Body As Place: Antony Gormley Outside-In
From Model, White Cube, London, UK
In 1973, after returning from a trip to India, Antony Gormley made a series of works based on plaster-soaked sheets placed over the prone bodies of friends. He writes that he had been touched seeing people asleep on streets and railway platforms covered by cotton saris or dhotis, which ‘described the minimum space necessary for a person to establish shelter.’1 In retrospect, we can see here many of the elements of his work to come: the sculpture produced by contact, by recreating the body through a mould rather than representing it; the minimum means for establishing a relation to place; and a sense of stillness. But these works are by no means benign. Considering these sculptures in the present day, we are perhaps more aware of their political implications: that they show not a universal condition but poverty in Asia, the place of the West’s supposed ‘other’; and that the ‘world’ of the people who live and sleep like this can no longer be considered apart from global networks and relations of power.
In effect, the two dimensions of these works - the cover and the body - subsequently divided into two ways of making place. For Room (1980), Gormley took his own clothes, cut them into continuous spirals of cloth, and formed an inaccessible enclosure within the space of the room by wrapping them like a fence or wall around four poles. In the following year he began making sculpture by wrapping lead around a form produced from a mould of his own body, resulting in an organic shape sometimes rather like a pod or Egyptian mummy case marked on its surface by the rectilinear grid of welds. Body and architecture come together again from 2004, when instead of wrapping lead around the bodyform, the contour of the body is produced by casting iron blocks within the mould, so that the interior of the body reflects the exterior architecture. In large-scale works from 2012 - Vessel, installed at Galleria Continua, San Gimignano; and Model, at White Cube Bermondsey, London - architecture takes the form of the body. Instead of architecture brought into the body, the viewer will enter a body made of interconnected steel units bolted and welded together.
Through his sculpture, Gormley takes interiority and exteriority to their extremes, and yet also into conjunction, outside-in and inside-out. A space of interiority is enclosed by the lead bodyforms, or cast iron bodies confront the vastness of the sea. These spatial extremes evince a tension that may be felt in Gormley’s sculpture between quiet meditation and stillness on the one hand, and unease and horror on the other. Already in 1973 there is a reminiscence of a claustrophobically encased figure who might be suffocated, as in the casts taken in Pompeii from the empty spaces where bodies were encased in ash after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Just short of 40 years later, visitors can enter Model, perhaps without realising it is from the foot, the only means of entry and egress, as it may not be so easy from close up to discern that the rectilinear steel blocks take the shape of a huge, prone body, and proceed, not without some difficulty, to the head, where they encounter a darkness that they may find quietly meditative or, alternatively, quite frightening.
The paradox of the human body is that a bounded, finite, material thing can contain the infinite. When Gormley sets his figures in relation to a horizon of sea, as in Another Place (1997), or desert, as in Inside Australia (2003), or mountains, as in Horizon Field (2010 -12), the body is not only in a place, but creates a place as the horizon of each figure. Writing on such work, W.J.T. Mitchell recalls Caspar David Friedrich’s painting Monk By The Sea (c.1809) and comments, ‘The tiny figure of the monk against the vastness of the beach, sea and sky may seem at first to declare the insignificance of the figure. But a blink of the eye (or a moment’s thought) reverses this impression, turning the landscape into what Gaston Bachelard called an ‘intimate immensity’. The landscape becomes an inscape, an interior space all the more evocative for its blankness.2’ So we are drawn to ask: how can that which is concrete and limited contain that which is infinitely greater than itself?
According to the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, while we only experience things outside ourselves as representations, we have an experience of our body not only as an object or representation, but also as what he calls ‘will’: a force or striving that is the other side of representation. Our experience of our own body is, uniquely, the experience of both its inner life of proprioception and the drives, and its outer aspect as we regard our limbs or see ourselves in a mirror3. Through its connection with ‘will’, the inner life of the body extends beyond its limits, possibly infinitely so. Equally, it could be argued that the central question posed by Gormley’s sculpture is the relation of the tangible and specific to that which goes beyond it. Schopenhauer argues that the human body is the privileged locus of this double experience of the specific and limited on the one hand, and the unbounded and overwhelming force of will - in relation to which representation may even be seen as a defence - on the other. To be subject to the turbulence of the will is to be a part of a world of suffering, from which aesthetic contemplation, according to Schopenhauer, provides at least a temporary relief. This temporariness of aesthetics’ freeing of the subject from the will is an indication that the aesthetic condition, whether or not it involves transcendence, is itself temporal. If the ‘in itself’ of the will is associated with time, Gormley’s response in his sculpture would be not transcendence into timelessness, but rather a stillness within time. The question remains as to whether the connection through his body with that which goes beyond its limits remains the experience of a subject in isolation. How is the solipsism implied by the lead bodyforms, like that sensed in the isolation of the gazing figures in Friedrich’s paintings, to be overcome? It is perhaps in response to this question that we might understand the emergence in Gormley’s work of what Joseph Beuys called ‘social sculpture4’.
The contrast between the large-scale individual bodies that have sometimes comprised Gormley’s works since The Angel Of The North (1998) and the multitude of small-scale, hand-modelled figures in the ‘Field’ series from the 1990s suggests that the question of the relation between the one and the many - which is political and economic, as well as aesthetic - has become for us urgent and inescapable. What is the relation between these two types of works? According to the aesthetic philosophy of Immanuel Kant, both magnitude and multitude can give rise to the feeling of what he calls the ‘mathematical sublime’5. The sublime is concerned with that which goes beyond what subjects can represent to themselves, and overwhelms the imagination (in the end for Kant this affirms that reason can rise above the imagination and think what cannot be represented, although for Edmund Burke, writing in the British empirical tradition, the sublime is a matter of contradictory sensations of pain and pleasure that are experienced from a place of safety, but not transcended6). Gormley’s sculpture has been concerned with how the specific and concrete self-experience of the human body can connect with what infinitely exceeds its limits, with this theme finding its first sculptural manifestation in the void encased by the lead bodyforms, as if a dark infinity within the contingent limits of the body. By bringing together what one might call the ‘great body’ in Gormley’s subsequent work - from Angel Of The North to Vessel and Model - with those installations involving a multitude of figures, or participation by a wide public, it is possible to see that what is at stake is the relation between sovereignty (that is, the exercise by a body, whether of a person or a representative political body like a parliament, of autonomous political will) and the people as a multiplicity of singular beings. How do we form a collectivity out of singular beings? How does a community form, around, for example, a work of art, in a way that involves the recognition of multiplicity and difference?
Perhaps one of the earliest historic images to encapsulate the relation between the one and the many as a political problem of sovereignty, because it was made at a time of religious and democratic rebellion against sovereign authority, is the frontispiece by Abraham Bosse to Hobbes’ Leviathan (1651), a book in which the philosopher seeks to rethink the legitimation of the sovereign in the light of the English revolution, with its claims by the multitude represented by Levellers, Diggers and other groups, and the terrifying strife of civil war. According to Hobbes, people agree to give up their individual sovereignty so that the monarch may act for them - here we are at the threshold of modernity, where sovereignty is being thought about in relation to the individual subject, as something that may be given up or reclaimed: ‘[the sovereign] is one person, of whose acts a great multitude, by mutual covenants one with another, have made themselves every one the author …’7 In Bosse’s frontispiece, that the subjects are depicted as comprising the body of the sovereign, overseen by the kingly head, also implies that he depends upon them, rather than divine right, for his legitimacy. (The later decapitation by guillotine of the sovereign that takes place in the French Revolution was understood as a returning of sovereignty to the people.)8
In Gormley’s ‘Field’ series of the 1990s, the artist works with different groups of craftspeople and communities to produce a multiplicity of small figures from clay. Rather than amalgamating them into a single body, whether literally or through an arrangement that has to do with a coming together of multiple gazes, 8 the small figures are each distinct, however tightly packed, and are arrayed filling and spilling out of the gallery space. Rather than facing towards a sovereign, they are facing forwards towards the viewer, who in effect becomes the ‘one’ who is ultimately incapable of unifying, representing to themselves, the many9.
