Enter An Antony Gormley Shaped Tunnel

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 27 months ago

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Enter An Antony Gormley Shaped Tunnel
Antony Gormley's maze contains many sculptures based around his own body. © Antony Gormley. Photo © White Cube (Ben Westoby)

Social media can show you a photograph or a painting, and while it's not the real thing, many people are satisfied enough that they don't feel a need to visit in the flesh.

But when art creates an experience, it's hard to replicate this. Experience based artworks, or experiential art, is becoming even more popular, notable examples being Yayoi Kusama's infinity rooms and Random International's Rain Room.

Right now there are two fantastic art experiences that are pulling in the crowds.

Passage is the experience that a picture cannot replicate. Prepare to step into darkness. © Antony Gormley. Photo © White Cube (Ben Westoby)

Over at the White Cube in Bermondsey, Antony Gormley has created a maze filled with his usual array of human-shaped sculptures made of different materials. Just when a visitor is thinking there's nothing new to see here, they will be confronted with a work called Passage.

Passage is a human-shaped tunnel that one person at a time can enter. We enter tentatively and even duck a little, despite the entrance being tall enough to easily accommodate us. Our body blocks off the light and plunges us into darkness. Once our eyes adjust to the low light we start to move forward gingerly.

Natural instinct has us moving with arms in front of us waiting to hit the back, but the tunnel seems to go on forever. All visitors seem to stop halfway as they entertain some doubt about the tunnel never ending, before pressing on and eventually reaching the end.

Once we turn around, the light pouring in from the entrance makes the journey back much easier and we stride out confidently. It's amazing how differently we act on going in compared to going out, even though the edges around us remain the same.

Gormley's works tend to be based around his own body, and so is this one, yet it teaches us more about ourselves and our instincts than about the artist.

A passage of alternating light and dark produces a revelatory experience in Richard Serra's work. © Richard Serra. Courtesy Gagosian. Photograph by Mike Bruce

Over at Gagosian Gallery are the monumental rusting hulks made by Richard Serra. The centrepiece is a giant sheet of steel which folds in on itself to create a passage to navigate.

We wander around, surprised how our speed and style of walking varies depending on how much light is flowing into a particular section. We find ourselves subconsciously dwelling in the light and quickening our pace in the darkness.

Our human nature to avoid the dark gets the better of us even though we know we're perfectly safe. As we emerge into the light there's something revelatory, almost religious, about the whole experience.

Whatever you may think about experiential art, including its terrible name, these are two art experiences to treasure. We'll definitely be going back to both of them.

Antony Gormley: Fit is on at White Cube Bermondsey, 144-152 Bermondsey street, SE1 3TQ until 6 November 2016. The exhibition is open Tuesday to Sunday.

Richard Serra: NJ-2, Rounds: Equal Weight, Unequal Measure, Rotate is on at Gagosian, 6-24 Brittania street, WC1X 9JD until February 25, 2017. The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday.

Last Updated 18 October 2016