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Super Lamb Bananas and Anthony Gormley’s Another Place

Yellow Superlambanana in a cage

As you might have guessed, I”m a big fan of large, public displays of art. It can be a small piece of graffiti on the wall that makes me chuckle, or it can be street theatre involving a 40ft tall mechanical spider. I try not to ask for much. So this weekend in Liverpool has brought three of them all along at once, and I”ve loved it all.

Super Lamb Bananas. Lots of people have heard the name by now. It was originally a huge 17ft tall sculpture by a Japanese artist named Taro Chiezo. As with a lot of great pieces of art it was originally met with a resounding “huh?” by the local population of Liverpool. However, when art lovers and travellers from all over the UK to visit, they all went “huh?” too. So it”s no great surprise that the 2008 City of Culture created 125 two-metre high versions and put them all over the city.

Everyone is still going “huh?”, but the persistence is making everyone grow to love these little genetically modified beings. Liverpool has painted its spirit onto every single one of the unique animals, and it now sits firmly alongside the Liver bird as a modern-day symbol of the city. And now, the 8th-9th September sees a huge amount of them on display at the front of St. George”s Hall, before they”re auctioned off for charity on Wednesday. The original experience was like the pigs I”ve talked about in Bath, but Liverpool did really beat them to it. And they used genetically modified animals (originally to highlight the dangers of GM crops). You can almost sing along to “Cities just wanna have fun” (to the tune of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun) as you parade madly through the distorted flock. And you probably wouldn”t get any funny looks.

Anthony Gormley's "Another Place", Crosby Beach

Another Place, Crosby Beach

Another Place is much more serene, slightly disturbing and intense. I had no idea it was near Liverpool, but a helpful lady on the train on the way in had mentioned it as a place that would be great to go and see if I could find a bus. It”s 20 minutes from Liverpool Central on the Northern Line to Crosby, or Waterloo. Both an easy 10-minute walk from the beach that stretches for 2 miles, and is full of 100 statues of Anthony Gormley, staring out to sea.

I”m a big fan of Anthony Gormley, and this piece is reminiscent of Event Horizon where 31 statues were placed on rooftops around London. Designed to symbolise the relationship that man has with nature, Crosby beach is such a perfect location, with signs of industry to one side, wind farms in the distance, and a long sandy (often muddy) beach meeting the sea at the horizon. So perfect, that when it came to November 2006 when the exhibit was to be moved to New York, it stayed in what will hopefully a permanent home to these 100 figures.

During particularly high tides all 100 figures are totally submerged, swallowed by the sea to return the next day, slightly greener, a little more worn, but still standing. A lot could be said for this as a metaphor… But having already fallen in love with a spider, genetically modified lambs, and a city running high on enthusiasm and a will to enjoy itself… I think I”ll leave this one up to you….

Meerkat on a Plinth!

Today was the unveiling of the six options for the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Sq. The winner will be chosen by a committee later in the year, and receive a quarter of a million to turn their miniature visions into reality worthy of the coveted spot.

Now, it would be rude of me to abandon Mr Gormley after loyally supporting his work and the enjoyment he’s given through his previous installations… But, I think I speak for everyone here when I say, Meerkat on a Plinth!

The Great Gormley Hunt – Event Horizon, Blind Light and Quantum Cloud

Gormley #31
Antony Gormley is probably most widely known as the man behind The Angel of the North. Actually, he’s the man of the Angel of the North, using his own body as the subject for a huge number of sculptures designed to challenge our perception of ourselves and the space that we live in. Recently, as part of the Blind Light exhibition at The Hayward, Gormley has erected 31 casts of himself and put them on rooftops and walkways around London. Well, not personally – I’m sure he had some help. Every one of them faces the Hayward gallery, turning the watchers into the watched – and keeping Londoners looking skywards for the last 2 months.

Putting aside the rumours that Gormley himself is actually inside one of the life-size casts, I naturally wanted to find them all. So since I had this afternoon off from work and it’s not far from the office, I decided to stalk Antony Gormley’s creations for a little while. And I think, armed with a trackstick and camera I’ve managed to find all 31 of them. It’s very difficult to tell now, which are the same statues from different angles.

Three viewing terraces at the Hayward provide the means to see all of the statues, and as Gormley’s previously commented – it’s very interesting to become part of the small community on that rooftops, trying to find them all. Whether actively pointing them out – or passively seeing other people do the same. It’s also rather eery to have all of those lifeless bodies staring back at you.

Quantum Cloud, Greenwich Peninsula, by Antony Gormley And Event Horizon isn’t the only attraction nearby. Inside the gallery, there are a huge number of sculptures and exhibits , including Allotment II, 300 reinforced concrete life-sized units each modelled upon the inhabitants of Malmo. Every single one is different, and you can’t help but be impressed at the sheer number of them, as well as yes – as the guide says – it’s anthropomorphic heaven. Throw away all your 20th century ideals of not being allowed to have first impressions any more. These are concrete blocks, and you won’t be hauled off to jail for being sexist, racist, ageist or judging someone by their appearance in any way. You can’t help but find your favourites or make random judgements over what sort of person they would be. Well I couldn’t.

Blind Light, the namesake of the entire exhibition is a massive glass box filled with a bright white fluffy cloud. The result of this, is that once inside you can’t see a damned think. After wandering around, barely able to see your own hands held out in front of you – you will have no idea where you are. Ghostly shadows will occasionally pass by and if you keep going, you’ll find the edges of the box where spectators will see your face emerge from the mist. It’s very surreal, but a great experience, and yet another example of Gormley making the spectators a part of the art. Not one for the claustrophobic, perhaps.

I won’t list everything else, I promise. Go for yourself and experience the world through different eyes. What I will do, is talk about another Gormley gem in the mostly forgotten area of London that we call Greenwich. The Quantum Cloud stands at 30m tall, making it even larger than the Angel of the North at Gateshead. In fact, until the construction of the B of the Bang sculpture in Manchester, 2005 – it was the largest sculpture in England. The Quantum Cloud sits on the Thames, by the pier at the newly opened O2 Arena, formally known as the Millennium Dome. It’s formed of hundreds of 1.5m lengths of random steel rods, at the centre of which you can make out the 20ft tall man standing amongst the cloud. But don’t look too closely, or you won’t see it. Magic eye, eat your heart out.