In One & Other (2009), Gormley enabled the ‘Fourth Plinth’ in Trafalgar Square, London, which is rumoured to be awaiting a posthumous equestrian statue of Queen Elizabeth II and in the meantime used to host works by contemporary artists, to become a 24-hour platform on which anyone who wanted to sign up could do whatever they wished: here the place of the sovereign is usurped in advance by the people, each of whom is able to exercise his or her individual will within the limits of the law. Gormley’s giving over of a plinth to the people here inverts his removal of the plinth from classical sculptures during his installation of ‘Still Standing’ at the Hermitage in St Petersburg in 2011-12, whereby the sculptures, like Rodin’s Burghers Of Calais (1889), occupy the same level as the people. Yet in both cases the artist’s gesture places the emphasis on the singular living bodies of viewers and audience, who also become participants.
The public become the subject in Horizon Field Hamburg (2012), which consists of a platform (a hugely extended plinth for the people?) suspended in the large Deichtorhalle, a steel-and-brick structure from 1911-13 built as a market on the grounds of a former railway station. Accessing the work from a bridge suspended over the platform the visitor would look down before stepping onto the shiny-black, liquid-seeming surface. Once there, you could feel that surface give slightly under your steps, and when someone else walking across it came close, you would sense a vibration of their steps beneath your own feet. Thus you became aware of others though the ground that supported your own body. Periodically, groups would join together and form a line, walking with bouncing steps back and forth. Or individuals would take the opportunity to adopt a yoga pose, balancing like a stork on the vibrating surface. Standing at the edge, you could look down through the wire net to the floor below, and raising your eyes peer through the great arched windows at each end of the space and the sloping windows in the roof from the glass of which the opaque surface had been removed, giving a clear panoramic view of the streets, the elevated railway track with the frequent trains in their Deutsche Bahn livery - reminding us of Hamburg’s place as a node of land and sea transport - and the courtyard between the two museum buildings. The continual sense of others and of your own body - and the relationship between the two - conveyed by the movement of the surface on which you stood prevented the panoramic view from becoming a form of surveillance by the disembodied eye. Seeing was a matter of the flesh, and irreducibly of being-with-others. Although this was a reversal of the relations of Event Horizon - the work made for the Hayward Gallery exhibition in London in 200710, where Gormley placed 31 bodycasts of himself on top of buildings on the other side of the Thames and around the Southbank, so that the looker had the feeling of being looked at by the distant sculptures, many situated at the limit of discernibility11 - the effect is the same: an awareness of one’s own body in the field of the visible. Taken together, Event Horizon and Horizon Field Hamburg constitute a meditation on the folded character of what the philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty called the ‘flesh of the visible’, where I am only able to see because I am in the visible, seen by everything else around.12
It is as ‘this body’ - a singular being - that the body is exposed to the world and to others. The being of a body - all bodies, not only human, and perhaps not necessarily even sentient - involves a double movement: that of withdrawal, or turning inwards, and that of relation.13 A body that was nothing other than its relations would simply dissolve, lose its quiddity; while a body entirely turned inward, as if to form a perfect circle with itself, would also cease to be a body, which is always a partial body, a lacking, desiring body, a body for others. It is possible to see in Gormley’s work a shift from an emphasis on contemplative, self-sufficient positions - the body focused on its inner space - to the body positioned in relation to other bodies and to the space in which the sculpture is installed (bodyforms on walls and ceilings, or bodyforms installed in landscape), and to affect inferred through posture. When the body stands, sits, kneels, crouches or leans in a room, the space of the room becomes charged with an affect that the visitor feels empathetically. The experience of the room is transformed by the placement and posture of the sculptures.
With the eight bodyforms of Drawn (2000 / 2007) Gormley marked out the space of the room at White Cube in Hoxton. The forms on the ceiling defied gravity, causing the room to seem to float free and rotate. In 1969 Mel Bochner had written on the walls of a room its own measurements in Measurement Room, and during the same period Donald Judd, Robert Morris and Carl Andre placed objects in the gallery in order to create a tension between the specificity of the object and the viewer’s experience of the space as they circumambulated it through time (Morris devised performances in which bodies related to objects).14 What Gormley added to this from the late 1970s into the ‘80s is the combination of the application of minimalist specificity to the body itself and the insertion of the bodyform - as a direct trace of his own body or of others made into the block sculptures - into spaces, whether inside or outside, that are shared with the viewer. This experiment continues, and has if anything become more architectural, when the body incorporates construction and construction becomes body, as was the case in the exhibition ‘Model’ at White Cube. Earlier in 2012, at Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, Gormley placed iron blockwork figures (kneeling, crouching, doing a shoulder stand and lying with feet pressed to the wall) in the part of the gallery consisting of narrow passageways and small rooms. These spaces were ones the viewer had to negotiate, becoming aware of the walls pressing in, steps to take (or not take) in order not to stumble over, and turning in a dead-end, cupboard-sized space. That space contracts and expands, is open or confining, felt through the body of the visitor.
That the figures in this installation are comprised of blocks Emphasises their constructedness, making a link with modernism and also unifying them with the rectilinear structure of the architecture. By contrast with the lead bodyforms, they are open to the external world, and in parts we can see right through them. Yet as soon as we see these figures we infer their contours and sense their embodiment. This has nothing to do with perceiving them as representations: they are not pictures of human beings, nor figures in a narrative space, frozen moments of an action. Their embodiment has rather to do with the sense that they withdraw into themselves. They are at once related to everything outside themselves, connected literally as molecules and energy, and analogically as the blocks of which they are made rhyme paradigmatically with built structures, yet they also withdraw from relations, with the viewer, with each other, and with all other things. This is in the end true of all Gormley’s figures, whether they are made from his own body or from those of others.
The movement I am trying to describe goes something like this: the sculpture is located in a place; it withdraws into itself; in that withdrawal from relation there is the emergence of another kind of relation which is no longer specific (think of the ‘specific object’ of Donald Judd15, and the ‘site specificity’ of Land Art, extended in the displacements between site and gallery in the work of Robert Smithson), but rather a universal relation. In other words, universality - if that is what it is - is achieved not though the generalisation of qualities, not through formal abstraction (as was the case with modernism), although there is always a degree of abstraction in Gormley’s figures, but rather through withdrawal, the creation of a kind of ‘black hole’ which becomes a portal or threshold.
