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#3784 - Friday, January 22, 2010 - Editor: Jerry Katz
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The Angel of the North
The Angel of the North is a contemporary sculpture designed by Antony Gormley, which is located in Gateshead, England.
As the name suggests, it is a steel sculpture of an angel, standing 66 feet (20 m) tall, with wings measuring 178 feet (54 m) across. The wings themselves are not planar, but are angled 3.5 degrees forward, which Gormley has said aims to create "a sense of embrace". It stands on a hill, on the southern edge of Low Fell overlooking the A1 road and the A167 road into Tyneside and the East Coast Main Line rail route, and just south of the site of Team Colliery.
Since it was unveiled on Valentine's Day in 1998, an estimated 90,000 people a day have seen Gormley's Angel of the North, making it Britain's most famous piece of public art. Standing on the site of an old colliery in Gateshead, the towering steel sculpture pays tribute to the industrial heritage of the North East.
The following consists of excerpts taken from an interview conducted by F. David Peat with Antony Gormley in 1996, when he was still working on the Angel. Note that he holds back when it comes to his nondualistic descriptions. Well, it was '96, a few years before nonduality would become more commonplace and acceptable as a way of knowing and speaking, outside of ashrams and academic settings.
I believe this. It's like giving birth. This thing is held and given form though being registered in the body. There is an accommodation in the body of the thing we have to do.
~ ~ ~
This morning we made the case for Angel. The period of preparation was very important. I knew it had to be with the chest fully inflated. I had to concentrate very, very hard on keeping the vertical that goes into the ground, and on the idea of the extension. The idea of the front of the body being extended. And for the first time I used mirrors as a register. As a matter of fact I put my back out!
~ ~ ~
The space I'm interested in, and try to enter, is adimensional. It doesn't have this quality of dimension and it makes no sense to say "in front, behind, left, right" You loose all sense of those kinds of coordinates.
That enlightenment idea of understanding the principles by which life is sustained has little to do with the space I'm interested in. Its a kind of ...a darkness without fear. It may contain the possibility of evil but in some curious way, because you have entered voluntarily, the experience of it is about potential and power. Just as the spatial coordinates we use to make sense of the outside have to be left behind so too do moral coordinates.
I was once talking about the darkness of the body and someone said, "oh, you mean evil." But no, I mean that darkness we carry with us always that is neither evil or good but is the space of consciousness within the body.
I want the circulatory of involvement. Look at the work ask, "what is it doing here"? "How is it in space?" "What is its dialogue with space?" "Is there an interior/exterior tension? " Then reflectively you ask yourself the same thing, "What is the relationship of my interior?"
The impossible thing I'm trying to do is accept that we live in the world of the visible but make it unsatisfactory enough that behind the visible is some other kind of potential that does not exist in the sculpture but exists in you the viewer.
But maybe all this is a bit too airyfairy.
~ ~ ~
The proportions are not as they should be. Yet in some curious way we all do those things mentally - in dreams or states of yearning. That's what made me make works like - the extended arms. It's a very, very common experience.
I remember the last time I had serious dentistry. I was on my bike and had the sensation I was rising until I was 20 ft. It was a clear sensation. I was in an extended body. I've had that feeling in other places as well. I wanted to give those natural sensations... the life of the imagination.
The sensate information from the matrix of the body is not always in sync with the .... for example, Leonardo's inscribed body is an expression of Plantonic absolutes. But our experience is not like that. Inside us there is always something else being born. We have bodies that are very good, provisional habitations for the spirit. We use them and through our time in the mind and the body we are making room or creating another kind of being. Those experiences of extension from the body are signs of the potentiality of that process.
Then there's that idea of who we are and what we look like. Your physiognomy belongs to me more than to you because I'm looking. The world of appearances is a shared communication. Where we derive energy in order to take part in the shared world of appearances is from the other side of them. I want to turn things round, or make you feel maybe there is somewhere outside the outside, or there are areas of experience that are independent of the functional side of the personal. I don't know whether this darkness is really collective.
Part of me would like to believe in the Teravada Buddhist tradition - that you can transmit love as a vibration which is independent of any object. It radiates out. It is registered in that space of the darkness of the body, rather than in the other world, the world of daily life, external appearances. I think that makes me feel there is a kind of collective experience of the inner space of the body. It's dangerous to think that kind of universal...everyone has a different relationship with the internal body.
It's why the darkness of the body is important. It's completely non conditional. People in the West are extremely frightened about this. It is only accessible through direct physical relationship and it's not put there or contextualized. It seems to many to be a denial of the whole positivistic and progressive idea about Western civilization. There has been an enormous resistance to my work because it is ahistorical.
In a way I'm accused of all things I'm not doing - ie looking for an ideal body. But I say look again. It's far from ideal. It's the body I am born with. Then they say, "why is it generic?" And I say, "that's a function of making a case for something". It's inside that carries the index of the particular, the outside is just the brick.
~ ~ ~
If Brancusi and Cezanne used light to supercede distance, my ambition is to deal with darkness and the distance is...I don't know if I'm interested in distance at all. I want people to feel they're inside the work.
~ ~ ~
I'd like to feel the sculpture does that. It's being within being. It's a small and inert catalyst, a bit of matter used to catalyze your sense of being immersed in light and matter. Through the work you may become aware of the breath passing though the channels of your nose, or the weight running though your knees. Aware of the world that you inhabit and your aliveness within.
Read the entire interview: http://www.fdavidpeat.com/interviews/gormley.htm
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