Citizen Firefighter

Category: Sculpture

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Citizen Firefighter, Gordon Street, Glasgow.

The bronze sculpture by Kenny Hunter (one of Scotland's foremost sculptors and graduate of Glasgow School of Art), is a tribute to all firefighters past and present who have served in Strathclyde Fire & Rescue.

The sculpture was commissioned by Strathclyde Fire Brigade and unveiled on 17th June 2001 in Glasgow city centre. It was the intention of SFR to have the finished artwork sited in an open street area, to enable the general public to view and enjoy the statue, rather than it being erected within SFR premises. SFR stated that "The sculpture is for the communities we serve and should be seen by as many people as possible, not just the firefighters it represents."

It is situated on the busy junction of Hope Street and Gordon Street, outside Glasgow's Central Station.

Less than 3 months after the statue was unveiled, Citizen Firefighter became a focal point for the people of Glasgow after the terrible events of Tuesday September 11th in New York. The statue seemed to many to be the right place to leave flowers and tributes to the many firefighters who died in those events. On October 23rd 2001, the Scottish Fire Brigades held a ceremony of commemoration at Citizen Firefighter for those 343 members of the global family of the fire service that lost their lives in the selfless pursuit to save others.

Kenny Hunter (2001): "Citizen Firefighter was conceived primarily to celebrate Strathclyde Fire & Rescue. But it is also an attempt, through a recognition of their work, to reclaim the political and civic space associated with the historical form of the public statue. While maintaining the clear, formal language of the past, the content and narrative of this new work differs in many ways from the historical tradition, and it is precisely through this rupture between Citizen Firefighter and what is generally understood to be the impact of historical works that we can begin to assess what kind of relationship now exists between citizen and resident, between statue and sculpture. The space opened up in this way creates the possibility of a dialogue of historical and sociological change.

Through the work's symbolism, Citizen Firefighter appears to rekindle the onlooker's reflexes when faced with a nineteenth-century public monument. It differs, however, by both the neutrality of its stance and by the prominence given to the breathing apparatus, which has a democratising effect on human identity. The generic or quotidian aspect of the figure is further accentuated by a reductive treatment of form, in which all naturalist or realist traits have been suppressed. Subtraction peels away pathos, creating enough critical distance to enable the viewer to consider the complex "charge" inherent in the way the subject is presented. In this way the meaning of the monument itself is left partially open, thus creating a space that can be reinvested by the onlooker. This in turn prompts us to come to terms with our own responsibility, not only as an onlooker, but also, more importantly, as a citizen."

He adds that: "Whilst working on this project with Strathclyde Fire & Rescue, the opinions, values and reactions of the people I met became a vital part of the artwork's creative development. The participation of Firefighters from every level and at every stage of the process has enabled me to anticipate a wider reaction. The desire to take the onlooker into consideration from the outset implies an awareness of the other, a form of respect. I could not have conceived this artwork in isolation."


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