This withdrawal from relation, this concentration, is what may be described as a ‘singularity’.16 The singular is not the same as the individual: as singular ‘indexes’ - that is to say caused by contact or imprint, so that they don’t simply represent, but are what they signify17 - the sculptures are not just ‘individuals’, the particular instances of a universal, such as ‘humanity’ in general, but singular in themselves. Indeed it would be all too easy to interpret Gormley’s sculpture as ‘humanistic’, as having a ‘universal’ appeal, as if it is concerned with ‘the’ body. But that would be to misunderstand it. The concern is not with ‘the’ body but with his and each other person’s singular body, which is not represented in a pictorial sense, but leaves its trace though contact, or a sequence of processes involving contact. If the individual is a particular instance of a general class, the singular is that which is without relation to anything else. If we think of this in terms of a process of making or becoming, the singular would come into being through the withdrawal of relation. The paradox is that the most extensive relatedness emerges out of an intensive withdrawal from relation. Withdrawn from relation is a way of describing the absolute: the absolute is absolved from relation with everything else. This can take place in two ways: either the absolute is absolutely other (God withdrawn from his creation); or the absolute is without relation because it is just all relations, it is everything (as in pantheism). Gormley’s sculptures formed from the moulds of minded bodies become the relay between these two kinds of absolute: from the singularity as a withdrawal from the relation to others and to site, but that always occurs in a specific place, to the absolute as another kind of relation, a relation with everything. The crux of the movement of withdrawal and the opening onto everything is the contingency of ‘that’ thing, which ‘is’ in the here and now of an encounter, at the same time as involving the past-ness of a trace held in the suspense of its potential.
The end of the journey within the body architecture of Model is the darkness of being inside the head. The converse of this dark interior void is Gormley’s occasional figuration of the brain as the mystery of the human from the outside: Mould (1989/1990), Body And Light I and Meaning (both 1988/1993). Both of these kinds of work confront the dilemma that we have faced during the last half century of how to conceive the relation between the human and the universe. On the one hand evolution and material science tell us that humanity is continuous with the rest of nature; on the other hand, if we take into consideration language and the relation of human beings to signs, meaning and law, we appear to be faced with discontinuity, a categorical rupture between the human and the rest of nature.
Gormley’s achievement is to have developed the potential opened up by sculpture since the 1960s - Minimalism, Anti-Form, Arte Povera - through the engagement with his body and those of others in a way that confronts fundamental questions of what the human being is in relation to nature and the cosmos. In order to get a fix on how he does this, a comparison and contrast with Giacometti is telling: Giacometti made sculpture that sought to express, through a reduction of the figure to that which at once holds the space and seems to slip away, the unique existential and ethical condition of the relation to the other person, who is sought by the artist in their very withdrawal from his grasp, while Gormley’s concern, rather, is with the relation of himself as a body, and others as bodies, to everything else. In one sense, the human in Gormley is hyper-privileged - nothing else has a relation to itself and the universe like the human - yet at the same time this hyper-privileged being is on the cusp of a total loss of privilege, a speck within a universe utterly indifferent to it - whence, perhaps, Gormley’s impulse to ‘people’ cityscapes and landscapes, so that the human ‘horizon’ is maintained at the point of its disappearance in (to adapt the title of a recent book) ‘the world without us’.18 It could be said that Gormley’s ‘Field’ works stage the indictment of the human by another kind of social and collective being.19 And in the works of the last decade, the open bodies that are made in such a way as to figure the relation of matter and energy, from Domain Field (2003) to the series of various works titled ‘Quantum Cloud’ (2000 - 07) and on to the dispersed figures of the ‘Drift’ works (2007-11)20, seem to be an attempt to think and feel together these two dimensions of the human as if they were two aspects of the same being: the body is matter and energy like everything else, yet coalesces at the core into a dark shadow or void. If the human body is at once connected with everything, and yet simultaneously absolutely, singularly other, how is this impossible relation made manifest?
’Horizon’ has two traditional senses: as a limit between sky and earth that moves as the subject moves, and as the ground or background against which something appears as the thing that it is. We speak of the historical horizon of an epoch, or the horizon of a culture, as the set of often unspoken and unconscious assumptions which structure that period or those people’s world and give the things that comprise it their countenance. The sense of the horizon as a limit that the subject strives to go beyond emerges as a trope in the 18th century, notably in relation to Romanticism. The relation of the figure to horizon becomes - to revisit the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich recalled by some of Gormley’s installations of bodyform figures looking towards the sea, and subject to the rise and fall of the tides such as Another Place (1997) - an image of longing for the infinite, including the contrary experiences of separation and engulfment, in which the greatest distance becomes identified with the almost abstract field of the painting at the same time as being something in the head.
The meaning of ‘earth’ and ‘world’ changes in the early modern period, in relation to developments in cosmology and cartography. The meaning of ‘earth’ (terra) moves from naming an element (with water, air and fire), and, in the medieval theory, one of the two globes comprising the known world (the earth globe’s centre displaced from that of the water globe to make the surface of lands and seas) to, with the transatlantic explorations - America was first named on the Waldseemüller map, Universalis Cosmographia, in 1507 - and the publication of Copernicus’s On The Revolutions Of The Celestial Spheres (1543), the single globe of land-and-sea. The meaning of ‘world’ (mundus) moves through a combination of the Christian with the cartographic senses from naming as it did for the Romans the cosmos as a whole to meaning Earthly human existence.21 The horizon, as a perceptual limit caused by the curvature of the Earth, fuses these meanings of ‘earth’ and ‘world’: the horizon establishes our world in relation to our place on Earth. The ‘world’ as a system of implicit relations and meanings is anchored and delimited in relation to the horizon, which has both a literal and a metaphorical sense as a visual limit and the background for our understanding.22 In the present day, the ‘world’ is also a virtual network, accessed through different platforms, which affects both the traditional meanings of the word, as well as a sense of place and what is available as the background of our self-understanding. Human existence is dislocated: whether this is a new configuration, or the latest stage in the history of modernisation is a question that cannot be answered here. Suffice it to say that this provides the context for Gormley’s insistence in Another Place (first installed at Cuxhaven, Germany, and permanently installed at Crosby Beach, Liverpool) on establishing and emphasising - perhaps even memorialising - the experience of horizons. Here, Earth and world are articulated in relation to place, limit and the sense of the limitlessness of the ocean through cast iron bodyforms set on the shore, motionless as the tide comes in and goes out. In titling other works Event Horizon and Horizon Field, Gormley also alludes to the meaning that ‘horizon’ has in the way that quantum physics and relativity theory think the universe: the horizon marks the limit beyond which there is no escape from the pull of a singularity such as a black hole. In metaphorical terms, and to return to the earlier discussion of singularity, we could say that the horizon in this sense alludes to the place where a relation occurs with that which is without relation. This is a place of potential, but also of danger. To be at the horizon is to be on the brink of new possibilities, of creation, but it is also the limit beyond which there is collapse or implosion.
