Midtown Welcomes Gormley’s Naked Doppelgangers
Anyone passing through Midtown Manhattan over the last week might have noticed an eerie presence on the New York skyline, with static lone figures hanging around the park or perching on the edge of buildings. They are both intriguing and disconcerting – reminiscent of action heroes keeping watch over the city, or more sinister new forms of Big Brother style surveillance. Or, more distressing still, they could be about to jump.
In fact they are the Madison Square Park Conservancy‘s latest art installation: “Event Horizon” by British artist Antony Gormley. The installation consists of a series of life-size casts of the artist’s body dotted around the buildings and streets of Midtown. The iron and fiberglass figures seem lonely and vulnerable, dwarfed by New York’s iconic architecture. Some figures are at street level, acting as an invitation to seek out the rest. As with many of Gormley’s projects, “Event Horizon” plays with participation and new ways of thinking about the body inhabiting space.
Gormley has come to specialize in civic sculpture, most famous in his native Britain for the “Angel of the North” near Gateshead. This immense steel sculpture of an angel was envisioned as a “focus of hope” in a struggling post-industrial area (north east England), but also as a reminder of the industrial past. It is situated close to major road and rail routes to embellish the landscape and welcome travelers to the north of England. At 20 meters high, the angel is an impressive feat and has a commanding presence.
More recently Gormley took part in the Fourth Plinth project to design a sculpture for the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square, London (previous fourth-plinth artists include Rachel Whiteread, Mark Wallinger and a short appearance from David Beckham). Gormley’s offering, “One and Other” consisted of a series of volunteers who acted as living sculptures. They were given free rein to do as they pleased during their time slot on the plinth (apart from one “glamor” model who was asked to tone down her act by local policemen). “One and Other” divided critics but was undoubtedly a bold statement in participative art.
The participation in “Event Horizon” is more subtle. It was first shown in London in 2007, with figures lurking on buildings around the Thames. The open horizon of the river provided a perfect viewpoint, uniting the figures on the north and south banks. In New York, the effect is inevitably more vertical, which is part of Gormley’s objective: “I love how they get you to look up to see the rooftop figures” he told Linda Yablonsky of the New York Times Magazine.
This is not without its hazards. In London in 2007, “Event Horizon” prompted a number of emergency calls to the police from concerned folk who thought they were witnessing someone about to throw them-self off the top of a building. A police statement was issued in New York City before “Event Horizon” was installed there to avoid a similar occurrence.
Gormley’s aim however is not to induce panic but to catch you off-guard in a more whimsical way. “For me this installation is to try to make the real world a place of reverie,’ he told Bloomberg. He wants to transport people from the usual visual cacophony of the city. Perhaps the piece is inspired by his own practice of meditation (he considered becoming a Buddhist monk in the 1970s), in any case the idea of taking time out of the city bustle is inherent to “Event Horizon”’s charm. The level of participation is more or less optional. It can become a “Where’s Gormley” version of “Where’s Waldo” imprinted onto the cityscape, or it can simply be a chance encounter that makes you stop and reflect for a second.
In its 2007 London incarnation, “Event Horizon” may have wrought mild havoc with the emergency services and invited a certain amount of mindless vandalism. It was nonetheless an understated yet dramatic way of jazzing up the cityscape. How will it fare in New York? Answers on a postcard…
“Event Horizon” is on through August 15
Click here for a map
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 2 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 3 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 4 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 5 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Startup
- 6 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 7 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 8 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 9 Attorney Actually Starting to Believe Own Bullshit
- 10 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook