Submitted by Editor on Mon, 05/11/2012 - 10:07

Spurtle has learned that only two of the six human figures comprising Antony Gormley's '6 Times' remain in place, and that the work's future is now in serious doubt.

The £400,000 project, stretching from Belford Road to the Port of Leith, was commissioned by the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) and launched to public and critical acclaim in June 2010 (Breaking news, 22.6.10).

However, the four figures originally sited actually in the Water of Leith (at Bell's Mill Weir [pictured right], Stockbridge, St Mark's Park and Bonnington) are now in storage after it proved impossible to keep them upright in the current. A '6 Times in Focus' feature and map on the NGS website have also been quietly removed.

The problem stems from conditions attached to the work's Planning consent (Ref. 09/01482/FUL). Flood experts Arup, consulted by the Council's 'Bridges and Flooding team', had worried in advance that the sculptures would 'portend the attraction and accumulation of large debris on the watercourse. Especially around the sculptures, which will be detrimental to the free flow of water'.

[img_assist|nid=3517|title=Stockbridge Gormley – not lost but gone before|desc=|link=node|align=right|width=190|height=200]NGS therefore promised a maintenance programme to clear any such debris, and the figures were not permanently attached to the riverbed, but rather mounted using a pin system. This was designed to give way when water pressure reached a critical level 'in the event of a 1 in 12 year flood event'.

Unfortunately, the 1-in-12 year flood event happened only 30 days later in St Mark's Park (Breaking news, 22.7.10), and another three times in the second half of 2010 alone. Spurtle has lost count of how many collapses have happened since, but certainly the sculptures at Bonnington and St Mark's Park have been hard to spot for much of that time.

Addressing a meeting on 30 October, NGS Director-General John Leighton revealed that talks were now under way with the Council to discuss revision of the work's foundation specifications. Interestingly, the original Planning consent for '6 Times' revealed (at the time) unresolved questions about the likely effect of the figures standing or falling:

[img_assist|nid=3516|title=St Mark's Park Gormley – gone but not forgotten|desc=|link=node|align=right|width=163|height=200]'[...] a model run by Arup to investigate the effect of the sculpture not toppling over shows a negligible to minor increase in water level (most below 10mm), although there seems to be a contradiction for the 50 year return period between the maximum changes to water level presented in the table in section 3 and tabulated model result for table C2. This will be a topographic error or should otherwise be explained.'

In parallel with these talks, Leighton made clear,  a conversation has also started with the artist himself. The substance of this dialogue involves the possibility of repositioning the four sculptures, perhaps even out of the water.

Any such rethink of the figures' relation to their surroundings would, in effect, constitute the design and creation of an entirely new work. It is unclear to the Spurtle whether Gormley could countenance such an option. We have sought his views on the matter over recent days, but found him uncontactable.
[img_assist|nid=3515|title=Bonnington Gormley – sadly missed|desc=|link=node|align=right|width=169|height=200]Gormley has always championed the figures' impermanence, their rusting and decline making them 'a register of change and a catalyst for change', although he initially predicted that this process would continue for a thousand years.

Upon their introduction to the capital in June 2010, the artist told Spurtle that he saw the work as an experiment in participation and Time. 'It asks questions such as: What is art? How and where can art be seen? How is art integrated into the wider world?'

'6 Times' still poses those questions, but not in a way one can see. At a cost of £66,666 per figure, it is a lot of invisibility for one's money ... perhaps too much.

More on Gormley's '6 Times': Breaking news (10.6.10; 11.6.10; 12.6.10; 13.6.10; 21.8.10).