Randomness & Event Horizon – UPDATED

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Rarely has the introduction of a work of art struck me as so exactly suited to its times as Antony Gormley’s Event Horizon, whereby we find ourselves encountering a naked fiberglass-and-metal naked man at random spots in the city.

From March 26 to August 15, New Yorkers will be encountering this form -made from body casts of the artist- amid their daily meanderings. As morning fog lifts, his eerie-but-beautiful silhouette will be visible. Those texting as they walk may bang into him. Visually tracking a pigeon in flight, he’ll be encountered on a rooftop.

Gormley’s remarks on his work are interesting:

“For me this installation is to try to make the real world a place of reverie . . .Just being able to stop for a moment and see how extraordinary and magnificent and diverse is this world that we’ve built out of inherited earth,” he said. “And I hope they are tiny catalysts for people to look again.”

I think it will certainly have people looking, and thinking about the sort of industry, energy and imagination it took from previous generations, to bring us to this “inherited” point. Especially now, as we are living through truly transformative days, when the notions of “greatness” and “exceptional nations” are being deconstructed, and some are experience a sense of expectations being pared down; of dreams being put away, by executive will.

Erected at a moment in time when many Americans are wandering around in a near-daze at recent events, this exhibit is going to speak to people where they are at.

Some will find reassurance in it: as if appearance of eerie, random naked men are exactly suited to the day, when it seems anything at all can happen.

Some will see these forms and think, “angels watching.” Or even, “herald angels.” And feel reassured.

The paranoid will see them and think: big brother. He’s everywhere and he’s watching.

Some believers will see an advance team: harbingers of the Second Coming.

The race-fixated will see a statement about the melding of melanin in humanity.

The cynics will think: humanity has become form without purpose.

Good art provokes and gets you thinking, and I believe Gormley’s exhibit is going to shake to wakefulness a city that has lately been lulled into a sort of drugged slumber: Here is man, in your midst: what does he mean to you?

And what does that meaning say about you?

I can imagine some not liking this exhibit at all. Event Horizon may skirt a memory too close to those cheap sci-fi films of the cold war, with alien beings silently, efficiently taking over the earth, or suddenly emitting death rays from their eyes. In that case, it may refine those early worries about the future.

And some are going to shiver at the very primal sense the statues evoke, of creatureliness and chaos -of Adam and the Last Man.

A friend of mine registered discomfort, this morning; “I don’t like it,” she said. “It makes me feel like a warning is being sounded, that things are about to get out of control.”

I suggested to her that perhaps this is what she takes from the exhibit, because this is what she is feeling, of late. “Maybe so,” she mused. “But these things make me feel like I should be on my guard, like too much is being made new. I have all the new I can stand right now.”

Her feelings struck me as understandable. And art is art: you see what you see and its meaning is subjective.

But I find myself fascinated by these silent sentinels. Are they harbingers of change? Advance warnings? Are they assurances or alarms?

Event Horizon is perfectly named.

And how interesting I find it that we read of this today, the day upon which much of the Christian world ponders the Annunciation -the day an angel told a young Jewess that God wished to enflesh and become man by her consent -which she gave.

And the exhibit closes on a day when that same Christian world considers the death of that same Jewess, Mary, and the lifting up of the body that gave body to the New Adam, and thus assisted in making all things new.

Yeah, I love this exhibit, a lot.

Neoneocon has more thoughts

Related, sort of.

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  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    And what does that meaning say about you?

    It says I hope we didn’t spend a lot of tax dollars on this.

    The above photograph has a certain artistic quality, fixing the image as a sort of sentinel watching over the city, but mere body casts? not so much.

    For a lot less than $2.3 million, I’ll give you some living art of this sort (clothed however).

    Next we’ll get some sheets in Central Park and call that art. (Oh, wait, they did that already.)

    Sorry, but this just doesn’t do it for me.

  • Jan

    A new form of exhibitionism – not that I have anything against naked men.

    This invokes in me a sentinel-type reaction as well. Just seems to be the wrong time to have quasi-men ‘watching.’ I’m glad I don’t live there – I would be totally creeped out.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Howzabout some giant yellow umbrellas, Bender?

    They did that one in Southern California, a few years back.

    All we need right now is metal-body cast men watching us. Heh.

    (A few years ago, L.A. did “City of Angels” project, where they placed all sorts of angel statues around the city. That was actually quite nice.)

