Antony Gormley

Testing a World View


Not on display

Antony Gormley born 1950
Cast iron
Object, each: 1120 × 485 × 1070 mm
Presented by the artist (Building the Tate Collection) 2005


Testing a World View is a sculptural installation consisting of five identical iron figures bent at right angles at the waist. The figures are based on a cast made from the artist’s body and are installed in varying positions related to the architecture of the space where they are on display. The figure’s ninety degree angle corresponds to sitting bolt upright with the legs stretched out in front, or bending over with legs and back very straight. It may also be read as corresponding to the absolute laws of geometry. Gormley explored the potential of this ‘absolute’ posture by positioning the sculptures in different orientations, for example lying in the middle of the room or against the walls, ceiling and floor. According to the artist, the different positions evoke states ranging from ‘hysteria, head-banging, catatonia, to the awakened dead and the about-to-be-beheaded’ (note from the artist to Tate curator Evi Baniotopoulou, March 2005). The work was exhibited at Gormley’s Turner Prize display in Tate Britain in 1994, when he won the prize. Referring to Testing a World View, the artist has commented that:

The work is a kind of psychological Cubism. An identical body cast made from the interior of a body case five times, which I then try to test against architecture. The piece expresses the polymorphousness of the self; that in different places we become different and I think this is physical. If Cubism is about taking one object and making multiple views of it in one place, this is a dispersion of one object into several cases for itself.

(Quoted in Antony Gormley, p.48.)

Gormley began using casts of his body as the basis of his sculptures in 1981 and continued to base his work on his own body during the 80s and much of the 90s. For such works as Three Ways: Mould, Hole and Passage 1981 (Tate T07015) and Untitled (for Francis) 1985 (Tate T05004) he held a pose while being wrapped in scrim and plaster. When the cast was removed and reassembled, Gormley built onto the hollow figure, enlarging it by adding layers of fibreglass. Finally strips of roofing lead were beaten onto the figure encasing it in a skin. These were joined with soldering lines that follow horizontal and vertical axes, constituting a type of grid. By contrast, the figures constituting Testing a World View were cast from iron. A mould was made from the inside of the initial cast of the artist’s body, and this was used to cast the five figures. The lines on the bodies resulting from the casting process do not follow the straight rigour of the grid but rather the contours of the body’s limbs, conferring a more organic appearance. Unlike the smooth, glossy lead in the earlier works, the iron has a rough, unfinished surface which has corroded in places resulting in rusting and other colouring. Although the body is not significantly enlarged, it is generalised by the omission of all facial features and such details as fingers and toes.

Testing a World View represents an attempt by the artist to challenge the single reading of a particular body posture, relating the body to architecture and other geometric formations. For the artist, the rigid pose suggests a body in crisis; installed in varying relationships to architectural space, the five bodies ‘demonstrate the current crisis of confidence in the Western world view, “the crisis of the conceptual frame that we have put around space”’(Virginia Button, Turner Prize 1994, [p.8]).

Further reading:
Antony Gormley, exhibition catalogue, Malmö Konsthalle, Tate Gallery Liverpool, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin 1993, p.48, reproduced pp.104-7 in colour
Turner Prize 1994, exhibition brochure, Tate Gallery, London 1994, [pp.8-9], [p.8], reproduced [p.9] in colour
Antony Gormley: Making Space, exhibition catalogue, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead 2004, p.72, reproduced p.72 in colour

Elizabeth Manchester
December 2005


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