Just outside Gateshead, near Newcastle in the north of England, there's a statue of an angel. It's huge (20m high), imposing and impossible to miss as you drive up the A1 motorway. It's called 'The Angel of the North', and was created ten years ago by acclaimed British artist Antony Gormley. You couldn't ask for a more public example of public art. By sheer contrast, five years after creating his angel, Gormley took himself to Western Australia and created an installation so remote it's hard to believe very many people see it at all. It's called 'Inside Australia'.
In the late 1890s, Australia experienced a gold rush and the small town of Menzies grew around it. Today it is virtually abandoned. In 2002, Antony Gormley approached the residents of Menzies and asked if he could scan them digitally, completely naked. Fifty-one of them agreed, and Gormley set about transforming them. First he squeezed them by two-thirds in width, then he cast them into moulds, and out popped 51 eerie extraterrestrial figures that are now scattered across the flat, white expanse of the nearby barren salt lake, Lake Ballard. 'I wanted to try to find the human equivalent for this geological place,' says Gormley. 'I think human memory is part of place, and place is a dimension of human memory.'
'Inside Australia' was created to mark the 50th anniversary of the Perth International Arts Festival, and it was supposed to be removed. However, it proved so popular that last year Gormley gifted the statues to Australia. If you want to go there, the local authorities ask you to allow two hours to walk round all the statues, and that you don't go alone. If that sounds a little spooky, get the book instead. RM
Images: Antony Gormley