On the 9th March 1960 at the Galerie Internationale d'Art Comtemporain, Yves Klein presided over a soirée in which he introduced a new artform to the world: the Anthropometrie. Dressed with the utmost formality, with a bow tie and a medal, Klein held his audience's attention as he introduced a group of naked models while his Symphonie Monoton-Silence was intoned (and then not) in the background. These women were smeared with blue paint and directed with precision by Klein, they pressed themselves against vast sheets of paper, rolled around on and pulled each other across the floor, also covered with paper.
The idea of the Anthropometrie came to Klein while he was in his studio painting monochrome works in his patented IKB, or International Klein Blue. This was a color in which Klein saw infinity and the sublime, a blue with which Klein introduced windows of perfection into our world and aided the viewer to perceive of the wonders of the underlying spiritual force of the universe. It was the color of the sky, which Klein had years earlier claimed as his first work of art; it was the color of space and of boundlessness. It is ungraspable, and therefore all the more powerful as a presence within our all-too-graspable sensual and material world.
When Klein was creating his monochrome works in this infinite IKB, he invoked an air of sensuousness and of life-- all the better to invoke the spirit of the Immaterial and to capture it in the material world-- by engaging models to wander, naked, around the studio while he painted 'My models laughed more than a little when they saw how I created the exquisite blue monochrome, limited to one color, after their images! They laughed, but they felt more and more attracted to the blue. One day it was clear to me that my hands and tools were no longer sufficient to work with the color. I needed the model to paint the monochrome painting' (Klein, quoted in Yves Klein, ed. O. Berggruen, M. Hollein, I. Pfeiffer, exh.cat., Ostfildern-Ruit, 2004, p. 126).
By physically distancing himself from the artistic process, Klein became a catalyst rather than a protagonist, while the infinite world of the Blue was conjured into existence before him. Ant 127 clearly bears the traces of the model being dragged, but this was crucially done while Klein only looked: 'That was, finally, the solution to the problems of distance in painting: My brushes were alive and remote-controlled' (Klein, quoted in ibid., p. 126). Keeping this distance allowed the artwork to form itself, as the direct product of the marriage between his IKB and the living flesh of the model. And this distance had another simpler and more selfish advantage too:
'I stayed clean. I no longer dirtied myself with color, not even the tips of my fingers. The work finished itself there in front of me, under my direction, in absolute collaboration with the model. And I could salute its birth into the tangible world, in a dignified manner, dressed in a tuxedo' (Klein, quoted in S. Stich, Yves Klein, Ostfildern, 1994, p. 177).
This sense of formality added an ambience of solemnity and authority to the event, while also tapping into Klein's own interest in ritual. The women rolling on the mats were a strange reflection of the practice of judo, in which he was a black belt. The Anthropometries allowed Klein to marry this judo with his interest in the Immaterial. The ritual and formality of the occasion had a conspicuous theatricality about them, reflecting Klein's constant ability to publicise his art and the Blue Revolution; but more importantly, they reflected the dignity of the occasion.
Intriguingly, Klein's interest in the naked female form had become specific during the creation of the Anthropometries, it is not the complete body, but rather the headless and limbless torso that was the focus of his work, as is clear in Ant 127. For Klein, this emphasised the raw power of life. He has removed intellect from his pictorial equation, and instead has focussed on the necessity-driven, animal of the human body, 'It was the block of the body itself, that is to say the trunk and part of the thighs, that fascinated me. The hands, the arms, the head, the legs were of no importance. Only the body is alive, all-powerful, and non-thinking. The head, the arms, the hands are only intellectual articulations around the bulk of flesh that is the body!
'The heart beats without thought on our part; the mind cannot stop it. Digestion works without our intervention, be it emotional or intellectual. We breathe without reflection.
'True, the whole body is made of flesh, but the essential mass is the trunk and the thighs. It is there that we find the real universe, hidden by the universe of our limited perception' (Klein, quoted in Stich, op.cit., 1994, p. 175).
In Ant 127, this interest in the torso and its life force allows Klein to marry the Immaterial in the heady and sensual world of the material. Tumbling to the Earth, this blue figure is the infinite made flesh, the product of a wondrous reverse apotheosis. This Blue incarnate is therefore an extension of the almost invisible and mystical planes of existence that Klein believed co-existed with our own. Klein had long been interested in Rosicrucian conceptions of the world. One of the aspects that he particularly engaged with were the different spiritual and material planes, a gradation of interlinking dimensions ranging from the most material world in which we live, through to the divine and Immaterial. According to Rosicrucian thought, these levels exist inextricably attached to each other; in Ant 127, Klein has managed to summon a superior, Immaterial level of existence into being, an angelic blue form bursting into our world, filled with the raw and indefinable power of life itself. And at the same time, he implies that we all contain aspects of the sublime.