Another Place is a peculiarly affecting piece of work.
Antony Gormley, best known for the colossal Angel of The North statue at Gateshead, made a hundred iron statues from a cast of his own body. They have been widely dispersed along Crosby beach in north Liverpool. The distance between them varies, some are close to shore, others up to a kilometre out in the shallow Mersey estuary.
It sounded imaginative and novel, but I hadn't been expecting the deeper levels at which it would hit me. The figures may be randomly distributed, but they all face out to sea. Humans love looking at big expanses. As I've said elsewhere, it's hardwired into us.
we are all — inexplicably in rationality — impressed by seeing big landscapes or the sea. Think about it — why should a mountain impress you?
...Wind moving through the grass and trees, the ripples across water, clouds across the sky; we are so rooted to these that just the words in that last sentence are soothing in themselves!
Seeing the figures chimes into something that humans have done for as long as there's been humans. The sea has not just an epic scale but a permanence that makes the human figures seem so small physically and chronologically. Yet at the same time, you're taking your place among all those who've ever stood like that.
Gormley's official explanation of Another Place implies that temporary individuals combine to make an enduring human character, and in making people see themselves in that context it challenges consumerism.
The seaside is a good place to do this. Here time is tested by tide, architecture by the elements and the prevalence of sky seems to question the earth's substance. In this work human life is tested against planetary time. This sculpture exposes to light and time the nakedness of a particular and peculiar body. It is no hero, no ideal, just the industrially reproduced body of a middle-aged man trying to remain standing and trying to breathe, facing a horizon busy with ships moving materials and manufactured things around the planet.
More than this, it's the most unstuffy piece of art imaginable. Away from any uptight gallery chinstrokery, it's just there, no admission fee, day and night, for all to see and interact with.
People make what they will of it. Some have been given football scarves and hats. It doesn't spoil it, it just underlines the unpretentious humanness of the concept.
Having been at Crosby for a year and a half, they've been a big hit. With Liverpool coming up to its year as European Capital of Culture in 2008, you'd have thought Another Place would be prized. You'd be reckoning without Debi Jones.
Crosby was a Tory constituency since neolithic times. When the Labour breakaway Social Democratic Party declared they'd 'broken the mould of British politics' in 1981 they parachuted in one of their stars, Shirley Williams, to win a Crosby by-election. By the time of the general election two years later the mould had seamlessly healed itself like Terminator 2 or the Mayor in season three of Buffy, and Crosby was Tory once more.
Having stayed up all night watching the Tories get trounced in 1997, I danced naked in the streets and then rang my Crosby-resident brother in the morning to gloat about Portillo, Hamilton and whatnot. It didn't even occur to me to check the Crosby result - it would surely always be Tory - but amazingly it had gone Labour. Claire Curtis-Thomas is apparently a fairly good constutency MP, and she has retained the seat since.
Imagine how this sticks in the craw of the local Tories; some Labour woman who doesn't even use her husband's surname taking their birthright. Last general election, Curtis-Thomas' Tory opponent was Debi Jones. Hilariously, Curtis-Thomas' husband was caught defacing Jones' campaign posters and fined £80.
Before all this Jones made a name for herself as a bigot pundit on local radio. She was then elected as a local councillor for a very posh dormitory village called Hightown, whilst simultaneously furthering the progress of humanity by doing some presenting on cable TV shopping channel Yes 655. She recently left that job, realising that she needs to assert her political integrity and credibility. Now she's a presenter on cable TV shopping chanel IBuy.
Her website is titled Debi Jones TV Presenter Celebrity Official Website.
She self-defines as a celebrity. This would mark someone out as a truly awful human being in itself. But consider how much worse it is when done by someone with the absolute minimum of anything that could be called celebrity. And I love that 'official' - just to differentiate between that and all the fansites, right?
So we come to Debi Jones and Another Place. Jones' boss, Sefton Council's Chief Executive Graham Haywood, says
There has been huge public support for the retention of the Gormley Statues which has clearly been reflected in the media coverage and direct contact with the council. “Another Place” has proved to be a very evocative project which has captured the imagination of many people and attracted substantial numbers of visitors.
But not everyone likes the statues. Debi Jones objects. She says they're a danger to people who look at them and to passing shipping. Really. It'd be quite funny if it weren't for the fact that she's on Sefton Council's Planning Committee and has got them to vote to remove the statues.
Classic fucking Tory puritanism. Just like the 1994 Criminal Justice Act outlawing free raves, there's this dread fear and outraged horror that people might be enjoying something. Worse still, enjoying something for free.
Gotta put a stop to that, otherwise where would it end? If people spend their time at Another Place contemplating the unity of humanity in its response to wide natural spaces, getting a deep understanding of our temporary place in the scheme of things and yet our simultaneous part in something endless and true, what use is that? Why aren't they at home squandering their money on shit they don't need off IBuy?
You've got to suspect a part of Jones' sour miserablism is also a grudge, as Claire Curtis-Thomas supports the retention of Another Place.
At the end of last year, Curtis-Thomas sent out an annual report to local Labour Party members. In reference to Debi Jones' anti-Gormley stance, it captioned a picture of Jones 'Gormless' and asked 'Is Debi Jones’s brain in another place?'.
Heavy handed and scarcely funny punning. In-house local political party leaflets are hardly going to be the collected scripts of Round The Horne.
Still, Jones has got up on her hind legs and complained that the offending leaflet didn't have permission to use a picture of her feeding Nestle chocolates to a bloke in a chair. She bemoans its 'unprofessional' approach.
While Curtis-Thomas is a New Labour schmuck, at least her and her poster subvertising husband are getting stuck into attacking the advocate of an ideology far more vicious than theirs.
Debi Jones is a Tory. As they work so hard to mask themselves and connect to a new powerbase, we need to be clear what that means. More than anyone else, she wants to take away things like hospital beds and give the money saved to the rich. She wants to reward those rich people because, well, they're rich. She wants to 'cut political correctness' (great euphemism for exacerbating disrespect towards disadvantaged minorities).
All that awards-ceremony style 'we're all playing the same game, let's be chummy' attitude in politics, I don't know the unit of measurement to tell you how far it can fuck off. Three fucking cheers for an unprofessional approach.