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At the beginning of this year if a fortune-teller had predicted, ”In June you will be kneeling nude on a street in Barcelona at dawn with your bare bottom pointed skyward”, I would have asked for my money back! I have been aware of Spencer Tunick and his work for some time, but it wasn’t until I participated in the nude installation he organised in Selfridges that my views on nudity and privacy were shaken up forever. This controversial photographer from Brooklyn, New York has been taking photographs of nudes both in groups and alone, for around 10 years. He has found the US authorities hostile to his art to say the least, and has been arrested in New York on a number of occasions. However other countries have proved to be more liberal minded and sympathetic to his cause, so he has also worked all over the World from Europe to the Antarctic and by my reckoning has now photographed at least 30,000 people stark naked.
So if I had had my palm read once I had the experience of going nude at Selfridges and been informed that I would do the same thing less than 6 weeks later, I would have said this prediction was spot on. Posing naked with 600 strangers was a bonding experience to say the least and after I had participated in this installation I made contact with others who had been there through a discussion board on the Net.
I knew that there was another naked happening planned in Barcelona on June 8th 2003 and although at first I had no intention of going, I was egged on by the appearance of Spencer Tunick on the BBC news promising that his next multi-nude installation would be his biggest ever. I researched fares on the Internet and once I found that I could fly to Barcelona/Girona with Ryanair for £28 return there was nothing to stop me. I booked a flight and a hostel and then got in contact with others who were going out.
After getting up at the unearthly hour of 2.30 am to get the first flight out of Stansted I was pretty tired. But my friend and I decided that it would be best to locate the
avenue in front of The Museum of Arts of Catalunya where the next day’s installation was to be held, so that we could find it easily early the next morning. We knew that some people had been turned away from Selfridges due to the larger than anticipated turn-out and we didn’t intend having flown all that way for that to happen to us in Barcelona.
After a second night of little sleep, I again had to get up at 2.30am and after dressing we walked through the streets of Barcelona to the Avinguda de la Reina Maria Christina – the location where it was all going to happen. The main reason I had wanted to find people to go to the shoot with was because I knew that it would start early in the morning, and I did not want to have to walk through an unfamiliar city alone at that time. In fact I was more worried about doing this than stripping naked with thousands of strangers. However I needn’t have been concerned at all as there were lots of people around hanging out and drinking in the many open cafes and the worst thing we saw was a gentleman urinating into a plant pot!
After arriving at the venue at 3.20am we stood outside for a while watching the ever growing crowd before being allowed into a warehouse at around 4.am. Although we had been put into groups to facilitate quick entrance into the area; which we had been informed of by email, once everyone saw the first people handing over their consent forms and going through the temporary entrances there was a general charge. I think everyone had the same fear that we did – that there would not be enough space for everyone and that they would be the ones left out in the cold. After the effort we had made to participate in this event I don’t think any of the Brits there could have handled the disappointment.
We then had to wait for daybreak before the installation began, which was quite some time due to Spain being closer to the Equator than this country. Luckily we met some other people that we had been in contact previously, but still the time seemed to drag so many people occupied themselves with handclapping and singing, whilst a few impatient people got naked. Cheers greeted Spencer Tunick’s arrival, but still we waited on until finally he decided that the hour had arrived. We were told to spread out through the warehouse in lines at arms length from our neighbours and memorise something nearby. For those who wonder about these things, this is how we found our clothes again. The final instruction given by Spencer before going outside to make his final preparations was to stay dressed until we were told otherwise.
Once the word went out it was a case of stripping as quickly as possible so as not to be one of the last people dressed. The Spanish man next to me collapsed into giggles at the sight of so many naked bodies and his amusement was infectious – I could not stop laughing either. As I walked through the warehouse out into the open air I noticed a fully clothed gentleman asleep on the hard floor which amused me even more - though the rough surface was ripping my feet to shreds.
Lying on my back - stark naked and uncomfortable on a hard pavement with total strangers under the Barcelona sky, I wondered why I felt so great about doing it – and I still can’t give an answer. Perhaps it was disporting myself with the exuberant Catalan people to entertain the World’s media that added to the feel-good factor. I joined in the songs and the chanting – and the practice of giving applause by spanking my own buttocks! The second set-up involved forming our bodies into a ball by kneeling with our heads touching our knees so that our bottoms pointing skywards. Even though I knew that anyone behind must have been getting an eyeful of bits of me that only my lovers and gynaecologist have ever seen before – I spent the time giggling with the Finnish girl beside me whilst Spencer kept shushing us all up like naughty kids.
Before going into the warehouse for the final photo’s my friend and I recreated our experience at Selfridges by riding an escalator to a bridge to watch some of the models dancing naked and shouting down at the amused drivers and pedestrians below. Thankfully my fear of heights prevented me from climbing up to join them so I retained some modicum of good behaviour. Others splashed around in the concrete pools along the side of the avenue watched by non-participants who had by this time been allowed in as the event was drawing to a close. I will never forget the expression on the face of one Spanish gentleman who was so shocked I wondered if he would suffer a stroke.
Once back inside the warehouse Spencer took a couple more photographs of us all, whilst those fortunate enough to possess long black hair were invited to attend another installation the next day. By the time I was so carried away by the whole thing that I was quoted by name by a US journalist in The New York Times as saying…“That bottom smacking thing is rude!” I don’t think I could have dreamed up anything to say that would have beaten such a stupid comment to be quoted with, but at the time I didn’t give a shit! It wasn’t till later that I began to get a sneaky feeling that a lot of the behaviour was childish but still at the time I joined in and loved it. Personally I think that deep down this is the attraction for me, I am participating in something that upbringing and social conditioning dictates is a bit naughty.
So would I do it again? Of course the answer is yes! The Barcelona event involved 7.000 naked models and broke Spencer’s previous one set in Chile. Sadly in his native New York his work is branded obscene but luckily for us it means that he tends to come to Europe to make his art. So all I can say is thanks Spencer and see you next time you are in Europe!
Finally the biggest thanks of all goes to the young Spanish gentleman who came up as we were leaving and pointed at my bum, asking my group for the word for it in English. The fact that one of my friends told me that he had said that my big, saggy, dimpled posterior was very beautiful was the final event that made Sunday June 8th 2003 so special!