In 2003, British artist Antony Gormley invited around 300 people of all ages from Xiangshan village (now Huadong Town in Guangzhou city) to make approximately 200,000 clay figurines over five days. There were three simple instructions: each figurine had to be hand-sized, capable of standing up, and have two eyes. Otherwise, each maker was free to improvise. As an installation, Asian Field is meant to be experienced from a single point of view. As you gaze across a sea of figures, they appear to look back.
This installation belongs to Field, a series that Gormley began in 1989. Other versions of Field have been produced in Australia, North and South America, the United Kingdom, and Europe. In each location, the artist uses locally sourced clay and enlists local communities to mould the figures by hand. By far the biggest and most ambitious work in the series, Asian Field reflects China’s vast territory and large population.
This presentation also features the work of photographer Zhang Hai’er, who captured and documented the making of Asian Field. Zhang paired each maker and one of their works in a series of photo portraits. The portrait subjects stared intently at the camera, allowing us to imagine how their character and attitude might be transferred into the figures they created.