On the long list of things we at Farer love, there are precious few things sitting above 'the Great British coast' and 'a little dose of culture.' In pursuit of a place which manages to combine the two into one extraordinary seaside vista, we headed to Crosby beach.
As the beach slipped into view through the passenger-side window, the sky overhead was bright grey; a high autumn sun trying and failing to break through sheets of dark clouds. Beneath it, in rough formation and in various states of repair (but equal states of complete undress) along the beach, was the work of art we had travelled up from London to see.
Antony Gormley's 'Another Place' consists of 100 cast-iron, life-size figures spread out along three kilometres of the foreshore at Crosby, stretching almost one kilometre out to sea.
The figures - each one weighing 650 kilos - are made from casts of Gormley's own body. Each stands on the beach; all look out to sea. Identical when they were installed, each is now distinct. The eroding effects of the rising and falling tides; growth of sealife over various legs, torsos and heads have created an army of subtly distinct figures, each solemnly staring out towards the open water, their backs collectively turned to the world too.
The effect, seen in the flesh, is jaw-dropping. It is both eerie and beautiful. To the untrained eye, it might appear as though a posse of Reggie Perrin-types are sadly walking to their demise. There were apparently plenty of alarmed phone calls from locals when these figures suddenly appeared in the water. Unsure of which way they were facing, some thought an amphibious invasion was underway. Presumably not seriously, mind you.
According to Antony Gormley himself, 'Another Place' harnesses the ebb and flow of the tide to explore man's relationship with nature.
"The seaside is a good place to do this," he says. "Here time is tested by tide, architecture by the elements and the prevalence of sky seems to question the earth's substance. In this work, human life is tested against planetary time. This sculpture exposes to light and time the nakedness of a particular and peculiar body. It is no hero, no ideal, just the industrially reproduced body of a middle-aged man trying to remain standing and trying to breathe, facing a horizon busy with ships moving materials and manufactured things around the planet."
After a long stroll along the water's edge, it's hard to add anything to that statement. It is a thought-provoking, strangely alluring, quietly sorrowful work on a scale that is, in itself, an achievement.
The only downside? Crosby is decidedly not a bathing beach. Our trunks remained well and truly packed. But, as Gormley's regiment of stock-still men would tell you were they able, Crosby is no bad place just to take a moment