American artist Spencer Tunick has been documenting the nude figure in public since 1992. The controversial photographer and videographer has hosted up to 100 installations involving thousands of naked people in countries around the world including the US, Britain, Brazil, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, France and Holland. His largest work to date involved 18,000 people posing in Mexico City in 2007.
In America, Tunick has been arrested seven times.
Yesterday’s event brought 5,200 people to the Sydney Opera House for a shoot titled ‘Mardi Gras: The Base’, commissioned by Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival.
“I want all couples to embrace and kiss, all friends to kiss and all strangers to do whatever they want,” Tunick said as he directed the crowd.
Seeing NSFW photos almost guarantees a click thru on photos because of our prurient interest in seeing the forbidden — or naked people. This is the point of Tunick’s photography, which seeks to capture the human condition among large numbers of people.
Straight and gay participants — including one pregnant woman who postponed her C-section by hours to join the event — expressed the nonsexual nature of the event, while emphasizing its ‘tribal’, humanist vibe.
‘Tribal’ is a bit like ‘sensual’ in that the word implies ‘natural’ which is forbidden and disgusting, according to the patriarchy. The sometimes naked Indians of America and the Latin American women who greeted Columbus with flowers had to be ‘civilized’ by religion — as an example.
In particular, this loathing of the human body and our physicality has haunted — and I argue militarized — societies in its path.
The loathing of physicality has impacted women more so than men, because women menstruate and give birth. We do not forget that we’re tied to nature, while men build monuments into the sky, proving that they are not ‘of the earth’ or womanlike.
Ernest Becker argued that men try to escape their mortality, and women remind them that they can’t, but that discussion is way too lofty for Monday morning.
Note, I’m not an advocate of nudity per se, and I once had an office on the 22nd story of the Empire State Building, so I’m not anti-skyscrapers.
I’m only trying to create context and understanding around this art event and others like it. Americans often don’t understand that other countries aren’t nearly as Puritanical about the human body. These events don’t get people arrested, as they do in America.
The nudity in art concept is being tested again, here in New York. Read my story about the Brian Reed exhibit in NYC. I was there Sat. and will return for an interview later this week.
The Jordan Matter post, with its Today Show interview, is another very popular post on body image and public nudity for women.