Could it be, then, that the concern for the horizon evinced by these installed figures of Gormley’s have to do with the very loss of the horizon in our global world of electronic, networked communications? In that case, one could say that Gormley is trying to ‘force’ the horizon, to reinstate it, to insist on its necessity for human existence in the world. The philosopher Paul Virilio suggests that in post-modernity speed promises to liberate us from the ‘alleged reality of the third dimension’: ‘In allowing us to escape the time-span of the trajectory, speed actually liberates from the ‘volume’ of the object, from places as from the milieu.’23 In the network of digital communications, the speed of transmission approaches that of light, with the result that, in the virtual dimension interfaced by the screen and the projection, distance collapses into near instantaneity. This may have a profound effect on our sense of the world as the horizon as the limit of place, of locatedness, disappears, and localities can no longer be isolated from the global.24
The figures cast in 2004 for the town of Poggibonsi in Tuscany in the project Fai Spazio, Prendi Posto (Making Space, Taking Place) show how the global has penetrated the core of the local, and how the latter may be reclaimed. The outcome of the project was the result of a long process that involved canvassing local people concerning which places in the town had special meaning for them. From the 70 people who volunteered to be cast, seven were chosen at random. Body casts were made - perhaps as a result of the technique the figures stand with their legs apart and arms held slightly away from their bodies. The most unexpected aspect of these works in relation to the figurative tradition is that the cast iron bodies are comprised of multiple blocks of varying sizes that, as Gormley himself has pointed out, recall pixels25. This throws into question what the substance of a body might be: whether it is the tangible matter of bone and flesh covered by skin that we think we see, or something more immaterial, such as the energy and molecules evoked by sculptures such as Quantum Cloud (2000) and Domain Field (2003), or even the units that comprise a digital image. The figures of Poggibonsi bring the virtual into the actual world, forming solid bodies with mass that are at once there, sharing their sites around the town with the living inhabitants, and yet seem at the same time elsewhere, at once more real, and less real, than their surroundings. If distinctness - the specificity of a locale - depends on distance, on the things around changing as space is traversed, in a world where speed has collapsed distance, resulting in a loss of place and locality, Gormley’s sculptures in Poggibonsi both acknowledge the virtual collapse of distance while at the same time producing an effect of spacing and a marker for locality, a ‘here’ that is at a distance from ‘over there’.
Another aspect of these figures is that their insides become outsides. This contrasts with the bodyforms, particularly those in lead, where the distinction of inside and outside is emphasised, to an extreme degree when the ‘skin’ separating them is a lead so dense and inert that even radiation cannot penetrate it. If we take together this exaggeration of the distinction between inside and outside, and the total exposure of the inside of the figure so that it becomes an outside, we may discern the historical place of Gormley’s sculpture (which sometimes appears as if situating itself in some timeless, universal space) as a response to a crisis of the human and the world which is of greater scope than the crisis of the phenomenological and psychoanalytic subject that preoccupied the art of the 1960s and ‘70s. We are entering a time when through a combination of economic, political and ecological factors, the extinction of the human race is becoming a less remote possibility. In that case, the resemblance of the lead bodyforms - including the process through which they are made - to Egyptian mummies is evocative. And the cast iron bodyforms of Another Place, all facing the same way out to sea, resemble the Easter Island statues as mementos of a vanished civilisation, as is even more strongly evoked in Gormley’s first large stone sculpture, Havmann (1994) (’man from the sea’), located at Mo I Rana in northern Norway. These and other works by Gormley indeed become traces - now not only of his living body at a moment in time, but of the anticipation of a vanished people, putting the viewer in the position not only of another human being, but also projected as an extra-terrestrial trying to figure out what the world of the human race that has become extinct from the Earth might have been.
In 2007 Gormley began to produce sculptures from body moulds filled with variable-size blocks and cast in iron that he collectively titled ‘Ataxia’ and to which is attached the following statement:
’ataxia is a word derived from the Greek for a condition characterised by a progressive loss of coordination, attributed to severe dysfunction of the central nervous system. This struggle between order and disorder, symmetry and asymmetry, is characterised in the seven works which all suggest a physical state of being: Turn, Splice, Shrive, Shy, List, Clutch and Haft.’26
The affect that would traditionally be conveyed in sculpture through gesture is here a matter of disposition and balance within a state of disequilibrium. The philosopher Giorgio Agamben argues that by the end of the 19th century the Western bourgeoisie had lost its gestures. He contrasts the account of the human gait given by Balzac, where it is a matter of moral bearing, with the measurements carried out by the psychologist Gilles de la Tourette, who laid a roll of white wallpaper on the ground and asked subjects whose soles had been smeared with iron sesquioxide powder to walk along it, or Muybridge’s multiple photographic sequences of men and women performing actions. Broken up into measurable units, movement comes to seem like:
’an amazing proliferation of tics, spasmodic jerks, and mannerisms - a proliferation that cannot be defined in any way other than as a generalised catastrophe of the sphere of gestures. Patients can neither start nor complete the simplest of gestures. If they are able to start a movement, this is interrupted and broken up by shocks lacking any coordination and by tremors that give the impression that the whole musculature is engaged in a dance (chorea) that is completely independent of any ambulatory end.’27
This loss of gesture, which becomes a general condition, renders life ‘indecipherable’.28 What exactly is lost in the loss of gesture, or rather its becoming spasmodic and automatic? Agamben writes:
’What characterises gesture is that in it nothing is being produced or acted, but rather something is being endured and supported. The gesture, in other words, opens the sphere of ethos as the more proper sphere of that which is human.’29
So for Agamben, what a gesture becomes is not an action performed as a means to an end, nor is it the performing of an actor in order to express something, but it is rather an enduring, a way of carrying on in the sense of supporting a burden. Gesture is neither directed towards a goal, nor is it an autonomous end in itself, but rather a way of making means or mediality as such visible, a means without end.30 Gesture is no longer a way of communicating a message or meaning, but rather the way in which the human as a speaking body is exposed to and responds to the weight of being. The essence of language as such is expressed where nothing is actually said, in the mime or the silent film, where the ‘gag’ is both an interruption of speech and the actor’s silent improvisation.31 While Gormley’s approach to the body in sculpture that emerged in the lead bodyforms involved an embracing of stillness against the classical role of the gesture of the statue as a moment in a narrative action, his presentations of posture in ‘Ataxia’ and ‘Still Standing’ return to the question of gesture through the condition of the body that has lost its gestures and is subject to states of disequilibrium and automatism. This is a body that is neither active nor passive, that endures its embodiment as mass subject to gravity and supports itself precariously. Through the movement from the inwardness of the bodyforms to the exposure of the body-block-sculptures, what comes to be manifested is less a meditative state than a pathos.
Gormley sets up a direct comparison between his blockworks and classical sculpture in ‘Still Standing’, his installation at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. The cast iron figures were shown in a room adjoining the gallery of antique statuary, where the artist had the floor raised so that the classical statues stood at the same level as the visitors - gods and heroes brought down to earth. Viewer and statue occupy the same space. The balance and contrapposto of the classical figures, the expression of an inner dynamism, contrasts with the way in which Gormley’s figures seem to be turned inside-out, exposing their interior to view as a disordered order of blocks. The construction of the figures invites a relationship with architecture in a way that recalls the Russian constructivist avant-garde: the Gormley figures arrayed in the room may recall the experimental structures in the Obmokhu group exhibition in May 1921 in Moscow.32
Furthermore, the ‘feet’ of the figures are set as if on a grid laying parallel to the walls of the room. The phenomenological relation to the architectural space in which the sculpture is installed is a characteristic of the Minimalist object, which was itself influenced by the rediscovery of Russian Constructivism. So, while on the one hand Gormley’s sculpture is in dialogue with the tradition that, in the 17th and 18th centuries, took classical statuary as its model, on the other hand its concern with the phenomenology of the literal space of the room and the behaviour of materials puts it squarely within the field of possibilities opened up by both Russian Constructivism and the American sculpture of the 1960s and ‘70s. Gormley’s sliced-bread works of the early 1980s - above all Bed (1980 - 81), where he has eaten out the two halves of his body in a way that makes it resemble an open sarcophagus - are clearly in dialogue with Carl Andre’s Equivalents of 1966. By establishing a phenomenological relation to the literal space of the room, Minimalist sculpture like Andre’s threw the emphasis from the representation of the body in the statue to the visitor’s experience of their own body during the time in which they inhabited the place the sculpture was installed. Drawing on the performance and body art of the 1960s and ‘70s, Gormley returned the body into sculpture but without turning the latter into a form of representation since he insisted on the indexical relation to the body: the bodyform as the preservation of a trace rather than a picture of the body.
