On Saturday 30th of March 2019, I woke up at 4 am to pose naked for Spencer Tunick along with a little over a thousand other very naked people.
A lot of people asked me why on earth I would do this? Well, I admire Tunick’s work and how he manages to transform human bodies into jaw-dropping photographs. He is a controversial character and his work generates a lot of heated discussions such as if his photography is considered art or not. Or what is public and private, the tolerated and the forbidden, the moral and the immoral, the individual and the collective. It was also my third attempt to pose for him, and I finally made it happen.
In May 2001, Tunick had been in Montreal and either my alarm went off, or I pressed snooze at 4am and just rolled over, it’s not clear in my mind anymore, but I never made it and I regretted it after. Then, Spencer Tunick went to Santiago, Chile in June 2002, while I was also in Santiago waiting for my Canadian residency papers to come through. I decided to go with my friend Nelson. I picked him up at 4am and went to Santiago’s Fine Arts Museum at “Parque Forestal”. When we got there, there was complete chaos! 4000 people had answered his call and hundreds of Evangelicals and Catholics where there protesting the event and calling it offensive. A couple of people threw themselves at my feet saying “Hermana, no te saques la ropa” and begging me to reconsider. And thousands of people had already thrown off their clothes in the bitter cold and where running around everywhere not even paying attention to Mr Tunick’s instructions. Quite a lot of them where drunk, quite a lot of them where just plain merry to be freely naked, and quite a few chilean flags where wrapped across people’s bodies. People where singing the national anthem, and poor Spencer Tunick was standing on his ladder with his un-heard megaphone looking entirely baffled about what was happening around him. There were also police, who had the same facial expression that Mr Tunick had, bemused, confused, not sure how to proceed. I decided to be a spectator of what was happening in my country and left my clothes on. I couldn’t quite trust that no one would steal my clothes, and I preferred being a witness to the craziness around me. I can say it was quite unforgettable. The national newspaper said the following:
Tunick, idealmente quería fotografiar a un grupo de personas en un lugar urbano, pero la sorpresa fue que hubo una respuesta masiva. La instalación artística o manifestación social, desconcertó al sector sociológico en el país y de pasó derribó el mito de la inhibición en la sociedad chilena.
I had still not taken my clothes off. So when I saw that Spencer Tunick would be in Valencia I almost felt like I owed it to him!!! La tercera es la vencida, as they say in Chile!
We were scheduled to meet at 5am at the Centro del Carmen in the old city. It was cold, 8 degrees. Not cold like in Montreal, or like many other places in the the world. But damn cold to be walking around naked as Spencer Tunick would share with us encouragingly.
When I walked there at 4:30 am, I could see how the entire section of the Torres de Serrano was all blocked off and cameras where being installed! Things were definitely happening! I arrived and there were hundreds of people lining up to sign the consent sheets. I wondered how many of them had just simply come after partying. Maybe a lot, but I was still surprised by the diversity of ages and backgrounds. There were more men then women though. And things were definitely smoother then the experience in Chile!
Women were taken to one side of the old building and men were taking their clothes off in another section. And at 6:30, as the sun was rising, we were asked to take our clothes off. The first few moments were a mix of excitement, adrenaline, cold and shyness. And then, when you are running bare feet and naked down a city road with a thousand others like you, you forget all of that! The shrieks of excitement are impossible to retain as you run down the road, even though you might be waking up the whole city! We walked 280 metres, which under normal circumstances is not a lot, but bare feet and naked, it feels like 1km!
It was an experience like no other to see the sunrise alongside 1000 bare bodies against the back drop of Valencia’s Torres de Serrano. But I was missing having gone with someone to share the experience with and to laugh off the fact that my feet where going numb with the cold!
Then Mr Tunick wanted every woman to pair up with a man. And, this was awkward. I paired up with an unknown, young french man. So, as Mr Tunick would ask, he laid down on the the very cold ground while I put my foot on his chest. It was a very pro-feminine statement. And, I wished Andy was there with me. But, I felt so bad for this body shaking underneath me for a good ten minutes, that I quickly forgot my shyness and went into empathy mode! We then had to hold hands. There I was, staring into some very blue eyes, of a stranger’s naked body for the love of art. The instructions were very clear, do not smile, just look neutral towards the horizon, and do not talk until Spencer said so. The silence that would occur during shots was beautiful, only broken by the clicking sounds of Spencer Tunick’s camera. Again, an experience soaked in feelings and emotions! We had all just become one. A statement frozen in time. We were all, just bodies in service of art.
And then, we moved to the other side of the Torres del Serrano, where again the crowd erupted in excited shrieks until we were asked to quiet down. We spent another twenty minutes taking a couple of shots, again, with quite a strong pro-feminine statement. And the men, were once again asked to be on the floor!
After the second photograph, the men where taken to another section of the old town while the women were taken under a beautiful heritage tree next to the Turia Park. Spencer was going to take one photograph just with the men, and then he would come and take one with us. It was absolute torture to wait under that tree for what seemed like hours, it was probably more like 45 minutes. But, it was impossible to abandon ship. Nobody wanted to be the only one to run, butt naked, through downtown for 5 minutes towards their clothes. So, we stuck it out. A few women were complaining, even swearing, and when Spencer finally arrived the Spanish women made it clear to him that they were not happy!
And then, Spencer made us lie down in front of the tree and point our arms up. It must have been incredible to see hundreds of women laying down in reverence to Mother Earth. I do think Spencer Tunick is an artistic genius. But it was cold and horrible on our backs! And I was so relieved when it was over!
When I finally put my clothes on, it was almost a bizarre feeling to see how clothed we all are. My feet where numb and frozen, my body ached, I was exhausted, but I was so happy I had done it. And I would do it again! Gracias Spencer! Gracias Valencia!