The Couch Surfer: 'On the Fourth Plinth, I meditate on my place in the world – and in art'

Tim Walker: Let's face it, I'm no Angel of the North

Trafalgar Square, dusk. As the sun drops behind Canada House, its dying rays climb Nelson's Column before drifting away into a darkening sky.

Traffic noise and the whisper of water from the fountains combine to produce an unexpectedly calming hum. From my perch on the plinth, six-and-a-half metres above the pavement, I meditate quietly on my place in the world – specifically, on my new role as a piece of conceptual art. Then a loud voice cuts through the balmy evening air: "Oi, mate! Give us a song!"

A couple of months ago, on a whim (perhaps a foolish one) I applied for a slot on the Fourth Plinth as part of Anthony Gormley's public art piece, One and Other. If you're not already familiar with the project, it entails 2,400 members of the public, over 100 days, spending an hour each on the 4.2 by 1.5-metre summit at the square's north-west corner. Sure, I like to show off as much as the next journalist, but mainly I just wanted to be involved. I still haven't decided whether Gormley's latest creation is "good" or "bad" art – let's face it, I'm no Angel of the North – but I can confirm that it's definitely art.

The application process was scarily simple; you can even complete it while drunk. I didn't have to explain my motives to the organisers. I didn't have to prove my cultural credentials. I didn't have to say what I was planning to do up there. (I did solicit ideas, by the way, but grew a little tired of pretending to be amused by the incessant suggestion that I should do it naked. The guy who stripped on the plinth two nights ago was taken away by the police. I don't plan to repeat that feat.)

I seriously considered doing nothing at all, a proposal met with uniform scorn and derision. Everyone seems to feel like they own One and Other – more so than other public artworks – and that its participants are therefore obliged to entertain them. Still, I wonder why we "plinthers" are expected to perform. Surely just turning up fulfils the brief? Nobody heckles Nelson, do they – and I don't see him doing his party piece.

Finally, a friend asked me a simple, searching question: "What are you good at? Do that." Well, I get paid to write, I thought. And I'm forever in search of something to knock together 750 words about. So here I am (below), on the plinth, writing this column – or, at least, an early draft of it. Oh, and for the sake of theatre, I'm doing it on a rickety old typewriter, dressed as something approximating an "old-school" hack: I have a press card in my hat, a pencil behind my ear, and a hip flask full of Scotch.

When I arrived an hour or so before my allotted time, I was asked by plinth organisers Artichoke to record an interview for an oral history of the project. The Wellcome Trust will collect and maintain the recordings, photos of the participants, and the 24/7 webcam footage of the plinth. Even after I've gone home, my hour will be archived for posterity.

There will be other online traces of the project, too, in #oneandother Twitter hashtags and plinther Facebook groups. At least one blogger is maintaining a personal record of the full 100 days, and I'm not the first journalist up here; this afternoon somebody broadcast their radio show from the plinth.

As the sun sets, my lofty platform is illuminated by floodlights. While, in daylight, I was just another bit of activity in a busy square, now I feel like the focal point. At about 8.45pm, I get caught in a somewhat stilted conversation with a group of teenagers down below, who persuade me to throw them a sheet of paper with their names – "Claudia and Sammy 4Eva!" – typed on it.

Some people are easy to please. Others less so. My assorted heckles include: "Do something interesting!" (heckle something interesting, then I'll consider it); "Take it off!" (see my comments on nudity, above); and "What are you writing about?!" (I'm writing about you...)

Who is One and Other for? The one on the plinth, or the others – in the square, on the web, in the future? Try as I might to concentrate on what I'm writing, I can't avoid becoming an interactive artwork, one that is purely public: of the people, by the people, for the people... Hmm. I think all this attention's going to my head, which means it's probably a good time to descend. One and Other is more than just the fellow sitting up here on this little concrete rectangle. My hecklers are a part of it, too – much as I'd prefer them to keep it down.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week