Imagine. Antony Gormley: Being Human BBC 1, 10.35pm

gormley angel of the north

Like Antony Gormley, best known for Angel of the North, I can imagine being human. I can imagine lots of things. As a wee boy I imagined what it would be like to live in a sweet shop, to slay a dragon, or right every wrong. There were lots of things I wouldn’t admit to imagining. Like Antony Gormley I came from a big Catholic family, big on Catholicism, five kids and a few near misses. There was seven children in Gormley’s family, he was the youngest. Like me Antony Gormley hitchhiked to Lourdes, the Disneyland of Catholic faith, and had a look around. Lots of clerical big wheels, plaster cast Virgin Mary with doe eyes, and lots of people that should have been working and not kneeling about, scrounging and claiming supernational benefits. I hitchhiked to Biaritz, where women showed their tits. Antony Gormley had to go one better. He went to India for two years. Discovered a skill he developed as a kid, his inner guru, how to meditate and connect with that inners space that makes each person different but the same. I’ll let you decide tits, or the meaning of life? Antony Gormley channelled his search into a career as a sculptor and artist that has lasted forty years. I’m still slaying dragons.

Could I slay the Angel of the North? Aye, if I’d a sword big enough. I guess I’m one of those Neanderthal Northern wankers that shouted ‘fucking wanker’ at him when he unveiled the Angel. One of those like Yosser Hughes in Boys from the Black Stuff that claimed, I CAN DO THAT! All I would have needed was a gigantic pair of wings, like mega-aircraft wings, and a human model. A person rolled up neatly in a spider’s web, much in the way that Gormley encased himself in plaster to create casts from his body of the universal everyman, but also something more than human, gigantic and intimate, like the Angel. I’d have been one of those spitting mad, flinging bottles as his installation in Northern Island during the Troubles and seeing it as gigantic waste of public money. And I’m ashamed. Because all art is a waste of money, a luxury good, an added extra. So begins the choreographed championing of ignorance. The burning of books and those that write them. Nice things only for the deserving rich.

But I’m not wholly penitent in sackcloth and ashes. His Florence installation, cuboid and classical Gormley figures still leaves me cold. And I’m with those marvellous Italian cleaners who separated the chaff from the wheat, the cigarette douts for the bins and recycled glass and binned a modern art installation. Tracey Emin’s unmade bed needs spin washed. When a warehouse containing her ‘artwork’ burnt down, you can imagine how gutted I was. Tens of millions in insurance compensation paid to the ‘artist’ just wasn’t enough? Art has always been about fashions. The next big thing. Marketing more important than the product being marketed. Take bottled water. Anyone that buys it in Britain (and in Scotland in particular) should have mug tattooed with Indian ink on their forehead. That’s my opinion. Arts different from other commodities, but quantified and given monetary value, it isn’t.  It’s only human to think the Emperor has no clothes. Well, sometimes, he or she hasn’t.