Human is the new exhibition of Antony Gormley, one of the most acclaimed sculptors working today. Curated by Sergio Risaliti and Arabella Natalini, Human brings together over one hundred works by Gormley in the inner rooms of the villa, the bastions, the staircases and the terraces, to occupy every side of the 16th century fortress with its extraordinary views over the city and the surrounding hills.
As Sergio Risaliti states in the text accompanying the exhibition: “since the title, Human, Gormley individualizes his horizon of cultural reference, the humanism, criticizing the ideological certainties that have sustained the Western art. Entering the spaces of Forte di belvedere he remembers us that the centuries of the Renaissance magnificence were also dominated by hostile strengths to the human dignity and that the ‘Princes’ were able of dark violence and calculated persecution scattering terror and fomenting discrimination. Gormley assumes on himself the weight of the great tradition of the Western art attributing to the sculpture and particularly to the human figure a privileged position setting the man – magnum miraculum – to the centre of a cosmological system mathematically harmonized in the divine circle geometry as in Vitruvio and Piero della Francesca”.
In Florence it was born and consolidated the trust in the man and its possibilities: the Humanism contrasting the religious vision of the world. The scientific and economic vision of our contemporary world is the daughter of that vision which centre is the man and its humanitas that is the desire of knowledge distinguishing man from other beings. But in 1900 we had lived the negative meanings of that vision cancelling any positivist residuals and trust in the human progress requiring to everybody a certain dose of criticism and reflection on the rulers, on the organizational and bureaucratic trials and generally on the regulation of our life.
You have to see in this perspective the important installation Critical Mass, an “anti-monument evoking all the victims of the 20th century”. The work was originally conceived for a disused tram depot in Wien in 1995 to “activate the whole building and make it a site of reflection on the dark side of German history”. On view on the lower terrace of the Forte, Critical Mass acquires a new potency in relation to a renaissance city, the history of humanism and the continuing and ever-present relationship between money, militarism and power. Gormley states: “on the lower terrace, twelve body forms are installed in a linear progression, from foetal to stargazing positions, recalling the ‘ascent of man’. Opposite, on the western site is a jumbled pile of the same bodies. Here, abandoned manufactured iron objects, each ten times the specific gravity of a living human body, reflect the shadow side of any idea of human progress, confronting the viewer with an image redolent of the conflict of the past century. This dialectic between aspirational and abject is the tension that runs throughout the exhibition”.
Human is a reflection on man and its future starting from the period in which man was central, the Humanism. But the word “human” is also related to the ability of the man to experience some feelings as comprehension, pity, benevolence that especially in a period of crisis like the contemporary one have to be the motor of our close future in a world able to create many difference but also able to create equalities, identities and affinities.