  • Mary

    By the photograph, I would it was a beginning not a complete work.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    A new form of exhibitionism – not that I have anything against naked men.

    As a stark silhouette against the city background, it works to some degree.

    But with anatomically correct figures, complete with body casts that let “it” all hang out (as is visible in other photographs), it is an exercise in exhibitionism, not an exultation of the human form. And I do have something against seeing naked men’s you-hoos when I’m walking down the sidewalk.

    ["you-hoos"? I don't even want to know. -admin]

  • Richard

    Anchoress – you always surprise me. I like the installation as well, but couldn’t put my finger on why. Thank you.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/KnightOwl2006#g/u Tempus_Fugit

    I wonder how many 911 calls will be made by people thinking there’s a jumper.

  • newton

    I know this is OT, but a friend of mine needs prayer.

    She went to her doctor for a bleeding lump in her breast and a couple of cysts closer to her chest just recently.

    The lump is cancerous, her doctor told her. She still needs a biopsy to confirm it.

    She has had cancer in her past – ovarian and cervical. In her twenties, no less.

    Today, she is happily married and with four children, including two young ‘uns who love to play with my Little Fig. Her older daughters know already.

    She has had endured so much, in addition to those previous cancers. She married the wrong guy a long time ago. “The five worst months of my life,” she described them, since she was pregnant with her first daughter and was abused physically and psychologically during that time. When her husband threatened their infant girl with a hammer, the husband became the ex. She raised her daughter with help from her parents, who truly became her lifeline then and during the time she endured those two cancers.

    About ten years ago, she met her now husband, a then-co-worker of my husband. He was also a single parent raising a daughter, just about the same age as hers. After a couple of years, they were married before the justice of the peace. They sent their girls to the local Incarnate Word school and had two more children. A couple of years ago, she finally got the annulment she needed in order to marry her husband before their monsignor. (Sweetest wedding I’ve ever witnessed. My Little Fig was a flower girl.)

    And now, this.

    I just pray that God have mercy upon her and her family.

    [Newt - what is your friend's first name? -admin]

  • Gamer


    Great comments and observations about what looks to be a very interesting and provocative work of art. As you said very eloquently above, good art is support to provoke and inspire a response in us. It should stop us in in our tracks for a moment to think. It is so easy to get caught up in the grind of day-to-day living. Art has the power to force us to stop to smell the proverbial roses.

    As for the nudity, is it just the body cast that concerns some of you? What if the artist sculpted an authentic representation without using a body cast? Would that have bothered you?

    The human form has inspired artists from the beginning of time. God did not create us with clothes. The work does not appear at all pornographic, so I do not understand the prudish response.

  • CV


    I’ll pray for your friend.

    I find this exhibit both compelling and creepy at the same time. Mostly compelling, I’ve decided (thanks for your insights, Anchoress).

    I can also imagine there will be a certain number of calls to 911 from people who fear they have encountered a possible “jumper.”

    On the other hand, it’s NYC we’re talking about, so maybe it’s not so unusual to see a naked man in the street, on the rooftop, etc.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    They should have made it naked men, holding yellow umbrellas! That would have been truly artistic!

    (Just joking.)

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender


    Let me just say this — you can tell the “artist” isn’t Jewish. And that’s more than I need to know walking down the sidewalk (or someone’s little daughter needs to see).

    [I DID know what you meant, Bender. Had just never heard it called that, before. :-) Ah, well...nudity doesn't bother me much. It's art. I think Michelangelo's David isn't circumsized, either. -admin]

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  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Sorry Gamer, but not all nudity is art. I have no problem with nudity — I have such art on my own walls (Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Titian), but this is not art. Were it just meant to be seen in silhouette, sure, it could be art, but that is not its only intended display.

    It may or may not be porn, but it is exhibitionist.

  • Gamer


    Why the quotation marks around the word artist? Are you trying to imply that he is not worthy of the title?

    Would you shield the eyes of a child viewing Michaelangelo’s “David?” Do you refuse to take children to art museums, public buildings, and even churches because they are filled with nude images (paintings and sculpture)? What do you find offensive about Antony Gormley’s sculpture?

  • Gamer

    “I have such art on my own walls (Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Titian), but this is not art. Were it just meant to be seen in silhouette, sure, it could be art, but that is not its only intended display.