In the ‘Still Standing’ exhibition, the torsion and disequilibrium of the figures’ bodies suggest the pathos and nervous dysfunction of the ‘Ataxia’ series. It is as if the modernist rationalism of the grid is being disordered through the kinds of affects conveyed by the postures of the figures. The ‘white cube’ modernist gallery becomes a kind of asylum for cataleptic, narcoleptic and hysteric figures.33
However, these figures do not perform in a theatrical manner, and the gallery does not as a result become a stage. It is as if Gormley had taken account of the critic and art historian Michael Fried’s condemnation of theatricality in the name of ‘absorption’, first in his attack on minimalism for its subjection to duration against the ‘presentness’ of modernist abstract art which he saw, quoting the American 18th-century theologian Jonathan Edwards, ‘as grace’; and, second, in his investigation of the turn in certain 18th-century French paintings away from baroque and rococo theatricality for the sake of the depiction of figures absorbed in their activities and unaware of being looked at by the beholder, which does not mean that they are not under a more generalised gaze.34
The body is exposed, and contained, or itself container. Horizon Field Hamburg exposes the bodies of the public to each other, while at the same time supporting them and containing them within the building. Architecture fuses with the body in Vessel, a giant figure resting on its side made from open cubes of steel installed in the former cinema that is part of the Galleria Continua. The title prompts us to see the rusted steel figure as the beached hull of a ship, or a resting Leviathan, head on the stage, and so large that a foot has pierced the wall, which also suggests that there is something uncontainable about the figure, even as there is a balcony view of the whole sculpture. It gives the impression of being at once familiar, as a body, yet alien in its scale, as Gulliver would have seemed to the Lilliputians. Approaching the sculpture in the auditorium, you are impelled to peer into the cubes and see how they lead one into the other, with light from another open surface illuminating one further up or down, rooms beyond rooms. The bolted and welded rusted steel sheets, together with the way in which the mass of the sculpture creates an obstruction in the room, are strongly reminiscent of Richard Serra’s huge steel-slab sculptures. His Torqued Ellipses (1998) bend and shape space so that the visitor’s journey through them becomes a passage of physical, haptic experience involving compression and expansion, and affecting the sense of balance through the tilt of the plates. There is architecture that evokes similar experiences - one may think of Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings, or Le Corbusier’s, or Frank Gehry’s, the latter themselves influenced by Serra’s experiments - but without utility the bodily experience of the sculpture becomes reflexive, so that you wonder at your experience as it changes through time in relation to the obduracy of the material.35 In this respect, Serra’s sculpture is anti-architectural, and he avoids the sense of the sculpture being constructed in such a way as to break down into smaller constitutive units or parts, but rather to result from the material behaviour of singular elements. While Gormley alludes in Vessel and Model to the ambulatory experience of Serra’s sculpture, there are two crucial differences: Gormley’s sculptures are emphatically made up of parts or units bolted and welded together, and, as with the block figures, a relation to architecture is evoked. For Serra the autonomy of sculpture serves as a critique of instrumental means-end relations; architecture, which he conceives as primarily concerned with utility, may occlude the reflexive bodily experience of space and material in which he is interested. For Gormley architecture involves the social dimension of place, where we are together with others. If the development of his oeuvre is initiated though an existential withdrawal into the body, this serves to provide access to a fundamental being-with-others, which in turn gives rise to the embracing of multiplicity, which is then incorporated back into the fabric of the body. This is achieved first through the body sculptures made from blocks, where bodily interior and architectural exterior enter into a process of exchange, then, in Vessel and Model, making the body itself a sequence of chambers and even a city.36
According to a tradition that derives from the first-century Roman treatise by Vitruvius, De Architectura, architecture, especially the temple, was to be conceived according to the ideal proportions of the human body.37 With the statue of Augustus known as the Prima Porta, the imperial body becomes a ‘world body’. In relation to Leonardo’s drawing Vitruvian Man (c.1487), expressing the ideal proportions of the male body within a circle, Gormley’s bodycase works could be seen as an indexical assertion - produced by contact - of the singular, contingent body over the ideal form. Similarly, the vertical assertiveness of the statue as a figure of authority is brought down to the horizontal, to the ground, by Gormley’s Vessel and Model. The Vitruvian tradition of architecture as body is fused with the Christian idea of the building of the church as the body of Mary gathering and protecting the worshippers, and passes into the image proffered by the author of the strange 15th-century romance, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, where the body of architecture ultimately becomes voluptuous, a source of erotic pleasure. The architectural historian Liane Lefaivre constructs a history of the medieval and early-modern ideas of architecture as body that from the early Christian ‘dangerous body’ of temptation passes through the ‘marvellous body’ of Constantinople and the ‘divine body’ of light of Abbot Sugar’s St Denis to the secular, ‘humanist body’ of eroticised architecture.38 To enter such a building, as the ekphrastic descriptions of the temple of Diana towards the end of Hypnerotomachia Poliphili suggest, is to enter a palace of desire and delight, to the point of erotic ecstasy and even death. But first the protagonist Poliphilo must fall asleep and enter the world of dreams. Like Dante, he finds himself in a forest, and, within the dream, again falls asleep; now, in the dream within the dream, he discovers himself in a valley, and sees a portal beneath a pyramid on top of which is an obelisk. In front of this portal is an uncovered piazza-like area in which there are some marvellous works, including a bronze horse, a statue of an elephant and a ‘vast and extraordinary colossus, whose soleless feet opened into hollow and empty shins’ (anticipating the point of entry of Gormley’s own colossus, Model):
’This colossus lay on its back, cast from metal with miraculous skill; it was of a middle-aged man, who held his head somewhat raised on a pillow. He seemed to be ill, with indications of sighing and groaning about his open mouth, and his length was sixty paces. With the aid of his hair one could climb upon his chest, then reach his lamenting by way of the dense, twisted hairs of his beard. This opening was completely empty; and so, urged on by curiosity, I proceeded without further consideration down the stairs that were his throat, thence into his stomach, and so by intricate passageways, and in some terror, to all the other parts of his internal viscera. […] All the closely-packed organs had little entrances giving easy access, and were illuminated by small tunnels distributed in suitable places around the body. No part was inferior to its natural model. And when I came to the heart, I could read about how sighs are generated from love, and could see the place where love gravely hurts it.’39
If the body is like a building that can be entered, the building may become a body to be explored. In works like Sense (1991), Immersion (1991), Home Of The Heart I, II and III (1992), Base (1993), Passage (1993) and Press (1993), Gormley filled the space between a hollow mould of his body assuming standing, kneeling and lying positions, and a rectilinear box with concrete, showing at the edges the apertures for feet, neck and hands. The body becomes a void within a limited architectural space filled with matter. The concrete blockworks mediate between the indexical bodyforms, which are the traces of a span of time of the body’s experience in the here and now of its making, and the idea of architecture as a metaphor of the body. With Model, the visitor is able to enter an architectural structure as if it were a body. By comparison with the bodyforms, this will involve a reversal of the metaphorical and the literal. The bodyforms are based on the literal traces of the sentient body of another person that the viewer is asked to experience as if it were their own body. With Model the visitor actually experiences the interior of a building as if it were the body of another. Or perhaps there is a back and forth between building and body as the structure expands and contracts, lets in light or falls into darkness like some cave beneath the earth. By the time the head is reached the inner void and the outer darkness that is the inside of the body-structure become one.
