Even if you’re unfamiliar with Antony Gormley, you might want to take the climb up to Forte di Belvedere on one of these glorious Tuscan days to enjoy “HUMAN,” Gormley’s sculpture installation that has been running since April 26. Antony Gormley HUMAN sculpture installation Florence, Italy Like a game of “I Spy,” Gormley strews over 100 of his sculptures throughout the site for the participant to discover and investigate. It’s a playful installation with a dynamic spacial and emotional theme that will leave you captivated if not by Gormley then by the breathtaking view of Florence and the Tuscan landscape from the top of Forte di Belvedere. But before you set yourself loose to explore, there are some things that you should know about the site and what Gormley is trying to capture with his criss-crossing “dialectics” from the “aspirational” to the “abject.” Forte di Belvedere is a 16th century fortress on top of a hill overlooking Florence, and according to Gormley its previous function as a symbol of power and defense is the fulcrum of the entire exhibit. Gormley wants you to think about the function of architecture in man’s relationship with nature and space, not only in the past but in the place you stand. So savor each blade of grass and stare into those longing life-sized figures, but don’t forget that the domineering Forte dotted with “humans” and wrapped in the Tuscan hills is the heart of the experience. If you get lost in a reverie during your thorough investigation, look to the wide open space of the lower terrace for the polarizing sculpture arrangements known as Critical Mass II (1995). When Gormley created the figures in these arrangements, he cast himself in 12 different basic positions and made 5 copies of each figure. He says:

Rather than attempt to insert works that try to match the scale of the site, I have chosen to exhibit works that are life-size and that will allow the mass and form of this remarkable construction to speak.

The arrangements take center stage across the lower terrace as the climax of his thematic development. On the eastern side of the terrace you find order, an arrangement of Gormley’s casts in a linear progression toward Florence recognizing the ascending evolution of man. On the western side you find a chaotic pile-up of casts arranged to “reflect the shadow side of any idea of human progress, confronting the viewer with an image redolent of the conflict of the past century,” he says. (A fun insight: According to Mus.e Firenze, the pile-up of Critical Mass wasn’t originally created specifically for the site at Forte di Belvedere, but for a tram depot in Vienna in 1995 as an ode to the dark side of German history). The most intriguing component of the installation could be the funky geometric block figures, which Gormley calls Blockworks. Some are subtly emotional and vaguely resemble the shape of humans, and some are simply reduced to solitary raw cubic piles. Antony Gormley HUMAN Florence Are the Blockworks human or machine? Were some paralyzed by fear? Imprisoned? Pixelated? Are they autonomous beings or the estranged identities of Gormley’s more organic casts? At times their presence is puzzling next to their cast counterparts, but the relationship among these stratifying forms and the Forte suggests a social critique of the ideal Renaissance city and ideal man. They’re a mesh of anatomy with architecture. Gormley says:

I want to create stumbling blocks that stop the viewer in their tracks. I want to encourage the viewer to think again about who they are and how they negotiate the spaces around them.

Getting in touch with these faceless folks creates a new dimension of tension with their inaccessibility. Gormley invites you to interpret the rest.

Jenna Millemaci