    It may or may not be porn, but it is exhibitionist.”

    If the images were clothed, would you even stop? Would they even catch your eye?

    I believe that their nudity reflects their vulnerability. There they stand open to everyone that views them. Contrary to what you might believe about New York City, it is not everyday that you see a nude man in the middle of the street. Once again, the work stops you in your tracks and makes you think. We may each think about different things, but the fact that we think about the art at all makes the work successful.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Are you trying to imply that he is not worthy of the title?

    No, I wasn’t trying to imply anything. I was trying to be CLEAR that he isn’t.

    And did you even read the entirety of what I wrote? Your further questions do not follow.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    If the images were clothed, would you even stop? Would they even catch your eye?

    If I freely chose to stop and look, I might do so.

    Real art does not need to impose itself on people.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    And having just now read about Antony Gormley on Wikipedia, and that rejected “art” proposal that he had for display in Seattle, I am entirely vindicated in my judgment of this “artist” and this particular piece.

  • Gamer

    Bender, you noticed that Seattle rejected the proposed work because it was inappropriate. I agree. It would have been inappropriate for a public space. I have not seen the work, but the title sounds pornographic – key word – pornographic.

    Event Horizon is not pornographic. I am not even sure that you can call a work of art “exhibitionist,” as you do above. Aren’t all works of art “exhibitionist?” They all cry for attention. They all want to be seen.

    Do you believe Brussel’s famous Manneken Pis sculpture/fountain is inappropriate? Do you believe that it is art?

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    This isn’t The Dinner Party, but it is in the same neighborhood.

  • Gamer


    Do you think Brussels’ famous “Manneken Pis” is art? Does it belong in the public square? It’s only graced a prominent spot near the Grand Place for nearly 400 years.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    I confess, the fact that these casts all appear to be of the artist himself, seems a bit—vainglorious, shall we say.

    And, Michelangelo’s David is only one statue, which you can go look at, or not, as you please; whereas these figures are, apparently, all over the place. As another poster pointed out, not everyone wants to see male yoo-hoos when walking down the street. Kinda like an army of flashers. . .

    What about naked men with yellow umbrellas hanging sheets? (Sorry, being silly again. . . )

  • Peregrine John

    Perhaps he should have called it “Blots.” Or “Rorshach,” if the first was too oblique.

  • Joseph Marshall

    It says I hope we didn’t spend a lot of tax dollars on this.

    Well, Bender, I would have assumed, philosophically, you would say that about any work of art.

    I spent many years studying the arts and [after 160 years of people saying it] reiteration of Bad Art = The Stuff I Don’t Like, is something of a bore.

    Why spoil the aesthetic pleasure of someone else merely because you don’t get any?

    I do suspect most New Yorkers are far more jaded about such things than the Anchoress appears to be.

    But I am always touched with sadness that so much talent has turned to making things so impermanent and ephemeral.

    One of the best things about Michaelangelo’s David is that it is still there. One of the worst things about our time is that so few artists have the ambition to make something that enduring.

  • Jeff

    It reminds me of that movie by Wim Winders (sp?), the one Bono used in one of his videos. The angels in human form all over the place watching us. I guess it can be comforting but to me it does have a kind of warning feel to it. But nothing wrong with that. Jesus did that too.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    If the statues were of angels, it might be comforting.

    As it is, it looks a lot more like “Big-Brother’s-army-of-flashers” is watching you.

    (Yellow umbrellas would have been a nice touch. . .)

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Again with the yellow umbrellas!

    Actually, you would probably want them with that Seattle piece that was rejected.

  • bellacom

    I’ve read you for a long time, Anchoress.

    During my Wall St Career, I have prayed the Divine Office daily on the MetroNorth and continue to do so.

    I find myself wanting to comment. I’ve never commented before on anything on the internet. I’m one of the highly educated elite, studied the arts, philosophy, literature, history [Ivy League multiple masters], went to Wall St for 20 yrs now back into my garden [partially by choice] and getting another masters to become a 21st century Librarian. I hope that works out.

    I am in despair.

    Let me be clear: I believe in the redemption that has been graciously given to us by God through Jesus Christ. So I when I say despair, I don’t mean final despair. Whew. I mean while we have to live in this world.

