Sunday 19 May 2013

Another Place

On our way home from Liverpool we stopped at Crosby beach to see Anthony Gormley's art installation. 

We parked by the leisure centre

and walked past this pool towards the sand dunes

behind which is the beach.

This is the first figure we came upon.

The installation consists of 100 cast-iron figures. In common with most of Gormley's work the figures are cast from the artist's own body. They spread out along three kilometers of the beach, stretching almost one kilometre out to sea. Each figure weighs 650 kilos. They are shown at different stages of rising out of the sand, all of them looking out to sea, staring at the horizon.

Up close, the figures have been worn by the elements giving them a wonderful texture. Each wears a tag on its wrist with a number.

Due to the shallow nature of the beach the tide moves quickly across the sand and the area moves from completely exposed to completely submerged in a matter of hours. We visited the beach at low tide when all the figures were visible, and would love to go again at high tide when some of the figures will be submerged, while tips of torsos or heads might be visible in the distance. It is easy to understand why some people think that this installation is about death.

The ghostly figures are spare in some areas and they get more congregated as they reach the seafront so that onlookers can catch a detail of those near and a shadow of the sculptures in the distance.

The official version is that the installation is about emigration, sadness of leaving, but the hope of a better life in another place.

Gormley says of the work that it is 'a whispering communication with forgotten levels of history' as well as 'a kind of accupuncture of the landscape, but also accupuncture of people's dreamworld'.

It is a truly unique, beautiful spectacle in total harmony with its surroundings - a mastery of scale and space.

Minimal, simple and elegant.

The lonely figures gazing into the distance are very evocative giving a very strong sense of the desolation of human existence in a perfect fusion of art and the landscape.

As usual however, not everyone thinks so. Another Place has been the subject of local controversy. Some consider the statues to be 'pornographic' due to the inclusion of a penis. In 2006 the local Council refused to give permission for the statues to stay, prompting Gormley to criticise what he called Britain's 'risk-averse' culture. A group of councillors denounced the work as an 'unwarranted intrusion'  and a safety hazard. 'This will be a permanent blot on the landscape and a permanent drain on Sefton's purse', announced councillor Eric Storey. 'We now need our beaches restored to their pristine condition'.

The figures have an aura of thoughtfulness and serenity as they stare out to sea all facing in the same direction and in the same pose.

What may appear at first as an army of identical statues reveal themselves to be individuals with their own idiosyncracies: some rusted by the tides, others worn in places, some sunken, some raised.

Gormley has said: 'The seaside is a good place to do this. Here, time is tested by tide, architecture by the elements and the prevalence of sky seems to question the earth's substance. In this work human life is tested against planetary time. This sculpture exposes to light and time the nakedness of a particular and peculiar body. It is no hero, no ideal, just the industrially reproduced body of a middle-aged man trying to remain standing and trying to breathe, facing a horizon busy with ships moving materials and manufactured things around the planet'.

And: 'Contemporary art is no longer representing the ideology of a dominant class - it's actually an open space that people can make their own'.

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