The experience of the head of Model could be conceived as the counterpart in terms of darkness to Blind Light, the cubic room filled with water vapour and illuminated with bright white light at the Hayward Gallery in 2007: in both cases being in effect blinded, resulting in the loss of control one’s surroundings normally provided by vision, gives rise to a heightened self-awareness of the body negotiating space and its relation to others through touch and sound. Disappearing into the vapour of Blind Light, visitors were unable even to see the limits of their own bodies. Others could be heard, but would only loom into appearance when very close.40 It was as if these bodies would appear out of and disappear back into a common substance, and there was a disjunction between the proprioceptive experience of one’s own body and the bodies that were experienced as representations. Not only would bodies emerge from within the white cloud, still partly concealed, but also, when pressed close to the transparent walls, they would become representations for those looking on from outside.
The body that is experienced by a participant from the inside and seen by a spectator from the outside is the same body, although the experience of inside and outside is quite different. In the large room of the exhibition ‘Model’, it takes some time to discern that the 24 weathering steel boxes welded together, stretching over 106 feet, form the shape of a body. The visitor is invited to inhabit the interior of the architectural body of the sculpture just as the sculptures made from blocks encountered on the way to Model inhabit the rooms and central space of the gallery, thus moving from perceiving sculptural bodies from outside to an experience of being a body inside the sculptural architecture. Once inside, the visitor passes through a series of interiors, like the rooms of a Dutch domestic genre painting of the 17th century, although these are combined with the physical sensations of compression and expansion more akin to the effect of buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright, where on entering we typically pass through a narrow and low-ceilinged entranceway, which increases the sense of release on reaching a larger room. In a way quite unanticipated from the exterior, where the blocks seem solid and closed, the interiors of Model are at times illuminated by light from outside and above, like the smaller vistas of Vessel, where, however, unlike in Model, the open sides of the cubes are quite apparent. Even if he or she had some sense that what was being entered was the body of a prone colossus, the visitor, drawn on by the soft light of an interior or the mystery of an aperture into darkness, loses the sense of that structure while attempting to relocate themselves through a combination of memory and present experience, where what is seen with the eyes is linked to what is felt with hands and feet and heard with the ears. There are spaces that can only be reached by crawling or rolling into them on the floor, and others requiring a climb. The inner darkness of the singular body that is contained in Gormley’s earlier lead bodyforms becomes in Model a sequences of places, of chambers, in which the visitors come to realise how they experience space and each other’s presence through bodily awareness.
How might bodily self-awareness connect us with others and with the world? What kind of relationship with the body is involved? The object body is a representation for the observing subject, but that subject’s own body is not only a representation for them. We experience our own bodies in a way that is different from the ways in which we experience representations or objects in the world, yet our own body is both. To return to Schopenhauer:
’In fact, the meaning that I am looking for of the world that stands before me simply as my representation, or the transition from it as mere representation of the knowing subject to whatever it may be besides this, could never be found if the investigator himself were nothing more than the purely knowing subject (a winged cherub without a body). But he himself is rooted in that world; and thus he finds himself in it as an individual, in other words, his knowledge, which is the conditional supporter of the whole world as representation, is nevertheless given entirely through the medium of a body, and the affections of this body are, as we have shown, the starting-point for the understanding in its perception of this world.’41
Whether we accept Schopenhauer’s ontology or not, the point that we are connected through our own bodies to something greater than ourselves that is not object or representation is quite close to what Gormley is after through his sculpture.42 He is interested both in the body as a specific thing and the traces that it leaves, as well as in a non-representational, non-objective relation to the body, which may be created as an experience for the visitor through the limitation or confusion of the visual relation to self and others. The head of Model is not a space of rationality or enlightenment, but rather a place where those who penetrate it experience their bodies in a way that is separate from representation, a locus of proprioception where we will find our way not with our eyes, but with our hands and ears. The steel plates on the bottom of the chambers are floated on acrylic spacers, which turns the chambers into something like the resonating sound-boxes of an instrument; each vibrates differently, creating a distinct soundscape which is affected by the footsteps of the visitors, who are tempted to bang their hands on the walls, making clangs that seem to those outside as if they come from the body of Model itself. For Hegel writing in his Lectures On Fine Art, where sound comes from is an indication of externality or inwardness: the unspiritual object receives sound when it is hit from outside - ‘inorganic bodies’ do not have the ‘free-sounding of the animal voice’ because they ‘rustle and clang only when impelled from outside’43 - whereas the ability to emit sound independently is a sign of inwardness, from an animal cry to human sighs and groans. Sound is matter releasing its ideality, but the motivation could come from inside or outside.44 The statue emitting sound is thus ambiguous. Hegel writes of:
’… those colossal statues of Memnon which, resting in themselves, motionless, the arms glued to the body, the feet firmly fixed together, numb, stiff, and lifeless, are set up facing the sun in order to await its ray to touch them and give them soul and sound.’45
According to Hegel’s account of the progress of collective self-articulation and self-understanding, the idea is not yet sensuously embodied, one with its form, as it will supposedly be in Greek statuary; these Egyptian statues from the 14th century BC (in effect still architecture) depend for their spirituality on an external process, the sound, according to the story Hegel tells, being produced not like speech from inner volition, but because the sun warms their surface. This externally caused appearance of animation will precede inwardness expressing itself in Christian and Romantic art, with the sensuous embodiment of the idea in Greek sculpture acting as a fulcrum where inner and outer are almost one. With Model Gormley returns to the moment at the beginning of the history of Western statuary when the sculpture is still itself architecture (rather than the temple providing its container), in a way that questions the idea of a telos towards the sublimation of the body. Inside and outside exchange places as Model is activated by the bodies of the visitors that enter it. This switching between interior and exterior is related to the experience of empathy called for by the block figures passed on the way to Model as they lean, recline, or curl, as if they somehow participate with us in a common life.