    The conceptual art exhibit you refer to has a variety of intriguing elements. And I suppose if I put on my sophist hat, I can argue really interesting viewpoints to make myself feel better or worse. But it seems that the overwhelming evidence is that our civilization is just slipping into the mire and, in that context, those figures are just like the heads on Easter Island watching a people disappear in a way that future generations, if they have the investigative capacity, will try to understand.

    Sorry to be morose. It’s late. I’m tired. It’s my first comment. Maybe my last.

    [I can understand your feeling this way, and I agree that these things can be un-nerving when looked at purely in light of what is going on around us. But do not succumb to despair. Do not be afraid. You've read the book. I've read the book. It's going to get ugly. God wins in the end. All you must do is trust. "Fear is useless; what is needed is trust." Trust is the hardest thing. Pray for it, and it will be given to you -you will learn. "Event Horizon" is part of a million things happening right now that can get people feeling really overwhelmed if they do not remain grounded in prayer. I have people emailing me that Anubis coming into NY Harbor on the day Obama signed his hcr bill is freaking them out. Do not be afraid. Read Job! :-) I'll pray for you -admin]

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Do you think Brussels’ famous “Manneken Pis” is art?

    I’ve never been one for peeing statues, if you must ask. They are bit too cute by half.

    But the nudes publicly displayed in Piazza della Signoria in Florence are perfectly fine examples of exquisite art.

  • Jeff

    I couldn’t tell from the picture if it shows the male organ. If so, that is not so good. You have little kids walking by.

    I just looked up the Anubis story and it is freaking me out. Anubis can pass in front of the watchful eyes of Lady Liberty, but IHS has to be covered up when dear Leader addresses students at Georgetown.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Gamer — sorry, but apparently my last comment got eaten by the spam filter –

    I’ll grant you that those peeing statues in European squares are art — not particularly good art (rather overly cute and juvenile), but art nonetheless.

    Again, I have nothing against the human nude in art — but not all nudes are art. Just ’cause they’re nekkid doesn’t make it art. Shocking and “avant-garde” maybe, but not art (even in the age of Mapplethorp and Serrano).

    But, hey, what do I know? I’m an art snob. There are things I actually like, and there are things that I actually dare to publicly proclaim are junk or worse.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    there are things that I actually dare to publicly proclaim are junk or worse

    These statues I actually like, as art, to the extent that they are as advertised — Event Horizon.

    And these statues I do not like, and are not art, to the extent that they are exhibitionist, that is, the artist getting his jollies off of showing his own personal wing dang doodle (as Lrrr, ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8, would call it), which is not at all needed to accomplish the sentinel idea of Event Horizon.

    Actually, having a bunch of figures like Gort around would be rather unsettling.
    Actually, now that I think on it some more, considering Gort — I think that this Gormley guy is probably guilty of copyright and trademark infringement.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Klaatu barada nikto? :)

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  • Thom

    I like it, at least in location it is shown in this picture. It would not have to be naked so if I were the artist I would have made it gender neutral. Wonder why the artist did make it known it was his body cast. ? hmmmm

    Having said that, I don’t think I would want it at street level. Being naked and not being set apart and above would lessen the effect for me, I think.

  • gs

    I hope this finds you well, Anchoress.

    Wrt your Ayers update, who knows, maybe the like will happen to Obama’s Ayers too.

    I’m sure your faith will be unruffled by the following bit of due diligence (from memory: forgot the author and probably have a word or few wrong).

    King David and King Solomon lived merry merry lives,
    With many many lady friends and many many wives.
    When old age came upon them, with all its aches and qualms,
    King Solomon wrote the Proverbs, King David wrote the Psalms.

  • Manny L.

    I looked that poem up gs, and the author is James Ball Naylor. Funny!

  • http://jmbalconi.stblogs.com JBalconi

    Funny you should bring this up. My association is riled up right now by a group that wants to put out a calendar of nudes strategically covered by statues, paintings, etc. The volunteer models, who aren’t artists, defend it against the people who call it gauche, gross or trite. The funny thing is that the critics are artists, some of whom paint or sculpt nudes. So who’s right?

    That said, I am laughing to think about the reaction “Event Horizon” would get in my town. The teens would probably laugh and, under cover of darkness, castrate it and “tag” it. Or dress it in cast-off clothes.

    I know that if I saw it in the park, I’d have to fight the urge to tip it into the river or tie a ribbon to its penis. Then again, I almost got arrested for “interacting” with the moose installment in Toronto several years ago.

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