Spencer Tunick as God Above
Continuing the ‘God theme’ from yesterday: tomorrow Stephanie and I are off to the Lowry Gallery in Salford Quays for ‘The Naked Debate’ at 7pm. Here’s the gist of how I plan to open the discussion:
I have heard from participants in Spencer Tunick’s installations that their first experience of a shoot is one that provides them with a tremendous high – an exhilarating sense that they have broken free of taboos, inhibitions and constraints. Just like candidates for initiation in a Mystery School – whether of ancient Greece or within a modern day witches’ coven – they have to suffer hours, perhaps days or weeks, of nervous anticipation: questioning their motives and worrying about what might happen, until they have to go through the ordeal of the early morning start, the cold, the waiting around, until finally the command comes through the megaphone to get undressed. Apparently a wave of adrenalin – a primal fear of exposure mixed with an equally primal longing for freedom – flows through the group, followed by a flurry of activity as clothes are shed. And then – as the often thousands of bodies stand naked together for the first time – a roar rolls through the crowd, and a great cheer ascends to God – in this case Tunick himself, perched upon a ladder or crane…
After the debate we’ll be seeing a performance of the Druid Theatre Company: ‘The Silver Tassie’.
If you feel like some discussion on nudity, some art and theatre come and join us in sunny Manchester!
- Spencer Tunick plans nude photo in Israel (thejc.com)
- Spencer Tunick: bare with me (telegraph.co.uk)
Sorry I will not be there tomorrow. I was at the Lowry a few days ago, and this mid-week date was a bit difficult to organise. Otherwise I would have been thrilled to join in the debate.
Having done quite a bit of Spencer Tunick related stuff this year, I can say that different crowds have different responses. In Aurillac, for example, people just undressed at the word go, and immediately you could hear a chorus of ouches as people realised that the ground was really prickly. As such, Spencer didn’t get as much of a cheer from the newly naked crowd.
At The Big Chill, a couple of weeks prior to Aurillac, people undressed and immediately began to paint themselves in their designated colours, so again: a lot of activity, very little cheering.
In both cases, however, Spencer received a loud applause at the end of each setup.
So is Spencer God-like? I don’t think so, and I’m not sure many people perceive him as such. He is a celebrity, no question, people admire his work, other people admire the way he can undress thousands of people at the drop of a hat.
On the other hand, the experience of mass-undressing still provides a very unique experience, almost like a prelude to the initiation, but not quite the rite itself. The actual initiation comes later, when you find yourself huddled with hundreds of other people on a freezing Salford morning, suffering for art, yet feeling the very exhilaration that will remain with you for life.
I really enjoyed the debate last night, I’m sure we could have gone on for a few more hours!
I could relate to the lady who said that her husband rejected her because of her body shape, because that’s exactly what happened to me. It destroyed my confidence for many years and I couldn’t even bear to look at myself in the mirror. It’s only with the help of some very supporting and loving friends that I have managed to regain my self-esteem and have begun to believe, as another lady put it, that it is perfectly normal to have a body shape like mine.
Nakedness does give one a sense of freedom and although I’m still not quite ready for the World Naked Bike Ride yet (more to do with the fear of gravel-rash than anything else), I am a lot more comfortable in my own skin and enjoy wandering around naked at home, no longer feeling that someone is subconciously telling me to cover up.
Thank you so much for the debate last night, please come back to the North West again soon.
Karen (the OBODie at the front)