Monday, August 27, 2007

This is my body which is given for you



What are the metaphysics of Antony Gormley’s bodyforms, the lead cases cast from plaster moulds of his body that he has described as "three-dimensional photographs"?

Like photographs, they are films, hollow skins containing a pause that their stillness recalls. They do not move. These are not Giacometti’s walkers, so urgently kinetic that they have no time to bend their knees, but standing, lying, upright, bent, immobile.

They are houses, places in which to live, "intimate architecture." The comparison is made explicit in Gormley’s most recent exhibition:
The body is our first habitation, the building our second.
In Allotment, buildings are shrunk to the scale of bodies, with apertures for mouth, ears, anus and genitals. Space Station magnifies the crouching form of the artist into a perforated mass of balanced crates that echo the brutalist architecture of the Hayward itself.

The tendency is disturbing. It hints at a kind of immaterialism even Descartes disavowed:
I am not merely present in my body as a pilot in his ship, but […] as it were, intermingled with it, so that I and my body form a unit.
Gormley writes that "architecture is another kind of body, another container." But the body is not a container, and our relation to it is not instrumental. We do not use our bodies as tools with which test our view of the world. Or perhaps only Gormley does. When it is not alienated from itself, action is a form of practical knowledge: knowing what one is doing by doing it, and thereby knowing one’s own materiality. This knowledge is misplaced in the ineluctable stasis of the bodyforms.

I love them anyway. As beings at rest. As performances, their incarnation of everyman at odds with their palpable origin in the artist’s particular body. Most simply, there is the physical graffiti of Event Horizon, attentive and demanding our attention, like the blurred bodies of other people in Blind Light, the most impressive work in the present collection.

Gormley once wrote: "I am tired of art about art. I am now trying to deal with what it feels like to be a human being." A feeling is not a worldview. Like some critics, we may tire of the demand for art to be about anything, tire of interpretation, feeling its presence in the presence of others.

2 Comments:

Blogger "Q" the Enchanter said...

I almost never have much use for the artist's own metaphysic. (For instance, I listen to liturgical music lovingly, but find its metaphysical presuppositions ludicrous.) As with Gormley's skins, though, there always seems enough space inside any great work for other, more edifying interpretations.

For my part, from viewing Gormley's works I get an eerie sense of foreboding, like looking inside myself and discovering where once "I" stood a terrible abyss: We are afraid of too much self knowledge, because we may discover there is no self at all. Yikes.

7:25 PM  
Blogger losbol said...

One of Antony Gormley's (http://www.antonygormley.co.uk) most breathtaking works of arts is returning home to St Helens for the first time.

Field for the British Isles, a collection of 40,000 terracotta army clay figurines, will be displayed in the town this summer. The individual figures which range between 8-16cm high were handmade out of the town’s famous Ibstock clay bricks. Some stand out from the crowd because of their size and character, while others are greyer than the earthy reds of the majority.

They were made back in 1993 by more than 100 residents aged seven to 70 at Sutton Manor High School. Their only instructions were to make the figures between set heights, with a head in proportion to the body and deep eyes.

Gormley described the Field as “25 tons of clay energised by fire, sensitised by touch and made conscious by being given eyes...a field of gazes that looks at the observer making him or her its subject.” A team of volunteers will spend four days installing the Field in a specially constructed space within St Helens College’s foyer in the town.

The internationally-renowned artwork is part of a series of “Field” installations by Gormley around the world. In 1994 the artist – also responsible for Another Place on Crosby beach – was awarded the Turner Prize for Field, and is perhaps best-known for his large outdoor sculpture Angel of the North. Tate Liverpool has been a previous venue for Field but it has never been shown in its place of origin. The installation will sit as a centrepiece in the borough’s contribution to the Capital of Culture celebrations.

8:49 AM  

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