Crosby Beach may not seem like the obvious choice for a famous artist, but Sefton seems to have struck gold as the only place in Britain to house Gormley’s latest installation. Previously the work has been shown at Cuxhaven in Germany, Stavanger in Norway, De Panne in Belgium and its next stop - none other than New York!
|Antony Gormley's Another Place|
Winner of the Turner Prize in 1994, Antony Gormley is best known for his controversial sculpture ‘Angel of the North’ which dominates the skyline near Newcastle. He also displayed another of his recent works ‘Field’ at the Tate Liverpool in 2004, a display of thirty-five thousand miniature figures made by a Texca family of brick-makers in Mexico.
Another Place is a massive installation on Crosby Beach that consists of 100 cast-iron figures, moulded from the artists own body in the style that has become synonymous with his work. The ghostly life-size figures are dotted along three kilometres of the Crosby shore, sparse in some areas and getting more congregated as they reach the sea front, so onlookers can catch the detail of those near and the shadow of sculptures in the distance out to sea in one eyeful.
|"Each person is making it again… for some it might be about human evolution, for others it will be about death and where our bodies finally belong."|
The figures themselves have a sense of serenity and thoughtfulness, as they stare out to sea, all facing in the same direction and in the same pose, they appear as though they’re partaking in some sort of ancient ritual from which they cannot be distracted or shaken from. This is made all the more eerie as people have a tendency to stand beside the sculptures, looking out to sea as if expecting to discover what they’re looking for, making it impossible to tell which is which! On closer inspection the figures are vague in detail and rusty, punctured with several plug holes where iron was poured in the casting process - conjuring images from the Warner Bros ‘Matrix’ and the umbilical cord like tubes coming from Keanu Reeves (or is that just me?)
One of the intriguing aspects of this work is that each visitor will see a different piece of art, whereas I visited the beach at low tide when all of the figures were visible, another person will find the sculptures waste high in sea water, tips of heads almost visible in the distance, and others may find they can see no figures at all. Imagining this scenario it’s easy to understand why some people think the artwork is about death, and have even expressed concerns that passers by might think the sculptures are swimmers drowning, although a second look would show anyone that that wasn’t the case.
The official line is that the work is a response to the individual and universal sentiments associated with emigration, sadness at leaving, but the hope of a new future in another place - or at least that’s one explanation! Speaking with Antony Gormley he described the work as “a whispering communication with forgotten levels of history” as well as “a kind of acupuncture of the landscape, but also acupuncture of people’s dreamworld”. Predominantly though it’s clear that Gormley wants the work to be about the people, he seems to love the way it takes on a new life with every new person that visits with their own memories and connotations he says:
“Each person is making it again… for some it might be about human evolution, for others it will be about death and where we go, where our bodies finally belong, do they belong to the earth and the elements? And I think that’s what’s amazing about in a way the work of now - contemporary art, it’s no longer representing the ideology of a dominant class it’s actually an open space that people can make their own.”
The officials in Sefton too have worked hard to include the local people in Merseyside, with consultation evenings before the project began and now ‘Sefton Extended Schools Project’ which will help local schools to make use of the fantastic opportunity of having a famous artwork on their doorstep, by organising trips to the beach as well as projects for use in lessons such as art, history, drama and literacy.
The project is just part of a massive regeneration scheme to transform South Sefton and the opinion of the surrounding area therefore boosting job and training opportunities for local people. Bringing in a Turner Prize winning artist, to set up an art work that’s next stop is ‘New York’ is certainly a step in the right direction. Antony Gormley’s work has already brought hundreds of visitors to the area and will undoubtedly raise its profile, not just in Merseyside but across the country.
The work will be in place from July 2005 until November 2006.
The piece stretches 1 mile along Crosby Beach and is well sign posted from all roads in Crosby.