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Who: Antony Gormley
What: Memes
Where: Anna Schwartz Gallery, 185 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
When: Until 23 April 2011

I am very excited to write about this exhibition simply for the fact that I enjoyed it so much! The exhibition is on for a few more weeks and I highly recommend you go see it. If you intend to go, you might want to save reading my write-up below until later in order to bring with you a fresh perspective, and take away with you your own interpretation (that goes for any exhibition!).

Antony Gormley
Memes (installation view)
Courtesy of Anna Schwartz Gallery

Antony Gormley
Memes (installation view)
Courtesy of Anna Schwartz Gallery

The moment I stepped into the gallery, my eyes were immediately and unexpectedly drawn towards the floor. Standing at about 40cm tall, 33 faceless cast iron bricked bodies occupy the entire floorspace. I couldn’t help but smile as they reminded me of when I used to leave my half constructed Lego inventions all over the living room floor, many, many years ago.

As comical as they may seem in the first instance, walking around the gallery and intimately sharing the space with these miniature abstract human forms (of which I was extremely conscious of my scale in relation to them), another kind of association forms; and this time much deeper. I noticed that they are posed in ways in which we often find ourselves in, both physically and mentally, just by going about our daily lives.

In this exhibition, Gormley presents to us a variety of subconscious postures that we make in search of some tangible meaning to add to our lives, whether it be standing in the line for something, on the floor praying, lying down, exercising, doing a hobby, doing yoga, or lying on our bedroom floor with our feet propped up on our beds.

Passive and disengaged with themselves and the world around them, these bodies don’t look particularly confident or satisfied, with many suggesting a sense of despair and emptiness.

There is, in essence, much truth to this in the world we live in today despite us wanting to believe otherwise. We are completely surrounded by things that make our lives seem extraordinary. For example, films and television shows that transport us into another and more interesting world; the ease by which we can glorify our lives and personalities on social networking sites; material goods that make us feel part of something bigger and better; and all other media that subconsciously influence us to believe that we are living in an exciting reality, but one that is completely false because they are simply trying to sell us something. When you strip all of this away, we are left with a pretty straight, ordinary, and relatively boring life.

In the contemporary world today, the misalignment of our real lives with the lives we think we are living because of these hyperreal ‘enhancements’ can often leave us feeling alienated, with very little to hold on to. It is probably why we still go around feeling a little empty inside despite wherever we may be in life, and whatever situation we find ourselves in.

The word “meme” means an element of a culture or system of behaviour that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by non-genetic means. Using miniatures, which allows the totality of a body (or bodies, in this instance) to be seen at once, Gormley presents an interesting and fresh way of looking at how much our lives, as a collective whole, is conditioned by the contemporary environment that we live in. The human body is a place of constant transformation, and our experiences, feelings and thoughts are reflected in our body language. Thrown face to face with a series of postures so recognisable to us, Gormley holds out the possibility that these familiar physical attributes will encourage us to internalise the experience of looking at his works to looking at the way we live our lives in a more objective and critical way. It is the continual quest of the artist to explore the space of art as a reflexive test ground in which the direct experience of the viewer becomes the ground of meaning.

Antony Gormley was born in 1950 in London, England, where he lives and works. He has participated in major group exhibitions, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Venice Biennale (1982 and 1986), Documenta VIII, Kassel, Germany (1987) and the Sydney Biennale (2006). Solo exhibitions include Fundacao Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon (2004), Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, England (2003), the National History Museum, Beijing, China (2003), the Tate and the British Museum. He was awarded the Turner Prize in 1994 and made an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1997. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and has been a Royal Academician since 2003.

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