Such experiences, as in all Gormley’s work, are of the body as the fundamental basis for the encounter with self, others and world. Schopenhauer, who rejects the Hegelian idealist progress of spirit, and for whom music, itself on a level with ideas, was a copy of the will that can in itself never be represented directly, writes:
’… the knowledge I have of my will, although an immediate knowledge, cannot be separated from that of my body. I know my will not as a whole, not as a unity, not completely according to its nature, but only in its individual acts, and hence in time, which is the form of my body’s appearing, as it is of every body. Therefore, the body is the condition of knowledge of my will. Accordingly, I cannot really imagine this will without my body.’46
The will is not known though the disembodied mind but ‘imagined’ through the body. That this can only be ‘my’ body leads to the problem of solipsism: how can I communicate to others my experience of the will, and how can I apprehend that others have their own experience of the will without saying that this is because they are like me, which would risk denying that they are other people. In countering the alienation and objectification of Minimal art through his insistence on the centrality of his experience of his own body, Gormley must have come up against this question. In fact, this question is perhaps behind his turn in the 1990s towards the collective, not simply as a public but as agency, in the making of the work in the ‘Field’ series of little terracotta sculptures, and in Clay And The Collective Body (2009), where a 4 × 4 × 4-metre clay cube was provided for 1,300 local inhabitants to work in any way they wished over a ten-day period; and in the making of moulds from bodies of individuals from the communities in which the works are shown in Allotment II (1996) at Malmö, Domain Field (2003) at Gateshead, and Making Space, Taking Place (2004) at Poggibonsi. The bodies of others become participants in the work in One & Other in Trafalgar Square and, of course, in Horizon Field Hamburg. In Model, at the end of an exploration through chambers reached at times by crouching or pressing close to the walls, and which hints at the descent into something like a kiva, the subterranean room used by Pueblo Native American peoples for religious rituals, the visitor bows at a threshold and takes a corner to enter a chamber that is pitch-dark, save for the slight glow of the reflection of the entrance on the opposite steel wall. At this turning point of the journey - there is no way out but back - which is the head of the colossus, the boundaries of inside and outside are thrown into question in such a way that interiority as body and place becomes the very locus of the connection with the outside and with others.
Gormley often describes his bodyforms as indexical traces of his own body during a particular period of time, and the block figures are also based on the mould as the trace of the space and time that was occupied by a body. This indexical approach could be seen as a part of a more general turn in sculpture to a model based on photography and film in their classical chemical form, where the image is a trace of that which has been: André Bazin wrote of film as ‘change mummified’.47 As the photograph is the indexical trace of a moment in time, so the sculpture according to the process that Gormley often uses becomes also a spatial as well as temporal index through the imprint, and modes of reproduction of the subject through contact.48 Georges Didi-Huberman argues that the production of the body or object by processes involving contact and imprint, such as body-casting, represents a hidden counter-history of sculpture that re-emerges when processes of making involving replication and reproduction come to challenge notions of originality, with Duchamp, and again in the 1960s and ‘70s.49 Rather than condensing a moment of narrative or looking down on the world from its plinth, sculpture becomes immanent to space and time in its very production.
In a mould, the inside is also an outside. In a recent review of a book about Caravaggio, Walter Kaiser recalls a story the source of which he has been unable to find:
’… about Tolstoy and Chekhov taking a walk one morning at Yasnaya Polyana, when they encountered a horse in the woods. Tolstoy started talking about the horse, graphically imagining what the animal would think about the clouds overhead, the umbrageous trees, the smell of the wet earth, the flowers, the sun. Chekhov, astonished, exclaimed that Tolstoy must have been a horse in an earlier life, because only a horse could know so completely what a horse would feel. Tolstoy responded, ‘No, but the day I came across my own inside, I came across everybody’s inside.’’50
Empathy, in Gormley’s sculpture, is an experience - at once bodily and mental - where interiority folds inside-out like a glove and self and other meet.
’Model’ - the word Gormley has chosen as the title for his show at White Cube in the winter of 2012, and for the largest and most mysterious work in it - articulates a relation between inside and outside as well as past and future, as experienced in the present of the exhibition. One of the galleries at White Cube will contain tables of models for and of his sculptures, and drawings. Some of these look like axonometric architectural drawings, while also involving some perspectival diminution. As Gormley writes:
’The thing for me here is how the ‘defining’ nature of architectural drawing that suggests an absolute measure of a place in space can be made free by continuing the delineation. Far from fixing the image it suggests that the body space is a possible space within space at large and could be underground, above ground or anywhere. The paradox that in attempting to ‘define’ an absolute crystalisation of human space in space it ends up floating in indeterminacy.’51
If architectural space in the drawings becomes a possible body space through the extension of its delineation, rather than being a container or box for the body, so the body becomes a delineator of architectural space through the extensions in the sculptures Hinge II (2011) and Mark (2012). Rather than being a human-centred anthropomorphic projection, body and architecture exist in an exchange where ‘indeterminacy’ becomes potential.
Conventionally a model may be a small-scale model seen from the outside of something that already exists or existed - a building, a city, an airplane, a dinosaur - or it may be a model for something that has yet to be realised: the model may be retrospective, or prospective, or both. There is also another sense, as in the verb ‘to model’: in a scientific experiment one might model a state of affairs in order to investigate it, perhaps through algorithms and computer calculations. In this way weather patterns or geological events might be modelled, but without being determined, since contingency cannot be excluded. In this respect, our future will depend not only on the accuracy and predictive power of models, but also on our ability respond to that which is unpredictable and incalculable. These two dimensions are brought together in the way in which Antony Gormley approaches sculpture as making place.
- See the artist’s statement regarding the ‘First Plaster Works’ series (1973) on the artist’s website: http:// www.antonygormley.com [accessed 16 January 2013]
- W.J.T. Mitchell, ‘What Sculpture Wants: Placing Antony Gormley’, in John Hutchinson et al., Antony Gormley (Phaidon, London 2000, second edition), p.179; Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics Of Space (1958) (Beacon Press, Boston 1994), pp.183 - 210
- Arthur Schopenhauer, The World As Will And Representation, Vol.1 (1819; 1851), trans. E.F.J. Payne (Dover Publications, New York 1969), pp.99 -101
- See Caroline Tisdall, Art Into Society, Society Into Art (ICA, London 1974), p.48
- Immanuel Kant, The Critique Of The Power Of Judgement (1790), trans. P. Guyer and E. Matthews (Cambridge University Press, New York, Cambridge 2000), §§ 25 - 26, pp.131- 43
- Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry Into The Origin Of Our Ideas Of The Sublime And Beautiful (1757)
- A.P. Martinich and Brian Battiste (eds.), Leviathan (Broadview Press, Peterborough, Ontario 2011), p.159 [p.88 in 1651 Head edition]
- The image in the Bosse frontispiece is a combination of the two; see Horst Bredekamp, ‘Hobbes’s Visual Strategies’, in Patricia Springborg, The Cambridge Companion To Hobbes’s Leviathan (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York 2007), pp.29 - 60
- W.J.T. Mitch
- Versions of this work were also installed in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2012)
- Anthony Vidler interprets this in Lacanian terms in ‘Uncanny Sculpture’, in Vidler et al., Antony Gormley: Blind Light (Hayward Gallery Publishing, London 2006), pp.76 – 85, where he also contrasts the optical experience of Event Horizon with the haptic experience of occupying space in an opaque medium in Blind Light.
- Maurice Merleau-Ponty, ‘The Intertwining – The Chiasm’, in Claude Lefort (ed.), The Visible And The Invisible, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Northwestern University Press, Evanston, IL 1968), pp.130–55
- For the idea that the being of the object involves a withdrawal from relation, see Graham Harman, Tool-Being: Heidegger And The Metaphyics Of Objects (Open Court, Chicago 2002)
- For the relation of Gormley’s sculpture to minimalism, and to space and time, see Margaret Iversen, ‘Still Standing’, in Antony Gormley, Antony Gormley: Still Standing (Fontanka, London 2011), pp.43 – 53
- Donald Judd, ‘Specific Objects’, in Arts Yearbook, No.8, 1965; reprinted in Judd, Complete Writings 1959–1975 (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, Canada 1975), p.184
- In physics, ‘singularity’ is used to refer to the ‘Big Bang’ as the origin of the universe, and to black holes, where a quantity such as mass, energy or force approaches infinity as another approaches zero, thus marking a limit of physical laws. Gormley is interested in physics as one way of thinking the paradoxical materiality of the human being. I am using the term (following the philosopher of ethics Emmanuel Lévinas) as a limit of determination, to refer to that which in the approach to or of the other cannot be accounted for in terms of general relations, such as perceived qualities or attributes of cultural identity.
