The title of the series is taken from evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins’ theory on genetics, in which he coined the term ‘memes’ on the basis of genes. Dawkins used the term to describe the dissemination of cultural ideas and beliefs that are transmitted in thought or behaviour from one body to another, each responding to conditional environments, self-replicating and capable of mutation. Antony Gormley’s complete series of Memes was first shown at Anna Schwartz Gallery, Australia in 2011. Placed directly on the floor and widely spaced, the lexicon of body postures and possible expressions displayed in the Memes invited the viewer to become conscious, through the disparity of scale, of his or her own physical and emotional relationship to the work. When considered collectively we become aware of a sense of communication and dialogue; however, when viewed as a set of individual forms this message becomes one of dislocation and isolation, embodying a divided society.
Gormley’s Memes force the viewer to question what a shift in the position of the blocks might represent; how small re-figurations of form can elicit strong emotional responses from the viewer to a small, made object; and how we come to recognise varying physical states as they stand tall or cower from some unseen terror. The artist invites us to view them both collectively and individually in relation to their surroundings, all the while allowing us to enjoy the charm and range of personalities enjoying the very human personalities that they embody.
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