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
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.