Monday, May 07, 2007

they walk among us

The minute I saw a news clip this morning on Antony Gormley's new exhibition Event Horizon, opening in London on May 17th, I sat up and took notice. I'm all over the notion of public art because it's such a simple way to get the great unwashed looking at it. I mean admit it, when was the last time you actually sought out a visual art exhibition? (And no, I'm not talking to those of you who visit this blog because you're artists.) Sometime between the Christmas pantomime Grandma took you to and your first Boy Band concert?

Gormley told the BBC that his exhibition of 31 casts of his body, dotted around the London skyline, is designed to make people think "about how 50 percent of the world's population are now living in cities. The idea is to somehow introduce these life-sized figures into the topography of London, as it if were a natural landscape, as if it were mountains against the sky."

I think there's even greater value, however, in what the average London resident will have to say about it. There's bound to be plenty of misunderstanding and dismissal but for every five "I think they suck" there will be one like the following (from the Guardian article):

Tim Hodgson, 32, a graphic designer from Stoke Newington, is also taken by the figure on Shell-Mex House. 'It's my favourite one because I always imagine the Ministry of Information from Orwell's 1984 when I see that building. But I like all the statues. They're fantastic, really powerful, but all different. Some look like they need rescuing, some look quite defiant, and others look really small and lonely.'

There's a good interview here with Gormley and his friend, Beeban Kidron, who has been making a film about him, and if you happen to be in London, there's a list of locations here.

Cities all over North America have jumped on the sculpture in the city for charity bandwagon and it was fun spotting Orcas or Spirit Bears here in Vancouver. But there's certainly nothing new about public art. Here's a photo of me, over 10 years ago, exchanging insults with street art in Dusseldorf. (Me: "You're a cold, hard, unfeeling brute." He: "And you're all melodrama: one sharp remark from me and you spill blood and guts everywhere.")
Does anyone know if these two guys are still there?


Blogger homo escapeons said...

Give me an E!
If only half of the great unwashed on Earth were Urbane.

7/5/07 10:41 a.m.  
Blogger susan said...

ort of reminds me of the bears of berlin seeing his body cast all over the place! love public art - am making a sculpture currently for our town square's garden which artstream is maintaining this year. wish me luck!

7/5/07 11:38 a.m.  
Blogger Within Without said...

Well, I'm not an artist and I DO come here partly to get exposed to real art!

I think public art is indispensable, although I think I've only been to one art exhibit in my life.

But do I love to see it in public places? You bet.

7/5/07 1:00 p.m.  
Blogger jafabrit said...

what a wonderful post, I really enjoyed reading it and I love Gormley's figures.

7/5/07 2:35 p.m.  
Blogger dinahmow said...

Yes, I'm sure there will be many "it sucks" responses. But think a moment...London is choc-a-bloc with statues of and monuments to people and things. Why should Gormley be "different"?
A good response would be more artists doing it, but a better one would be more people like Chris (WW) getting enjoyment from it.
Thanks for the links.

7/5/07 4:20 p.m.  
Blogger Bibi said...

This is interesting Andrea.

They have a lot of public art in Britain ... there's a series of wicker-man animal sculptures scattered around the Midlands region, just stuck in the middle of fields. And in my home city (the second largest in England) there's a an interesting mix between centuries old buildings and contemporary visual art displays ... kind of connects historical references to present day/future expectations.

Never boring ...

7/5/07 5:34 p.m.  
Blogger Toni said...

I love public art. We had fish one year and frogs another. i did one of each and it was a lot of hard work and really fun at the same time. i always loved peoples reactions.

I'll have to find pictures and post them sometime.

7/5/07 6:26 p.m.  
Blogger CS said...

Even Knoxville has been increasing its placement of sculpture over the last en years. I'm thrilled about it.

7/5/07 7:54 p.m.  
Blogger Merisi said...

