Monday, May 16, 2011

Spencer Tunick

Spencer Tunick became known by his photos of groups of nude models in apocalyptic formations in the streets of New York, and then embarked in a country wide tour photographing nude people in every state, which was released as a documentary called Naked States. A few years later a follow up documentary called Naked World was released.

As the masses of naked people increased, Spencer reunited 18,000 people in the Zocalo in Mexico, a number difficult to top.

Personally, I find more compelling and poetic his individual portraits and smaller groups. The image below was, chronologically, prior to the naked states tour.

Even after the El Zocalo installation, Spencer did a new series of individual portraits both in Mexico and Europe.

Ever since I saw Naked States, Spencer Tunick became a source of inspiration. I wished to be a part of one of his installations, and I also wanted to get back into photography. I was dealing with body image issues at the time -which I would soon realize were a phobia from my childhood. Well, it took a few years (and I had time to get back into arts and photography before it happened), but in 2007 I was part of one of his installations, at the Sagamore Hotel in Miami Beach, where the photo below was taken.

Now, several critics in the art scene don't give a lot of credit to Spencer Tunick. I've heard too often that he just keeps doing the same thing over and over, and that the most common reaction to his photos is: "wow, that's a lot of naked people". Heck, I've seen people react that way as well.

I think that:

* Spencer Tunick found a niche and has remained consistent in his work in that niche. Whether he is doing individual portraits, small groups, parties, or large scale installations. His exploration is about the nude figure on concrete, against a urban backdrop, in a non-glamour, non-sexualized format.

* Spencer Tunick's art has a certain community reach. It speaks to people, to non-artists who feel the desire of liberating their own inhibitions, improve their self image and relationship to their bodies, or just enjoy a socially nude environment and the transgression of being naked or seeing the nude figure where they would normally not be allowed to disrobe. Perhaps this community involvement is something that elitists and critics dislike. Art traditionally is something that the public gets to see from a distance, not something that they get to participate of.

* There is the old-age question of what is art, and what is expected of art. Perhaps we are looking for a too intellectual response to an idea that doesn't need to be that intellectual. Perhaps it's as simple as seeing an empty wall and wanting to draw a graffiti on it. Perhaps Spencer saw the grey concrete and wanted to pour some flesh on it to see what it would look like, and he just liked it.

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