|ANTONY GORMLEY Horizon Field August 2010 until April 2012
A Landscape Installation in the High Alps of Vorarlberg, Austria
Presented by Kunsthaus Bregenz
|Antony Gormley on Horizon Field . Biography Antony Gormley.|
|Antony Gormley’s radical actuality as an artist derives from his desire to place an apparently completed classical theme, the human figure, into a new, universal context. Since the 1980s, when Gormley created the foundations for his oeuvre with figures cast from his own body in lead and iron, his principal concern has been to open up new artistic and social realms through a wide range of strategies.
Going beyond the mere search for a further chapter in aesthetic investigations of form, Gormley is constantly preoccupied with the role of the human being–as an individual or mass and as a social being–and with its simultaneous role as object and subject represented by his sculptures. By reducing the human form to a trace or index, Gormley is able to release his figures from the bounds of traditional sculpture, set up on plinths in self-contained isolation and in accordance with their perceived function. He exposes his figures to modern perceptions of life, art, and space. Chief among these are a critical engagement with mass as a constitutive formal and emotional element of sculpture, an exploration of the sculptural and existential significance of space in contained and extended modes and, finally, the crucial issue (of special significance in the artist’s landscape projects) of human jeopardy and self-assertion in the world. Gormley’s art revolves around these three concerns, each of which varies in importance from work to work but is always present, if only latently.
His projects with and in the context of urban and natural landscapes in particular show his attempt to extend the radical approaches of early Land Art from the 1960s and 1970s into a new dimension. Even though there are many isolated sculptural interventions by Gormley, measured against his own ideas, the great “field experiments” comprising multiple figures represent the real challenge. These consist of three key types: the first, the Field series, is involved with the idea of a mass of figures immeasurably potentiated, emanating from the social commitment of many lay-people to the production of the figures. The second, Event Horizon, works with a defined number of castings of the artist’s body sited in individual contexts. These figures link specific locations on buildings in a city and interact with an urban network. With Horizon Field, the third concept, starting with Another Place (1997), continuing with Inside Australia (2002) and Time Horizon (2006), Gormley proposes that critical engagement does not take place in value-neutral spaces of art determined by aesthetic laws, such as museums, galleries, and public places, but in and with nature. Gormley thus situates his work within a context that is meaningful for every individual, where beauty and the sublime are paired with the knowledge that nature’s resources are in danger of being exhausted at an ever faster rate.
Another Place and Horizon Field demonstrate Gormley’s strategic, conceptual thinking. The few rules that define the artistic system are decisive, opening up time to a multiplicity of planes for seeing, thinking, and interrelating. These include the relationship between the individual figure and the series; between constructed space and natural space; and between the factors of movement and time. The multilateralism of a mass exponentiated into a series tends toward a dissolution of the center and is thus an important factor in the democratization of the relations between space, sculpture, and viewer. Gormley has always been fascinated by this since it gives him the opportunity to extend his work into the open spaces of nature. Horizon Field presents a bold attempt to bring art and nature into a state of empathy. The idea of installing 100 figures at a height of 2,039 meters is captivating, not so much as a logistical challenge, but as a vision of a large-scale experiment to conceive of art and culture as an integral part of nature and to encourage a revised awareness about our role as cultural beings. Gormley’s Horizon Field unites all his basic artistic concerns on a large scale. Removed from the influential context of a museum, it opens up new fields of interrelations by locating art in a socialized natural landscape. The mountain landscape of Vorarlberg, with its specific mix of natural beauty, urbanity, and socialization of old valley communities, is for Gormley the ideal experimental field for a new determination of the relationship between nature and culture.
A comparison with the work of an earlier artist will make clear the paradigm shift accomplished by Gormley. Walter De Maria’s Land Art project The Lightning Field (1977) proclaims in almost heroic terms the autonomy of art and, by extension, of all culture. The Lightning Field lies at a height of 2,195 meters on a plateau in west-central New Mexico. It consists of 400 polished, stainless steel poles, 5.2 centimeters thick and 6.2 meters long, placed 6.7 meters apart to stake out a grid measuring a mile on one axis and a kilometer on the other. The poles are arranged so that their tips define an absolutely level plane, echoing the terrain. Nature here forms a grandiose backdrop for a demonstration of sublimity, evoked by the machine-made uniformity and beauty of the poles and by the mathematical exactitude of the grid. The work represents an act of unconditional freedom and self-assertion on the part of art vis-à-vis nature, made visible through the serial anonymity of the poles and their ordered configuration. The spectator experiences a value-free coexistence of two systems, their individual beauty enhanced by the dramatic form of their conjunction. With his work, De Maria increased awareness of the sublimity of a self-contained system called “art” by heightening its logical consistency through confrontation with nature.
