Allotment II (1996)

<!–a series on antony gormley and the origin of "tactile burden", in no particular order–>

Gormley is interested in two primary forms in his work: the human body and the architecture of the city. For him, "the body is our first habitation, the building our second."

We see both of these interests investigated in Allotment II, a composite installation in which 300 life-size concrete elements were derived from the dimensions of local inhabitants of Malmö, Sweden aged 1.5-80 years. 15 precise measurements were taken and used to construct 5cm-thick rectangular concrete body cases, with integrated rectangular head cases, and apertures at the mouth, ears, anus and genitals. The apertures were all precisely placed from the measurements taken. Once made, the pieces were installed in such a way as to compose a surrogate cityscape, with the "bodies" facing in all directions.

Allotment II - Courtesy of Antony Gormley

Engaging the Allotment II exhibit was an interesting experience. The "city" is laid out in such a way that it operates more or less as a rational grid network of traffic. But not all street sizes are the same: there are wide boulevards and plazas as well as tight avenues and alleyways. Does the viewer take the path of least resistance through the cityscape, or does one venture off the proverbial beaten path? Watching the gallery visitors interact with the city and with each other, transforming it into a social space — running, laughing, congregating, chatting — became very compelling for the (anthropological) I/eye.

Of course, like any city this one has its police force, constantly surveying, telling people not to touch the (solid concrete!) sculptures, monitoring flow.

This gaze of authority makes for an interesting play with the buildings themselves. While each had a measured aperture for mouth, ears (tapered inwards to channel sound), anus and genitals (both tapered downwards to excrete waste), the absence of holes for eyes was somewhat terrifying. If each concrete building "represents the smallest space capable of sheltering a particular human being," it is a space in which the gaze acts in an asymmetrical fashion, or perhaps one in which only electromagnetic imagery may pass through the density of the concrete boundaries to the space within.


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