A blogpost from September 25, 2010 ·
Last week a giant sculpture by British artist Antony Gormley was unveiled near the Dutch city of Lelystad. Placed on the border of the city’s urban environment and natural surroundings, the large grouching male figure is in deep thought while sitting between man-made land and the ever-present water. Lelystad is located in the province of Flevoland, which came into existence by the embankment of the former Southern Sea, now Ijssel Lake. This made it possible to create polders on which new living and business spaces were created. Since the seventies of the twentieth century, Flevoland is inhabited and slowly but steadily larger cities and smaller villages rose.
The province, especially the city of Lelystad, is not by everyone considered as top of the bill decision making concerning urban and natural planning. Art is brought into the matter to provide some reconciliation. Since years the local government has been searching for interested sponsors in creating a route of contemporary land art. The best-known artwork in this initiative are probably the five elephants by Tom Claassen, who is specialized in large outdoor animal sculptures.
He most often designs his works for the place where they are destined. The elephants are grouped together and fit in their surroundings like they have never been anywhere else. The busy roads surrounding the group emphasize the contrast between natural wild life and man made measures, but executed in reworked concrete the elephants have become an ultimate result from the meeting between man and nature.
Just as amazing is the sixth work in the route of land art, Gormley’s sculpture, unveiled last week. It took eight years to conceptualise, finance and realize this project. The grouching man is another result of artistic interpretation of what happened after human encountered nature.
The 26 meters high steel structure took eight weeks to be constructed on the site, exactly on the border of land and water. The transparency of the structure emphasizes the challenging relationship The Netherlands has, since long, with water. Remarkable was the media coverage about this sculpture. While one major newspaper, Volkskrant describes Exposure as a grouching man in between land and water, while NRC keeps calling it by the ‘nickname’ locals find fitting, the pooping man. To mention this is a nice anecdote, but to use it four times of which twice in two separate headers is to say at the least remarkable. In contemporary times during which arts and culture are entitled as “leftist hobbies”, this sculpture in this location in these times is exactly what the Netherlands needs. It emphasizes that a country is what its inhabitants make of it. The pensive posture Exposure embodies will hopefully encourage people who see it to think better about the consequences of their actions in a society characterized by polarisation and instability. This is probably not what Gormley had in mind creating this work, but it surely is a welcome addition.