In contrast, Gormley integrates and almost loses his human shaped masses within a field determined by a given topography that links the palpable, the perceivable, and the conceptual in a seamless way. He aims to address issues relating to natural freedom and social embedment. Each of his 100 figures embodies a striving for both individuality and society. They face in every direction, but never towards one another. The distance between them, which varies according to the terrain, ranges from 60 meters to several kilometers. Together, they form a horizon that can be apprehended visually in separate sections and mentally as a whole, engaging the viewer’s capacity for both physical and imaginative perception. Horizon Field does not aim to show humanity at the mercy of an omnipotent divine order, in the way familiar from some medieval images; neither does it seek to evoke the potential sublimity of socialized individuals in the isolated contemplation of natural sublimity, in the Romantic manner of a Caspar David Friedrich, or to establish an ideal artistic order in distinction to nature à la De Maria. Instead, Gormley literally comes down to earth in his project, to the reality of post-industrial landscape and society. But in no way has he lost sight of his original vision, which he describes thus: “Horizon Field is a clear indicator of a paradigm shift in art; that Culture which always used to be seen in distinction to Nature now has to be seen as integral to it (…). As with much of my work, Horizon Field asks an open question as to where the human project fits within the evolution of life on this planet. (…) It asks basic questions: who are we, what are we, where do we come from and to where are we headed? The work does this by engaging the physical, perceptual, and imaginative responses of anyone coming within its relational field.”
Eckhard Schneider, General Director of the PinchukArtCentre, Kiev
* Antony Gormley in an e-mail to Kunsthaus Bregenz, April 2010
|Antony Gormley on Horizon Field
“In presenting these obdurate, earth-bound but earth-witnessing markers in space and time, the installation puts 100 industrially produced artifacts within an elemental world which is far from the contextualising influences of the museum. It asks basic questions: who are we, what are we, where do we come from and to where are we headed?
This sculptural ensemble recognizes the need for collective futures built on the models of small-scale sustainable communities such as those of the Walsers in the high Alps. The need for the radical revisioning of cultural expression within a new understanding of a homeostatic biosphere is at the heart of this project. I would confidently propose that it is important not just for the region, for Austria but for all sentient beings travelling on this planet.”
Antony Gormley, April 2010
“The whole point of this work is to make a connection between that which is palpable, perceivable, and imaginable. It's a field of relations between mind and body in which some of the bodies are surrogates and some are real.” “The greatest challenge that is facing human kind is whether or not the human species will participate in the evolution of life on this planet. Life has taken about 3.7 billion years to evolve from the first stromatolites to our evolved conscious life form. We have another 6 billion years left in the great generator: the sun and we have to decide whether or not we can continue work with nature. In the past culture has always identified itself as being separate from nature. This project and everything to do with it asks whether we can find our nature within nature.”
Antony Gormley in an interview for Vorarlberg Tourismus Magazin, February 2009
For more than 25 years Antony Gormley has revitalized the human image in sculpture through a radical investigation of the body as a place of memory and transformation, using his own body as subject, tool, and material. Since 1990 he has expanded his concern with the human condition to explore the collective body and the relationship between self and other in large-scale installations such as Allotment, Another Place, Critical Mass, Domain Field, and Inside Australia. His work increasingly engages with energy systems, fields and vectors, rather than mass and defined volume, as evident in Another Singularity, Blind Light, Clearing, and Firmament. Gormley’s most recently acclaimed live artwork One & Other, saw 2,400 participants representing every region of the UK each spend an hour on an empty plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square for 100 consecutive days.
Antony Gormley’s work has been exhibited extensively throughout the UK, with solo shows in venues of London such as the Whitechapel, Tate, and the Hayward Galleries, the British Museum and internationally at museums including exhibitions in the Louisiana Museum in Humlebæk, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC, Malmö Konsthall, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria and Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, Mexico City. He has also participated in group shows at the Venice Biennale and the Documenta 8 in Kassel.
Antony Gormley was awarded the Turner Prize in 1994, the South Bank Prize for Visual Art in 1999 and was made an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1997. In 2007 he was awarded the Bernhard Heiliger Award for Sculpture. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Trinity College, Cambridge and Jesus College, Cambridge, and has been a Royal Academician since 2003.