Trafalgar square contains the point from which all measurements to and from London are taken. It provides a centre for collective national protest and celebration - a mirror to civic life in the UK and a prime tourist destination. In recent years the Greater London Authority has financed a campaign to soften its image and make its symbolism more inclusive, demoting associations of dirty pavements and 19th century heroes. Eva Bensasson's second solo show at T1+2 Gallery explores key elements that imbue Trafalgar Square with its iconic status. This exhibition references recent attempts to make Trafalgar Square into a cultural arena and invites discussion of the relationship between popular space-forming and government sanctioned culture.
Bensasson recreates Nelson's famous signal on the eve of the battle of Trafalgar â'England Expects That Every Man Will Do His Duty'. Using the numeric flag code that Nelson's signal officer employed in 1805 to spell out the phrase, Bensasson superimposes each flag over a recent aerial plan of the square. This phrase helped elevate Nelson to the position of one of the most revered national heroes and the inspiration for the creation of Trafalgar Square. The phrase has often been paraphrased, in the present day increasingly for its anachronistic quality. The expectation of 'duty' at time of war has become deeply problematic and it is significant that in 2003 Trafalgar Square saw the Anti War protest, the UK's largest ever political demonstration. The repeated plan of an empty square serves to re-pose a question about its physical presence. Since the Chartists' demonstration in 1848, a range of measures have been mobilised to control the flow of people through the space. The very introduction of the fountains was intended to limit the square's capacity. The plan Bensasson uses is of the square since it's 'relaunch' in 2002, the emphasis of which was to control pedestrian movement through the square. The aerial viewpoint is notable and compelling for its cleanliness, its removal from the mess of everyday life. References to Nelson's 'England Expectsâ¦' appear throughout James Joyce's Ulysses, with each repetition giving another spin on its meaning. By using the signal flags, with their resemblance to country flags, this work also raises questions about social movements and national identity.
Included in the show are drawings of celebration and protest in Trafalgar Square. These present a range of alternative perspectives of the space, from physical, cultural and political perspectives.
Eva Bensasson has exhibited widely in the UK and abroad, in solo shows and touring exhibitions, since finishing her MA in 1997 at Chelsea College of Art.