- ‘Indexical’ is a term from the American pragmatist philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce; see his ‘Logic as Semiotic: The Theory of Signs’, in Justus Buchler (ed.), Philosophical Writings Of Peirce (Dover Publications, New York 1955), pp.98 –119
- Alan Weisman, The World Without Us (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, New York 2007)
- See Richard Noble, ‘An Anthropoetics of Space: Antony Gormley’s Field’, in Antony Gormley, Asian Field (The British Council, London 2003), pp.190 – 201
- The resemblance of these to a lattice-structure recalls the sculptures of Argentinean León Ferrari, such as his vertical lattices of the 1960s and the spherical Planet (1979)
- For a brilliant discussion of this, see David Wootton’s ‘No words for world’, The Times Literary Supplement, 12 October 2012, pp.8 – 9
- See Ernesto Laclau, ‘Horizon, Ground, and Lived Experience’, in Maria Hlavajova, Simon Sheikh and Jill Winder (eds.), On Horizons: A Critical Reader In Contemporary Art (BAK basis voor actuele kunst / Post Editions, Utrecht and Rotterdam 2011), pp.100 –11
- Paul Virilio, Negative Horizon: An Essay In Dromoscopy, trans. Michael Degener (Continuum, London and New York 2005), pp.139 – 40
- See Zygmunt Bauman, Globalization: The Human Consequences (Polity Press, London 1998)
- See Sam Phillips, ‘Antony Gormley RA “Still Standing” at White Cube’, Ra Magazine, http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/ra-magazine/blog/antonygormley- ra-still-standing-at-white-cube,254,BAR.html [accessed 22 October 2012], in which the sculptures of the ‘Still Standing’ series are described as resembling ‘low-resolution jumbles of computer pixels’; this was already the case in 2004 with the work at Poggibonsi
- See the artist’s statement regarding the ‘Ataxia’ series (2008 – 09) on the artist’s website: http://www. antonygormley.com [accessed 16 January 2013]
- Giorgio Agamben, Means Without End: Notes On Politics, trans. Vincenzo Binetti and Cesare Casarino (University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis and London 2000), p.51
- Ibid., p.53
- Ibid., p.57
- Ibid., pp.58–59
- Ibid., pp.59–60
- See Hal Foster et al., Art Since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism (Thames & Hudson, New York 2004), p.176
- In a discussion about part of his installation for White Cube in 2012, Gormley mentioned to me Peter Weiss’s play Marat/Sade, Or The Persecution And Assassination Of Jean-Paul Marat As Performed By The Inmates Of The Asylum Of Charenton Under The Direction Of The Marquis De Sade (1963), which was directed by Peter Brook and staged at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1964, and adapted as a film with a screenplay by Adrian Mitchell in 1967. (One also might think of the photographs taken of Charcot’s patients at La Salpetrière hospital in Paris.) For the key discussion about the gallery as ‘white cube’, see Brian O’Doherty, Inside The White Cube: The Ideology Of The Gallery Space (University of California Press, Berkeley 1999), originally published in Artforum in 1976, and in book form in 1986
- Michael Fried, ‘Art and Objecthood’, Artforum, No.5, June 1967, pp.12 – 23, reprinted in Fried, Art And Objecthood: Essays And Reviews (University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1998), pp.148 – 72; Michael Fried, Absorption And Theatricality: Painting & Beholder In The Age Of Diderot (University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1980)
- See Yve-Alain Bois, ‘A Picturesque Stroll around Clara-Clara’, in Hal Foster (ed.), RICHARD SERRA (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA 2000), pp.59 – 96
- This aspect of Gormley’s sculptures – the internal multiplicity of the block figures, the multiple cubes comprising the bodies of Vessel and Model, together with the multiplicity of modelled figures in the ‘Field’ series – may be compared with post-minimalist artists concerned with series, repetition and difference, in particular installations by Allan McCollum, such as Over Ten Thousand Individual Works (1987– 91), where shapes made from similar elements are each unique
- See Indra Kagis McEwen, Vitruvius: Writing The Body Of Architecture (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA 2003)
- Liane Lefaivre, Leon Battista Alberti’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili: Recognizing The Architectural Body In The Early Italian Renaissance (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA 1997)
- Hypnerotomachia Poliphili: The Strife Of Love In A Dream, trans. Joscelyn Godwin (Thames & Hudson, London 1999), pp.35 – 36. Thanks to Robert Harbison for pointing me in this direction
- I visited this exhibition with my young son, and it was quite a frightening experience to lose him in the whiteness
- Schopenhauer, Op. Cit., p.99
- It is probably no coincidence that Gormley’s entry into sculpture was preceded by the intensive practice during his time in India of Vipassana meditation – see Thomas McEvilley, Sculpture In The Age Of Doubt (Aesthetics Today) (Allworth Press, New York 1999), p.211 – nor that Schopenhauer was a reader of Eastern philosophy
- G.W.F. Hegel, Aesthetics: Lectures On Fine Art, Vol.1, trans. T.M. Knox (Oxford University Press, Oxford 1975), p.123
- Ibid., p.88
- Ibid., p.358
- Schopenhauer, Op. Cit., pp.101– 02
- See André Bazin, ‘The Ontology of the Photographic Image’, in What Is Cinema?, Vol.1, trans. Hugh Gray (University of California Press, Berkeley 2005), pp.9 –16
- See Rosalind Krauss, ‘Notes on the Index: Seventies Art in America’, parts I–II, October, Spring 1977 and Fall 1977, reprinted in Krauss, The Originality Of The Avant-Garde And Other Modernist Myths (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA and London 1985), pp.196 – 219; and Margaret Iversen on the index in Iversen, Beyond Pleasure: Freud, Lacan, Barthes (Refiguring Modernism) (Pennsylvania State University Press 2007). For Gormley’s moulding process in relation to photography, see W.J.T. Mitchell in ‘What Sculpture Wants’, Op. Cit.
- For a discussion of the philosophical implications of the production of artworks through body-casting and imprinting, see Georges Didi-Huberman, L’empreinte (Centre George Pompidou, Paris 1997). Another artist who made his work though moulding and imprinting is Giuseppe Penone; see my ‘Giuseppe Penone: Sticking to the World – Drawing as Contact’, in Michael Newman, Giuseppe Penone (The Drawing Center, New York 2004), pp.101– 09
- Walter Kaiser, ‘Empathy. Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane by Andrew Graham-Dixon’, The New York Review Of Books, Vol.59, No.16, 25 October 2012, p.12. For the history of the idea of empathy as an aesthetic term, see Robert Vischer, Harry Francis Mallgrave and Eleftherios Ikonomou (eds.), Empathy, Form, And Space: Problems In German Aesthetics 1873–1893 (Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, Santa Monica, CA 1994)
- Email to the author, 9 November 2012