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Tunick on TV
2005-07-18: When I wrote the blog below I'd only had an hour's sleep in the Mecca Bingo car park in Gateshead, and I'd just woken from an hour's dozing at home and couldn't go back to sleep. I also realised that there was a tv programme about the event to be broadcast that night and I admit I was a little nervous about what I'd see. Being very tall, I tend to stand out.
My thoughts have settled a little now. The programme helped (we bought a Logic LDR1 set-top box for £44.99 from Currys just for the occasion and shockingly, it worked). It actually did well to put Tunick's work into perspective, and all the issues the work is 'intended' to convey were the issues I got from his work. It also served as a reminder of exactly what had happened, Tunick's loudhailer instructions took me right back there, as did, interestingly, taking my clothes off to have a shower.
I had rehearsed in my head the reasons for me doing it. Firstly, I love Tunick's art. For me the cityscapes show the vulnerability of us humans within a hostile environment, despite the environment being built and developed for our use. Secondly my working definition of art is something done with the intention of understanding what it is to be human. Tunick's work goes beyond delivering a message through a painting or song, you can actually get inside the work and experience what he's trying to put across. His work is about vulnerability, you can get that from the photographs, but you can get it espresso by going and taking part. I worried about things like leaving my car keys, clothes and wallet in a bag in a car park in Gateshead on a Saturday night, but concluded that was all part of the vulnerability experience, just give in to it. The chap next to me planned to keep his car keys in his hand. Good idea, I thought, then, no, that would detract from the sense of freedom being nude was going to provide. Thirdly, it seemed to be a way to support art that was different from just buying it. Finally, it looked like immense fun.
On the 'fun' side, they were a great bunch of people. In a 'normal' group you'd get the naysayers, the moaners. Almost by definition, this group were people who wanted to experience something outside the norm, willing to take a risk, and they were art-aware (I'd only seen the flyers in galleries). The jokes came often .. "has anyone got a pen I could borrow?" Applause were done with buttock slapping. Tunick people are great people, people I could spend time with.
Now I feel it's even more than that. The tv programme went through the history of the nude in art. It's a core image going back to the oldest art from long-gone civilisations. I got to thinking that Tunick's work updates the nude. Perhaps getting 1,500 people together to make art is something that's much easier today. We are gathered in impressive cities and those who aren't can transport themselves easily. Organisation is easy through modern communication. Photography (only about 100 years old) saves the models posing all day. So having lots, thousands, of nudes in an image is something that's very modern.
Putting thousands of nudes in a picture makes them very small, almost turns them into individual brushstrokes, but each imbued with their own meaning, their own reasons for doing what they did, and some clearly did have issues. One guy before the initial disrobing curled up on the floor shaking and holding himself. But that people-as-brushstrokes thing makes for a very complex work indeed, and complexity itself is a modern phenomenon. This is big, important, long lasting art and I'm loving the fact I was part of it.
As I left a woman in a group behind me said "I'm only concerned what the kids might think", and I turned and said "well, I'm only concerned what my mum will think". I think she should be proud.
More news: Independent Online, South Africa, News24, The Guardian, The Scotsman, Channel 4 News, Art Daily.

By John Allsopp
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