My name is Merisi, and I am one of the great unwashed who dare to look artists over the shoulder (and thoroughly study their blogs *grin*).
I whisked through your post yesterday, and was, honestly, a bit taken aback by "the great unwashed", so much that I wanted to sleep over it before deciding if I should add my two cents here.
I descend from families that cannot count an artist among their ancestors, I mean a proper artist, who could feed his family with his or her art. The generations who had to live (and suffer, I might add) through the last centuries in Austria, and didn't belong to the upper class, had very little chance to enjoy pure visual arts. It is sheer luxury when you are fighting to survive and rebuild twice within a few decades. Even though, I can count many instances of the arts being in the lives of my forebearers, like my grandfather's, who was a master craftsman, building wood structures like the barns the Amish build to this day. I have seen many of his plans and designs, and even drawings he made on the side. He could have become an artist, I am sure. My grandmother had language skills (as does my mother) that went far beyond her formal education. My father, like his parents, loved opera (and owned a grammophon that played those black shellac discs), and I vividly remember the beautiful sketches he made for us children, when we were bored and wanted to be entertained (no TV in our house). When I was very young, he enjoyed stitching beautiful pillow shams (sitting there, crouched, all 1.96m of his is one of my treasured childhood memories). My other grandfather built the most beautiful stone hedges in his free time, not talking about all those women who were great cooks. I could go on, but my point is that I never thought of them as great unwashed because not all of them may have been to arts galleries or knew how to appreciate or judge great art.
I suppose there are people who for economic reasons or for others do not get involved in the great arts today, neither visiting museums, or talk about how important art is for them, but they know the art of living and working hard and appreciate the small glimpses of beauty and art around them. If they happen to chance upon some outdoor art, they may like it or not, they certainly will not praise (or condemn) anything just because it is the right thing to do in the educated circles. Still, I wouldn't call them the great unwashed either.
As far as I am concerned, I love outdoor art. Chicago comes immediately to mind at that, what a great feeling to walk through or under or just encounter something beautiful that a great artist has created for the masses to enjoy and talk about. I am not so sure how much all that rage of painted cows and pandas and the like should be considered outdoor art per se. Then again, they are great opportunities to think and talk about art in our lives, and therefore I welcome them.

8/5/07 2:05 a.m.  
Blogger Cream said...

In the planning stage outdoor art always gives rise to lots of negative comments but when it is up and weathered and become part of the background, most people are happy to associated with it.
In the North East of England the Angel of the North has slowly but surely been accepted as a local landmark.

8/5/07 2:16 a.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

HE: Most are. :)

Susan: That's fantastic. Looking forward to seeing it!

WW: There you go!

Jafabrit: Thanks. I love it when people with a sense of humour 'get it.' :)

Dinah: It's all one continuum, isn't it?

Bibi: I love it when eras 'comingle.' I hate it when historic buildings get torn down just because the flavour of the neighbourhood is changing.

Toni: Do!

CS: Photos please!

Merisi: Tongue-in-cheek is my stock in trade. I'm sorry you missed the tone/humour in this post.

Cream: I love the stories of art and architecture that is initially derided slowly becoming a part of the cultural consciousness.

8/5/07 8:09 a.m.  
Blogger thepinkangel said...

I love those sculptures at the top. They kind of look like aliens standing on our rooftops observing us.

Have you ever seen the movie "Signs". My 4yr old daughters favorite movie (she must get her taste in movies from me). No, it doesn't scare her I promise. I wouldn't let her watch a movie that scared her. Although she often asks if she can watch "Thirteen Ghosts" or "SAW". Of course I say no.

Anyway, there's a part in signs when he sees the alien standing on his rooftop. That's what they remind me of.

PS - the URL of my blog has change

same ol blog, same ol me, different URL

8/5/07 9:38 a.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Thanks, Rachel. Blog URL link change coming up...

8/5/07 10:30 a.m.  
Blogger Ian Lidster said...

On the public benches in the Vancouver Island town of Sidney they have very charming figures with whom you can share those benches. They may not be the finest art, but they're quite delightful.


8/5/07 3:00 p.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Ian: I know exactly what you're talking about! One of those guys is sitting on a bench in front of Main Street Gallery, who carry my work! :) And, for the record, I love what Sidney has become in the past couple of decades: used book shops, thrift stores, cafes and art galleries. that's my kind of downtown.

8/5/07 7:10 p.m.  
Blogger The Salems said...

like the way OXO cubes done a spot of free advertising there in London i think...

9/5/07 8:21 a.m.  
Blogger Katherine said...

Good to see somebody highlighting public art - I've not yet spotted a Gormley but will be looking on my next visit to town.

11/5/07 3:31 a.m.  
Blogger Ces said...

I've seen his shows through photos in England and Caroline blogged about it one time.

Who is the lovely, tall woman between the two sculptures?

11/5/07 4:52 a.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

The Salems: Brilliant! I never noticed.

Katherine: You're just trying to annoy me because you can 'visit town' and the town is London! :)

Ces: You'll have to read the post if you want to find out! :)

11/5/07 11:12 a.m.  
Blogger Ces said...

Hahahaha! I totally missed that!

12/5/07 5:32 a.m.  

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