Spencer Tunick’s work is designed to bring the human body to the forefront. To invigorate a sense of community, to defy death and celebrate life.
“And also, I like to aggravate conservatives,” he admits to Yahoo Lifestyle, chatting from New York where the pandemic has forced him into lockdown, and where he’s never been itching to stick it to the system quite so much.
The artist is famous across the globe for his mass nude photoshoots at iconic locations.
He once directed 15,000 people in a square in Mexico City, and famously covered the Sydney Opera House steps in hundreds of nude bodies in 2010.
Now, however, the 53-year-old New-Yorker has had to adapt – as the executor of mass nude photographs, his work is almost the antithesis of social distancing, a uniquely impossible project during a pandemic.
So, he’s gone digital and he wants 100 Aussies to strip off and join in.
Stay Alone Together
The artist has launched a brand new project, Stay Alone Together, in which up to 100 participants video call in from their homes and are directed in a group nude sequence the photographer describes as a ‘mosaic, kind of like a stained glass window’.
Spencer tells Yahoo Lifestyle it’s some of his most intimate work so far. Despite being conducted from thousands of miles away on a computer screen, he says he is connecting with his subject on a far more personal level.
“It’s important that everyone mutes their microphone,” he laughs. “But the great thing is that as I scroll across the screen everyone’s names pop up, so I'm actually directing people by their first names.”
“In a way, it’s very intimate,” he admits. “I’m not able to do that when working live with groups of people.”
Participants will video in from home, an element he says makes it easier for those trepidatious about getting their gear off on camera.
“I think it’s easier for people to do it alone just because they’re not affected by the elements or the cold and they’re in a familiar space which is their home,” he says. “I think in this time it’s more meaningful that they can connect through art.”
Spencer trying to redefine nudity
The artist’s famous public nudes have raised eyebrows, and even landed him in jail a few times over the years, but he says he is determined to crusade against what he calls a ‘close-minded’ understanding of the human form.
“I think it's my way of shouting against conservative ideals,” Stanley says. “The body naked in public space is one of the last taboos. It’s illegal in most of the United States so it’s still controversial. It’s still like a lightning bolt to conservatives and close-minded thinking.”
“We’re so used to seeing Game of Thrones and nudity in pornography that we forget that the body in the public space is an explosion, it’s an explosion of life that really resonates,” he says.
Though you could be forgiven for mistaking the thousands of bare bodies in his works for a mass of creatures, he says the photos are designed to humanise the human race and undermine more sinister elements associated with images of thousands of naked people.
“My works are about reconfirming the love of community and life,” he says. “[It's about] bringing some life into this image of people that you most associate with mass death.”
‘I want the government to see what 50,000 dead people look like’
He says his work has the ability to humanise huge numbers and chunks of humanity, that otherwise become figures on a page – the coronavirus death toll for example.
A notorious liberal, Tunick is dissatisfied with his country’s response to the crisis which has seen over 80,000 die from the disease.
“Times like this make me want to do a work of 50,000 people in front the White House and I feel so helpless,” he says, nodding to the restrictions in place that prevent him from doing so.
“I want the government to see what 50,000 dead people look like, but living.”
In the meantime, he hopes his online work will give people a reminder of collective spirit and will continue to push the envelope of human nudity.
The first installations have had participants ranging from medical professionals, to estranged lovers, teachers and everyone in between and he is hopeful Aussie’s will be enthusiastically throwing their hats in the ring.
The works will be displayed in a censored format on his Instagram page.
Anyone eager to apply should email a photograph (with your clothes on) to: StayApartTogetherAustralia@gmail.com
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