This is one of the strangest things I’ve ever come across while skiing:
Another sculpture, very similar but wearing a light ski jacket, can be found perched on a precipice almost directly under one of the lifts. I wanted to get a photo of that one, but didn’t want to run the risk of fumbling the camera off the chair.
It’s the work of British artist Antony Gormley and is supposed to be a self-portrait.
Called Horizon Field, it consists of 100 life-sized, cast-iron sculptures each weighing 630 kg. Forming a horizontal line at 2039 metres over an area of 150 square km in the mountains of western Austria, they at first seem so out of place. But upon seeing them again and again that week, I came to look upon them as solid, loyal friends steadfast among the anonymous masses streaming by them. I knew nothing about the installation before my week of skiing, but my reaction to it is pretty close to what the artist has said about it:
It’s important to me that it’s the viewer who has a direct relationship with the sculpture. It’s important there’s no drama. I’m not putting them into a tableau. It’s called Horizon Field. They’re all facing a horizon, or making a horizon themselves.
I also think they act as a perfect counterweight to the extremely commercial sport of skiing. Though you’re high up in the mountains and close to nature, you’re still in city mode: constantly bombarded with advertising wherever you go as the industry tries to seduce you with its latest trends in ski clothing and gear. Upon seeing the sculpture from afar for the first time I thought, OK, what’s this supposed to be an ad for?
An enormous amount of work that went in to setting it up – five years of planning and dozens of helicopter flights so 15 mountain rescue teams could install each sculpture. Gormley has installed similar projects as far-flung as London and Australia, but says the mountain project will be last one.
Skiers and hikers can see them until August, 2012, when after about two and a half years of residence among the winter snows and summer green, they’ll be taken away.