A topical political slant on Antony Gormley’s Field
C is for Chagos Islands and the indigenous Chagossians
AND F is for Field, an art piece authored by Antony Gormley in many versions since the early 1990s, and fabricated under the artist’s direction by different communities in different countries. The piece comprises many thousands of clay figures, each formed by hand and therefore taking on an imprint of the makers’ conscious and subconscious individuality. The uniqueness of each piece mirrors individual identity.
On this level it has a naïve and primitive narrative. En masse it is very different. There is a darker message. The individuality is replaced by anonymity and its sequelae, associated with restriction and subordination under political power.
Tate Liverpool described the 2004 Field as ‘an ‘invasion’ or ‘infection’, and the sensation is that of a tide; an endless mass that has become temporarily limited by the architecture of the place where it is installed, but could easily extend further than we can see.’ http://www.tate.org.uk/liverpool/exhibitions/gormley/
Asian Field 2003 Clay from Guangdong Province, China, 210,000 hand-sized clay figures made in collaboration with 350 people of all ages from Xiangshan village, north-east of the city of Guangzhou in south China. www.seriousart.org/archive/gormley_interview.html
It is uncannily reminiscent of a vast broiler house of poultry. It conjures up humanitarian issues of refugees, displacement, and the aftermath of natural disasters of earthquakes and floods.
This is particularly relevant to the British Government’s plans to create a huge maritime reserve in the middle of the Indian Ocean at the expense of the 2,000 Chagossian islanders and their descendents who were evicted from their homeland in the 1960s and 1970s. Is it right that this beautiful and isolated archipelago of pristine coral reefs (now named British Indian Ocean Territory) should be still denied to its rightful owners (currently in exile in Mauritius and the Seychelles) but be available to Britain and the US as a 21st century potential military base? http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/feb/18/chagos-nature-reserve-greenwash
Image, Aerial view of Middle Brother Island, in Chagos Archipelago. Illustration: Anne & Charles Sheppard/Chagos Conservation Trust, source http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/mar/29/chagos-island-marine-reserve-plans