Spencer Tunick is an American photographer
and performance artist
who has made a name for himself by organizing mass nude
displays of volunteer members of the public, whom he photographs in some usually very public place.
The individuals en masse, without their clothing, grouped together, metamorphose into a new shape. Their bodies extend into and upon the landscape like a substance. These grouped masses which do not underscore sexuality become abstractions that challenge or reconfigure one's views of nudity and privacy. The work also refers to the complex issue of presenting art in permanent or temporary public spaces.
They really do look good, and not for the at first glance obvious reason. Yes, you can see individual bits on a few of the people if you look closely enough, but more often it's of a sea of similar figures: think of a catch of fish, all glistening and silver, or a pile of exotic fruit in a bazaar, but this is the pink and brown of flesh
. In most installation
s they're lying down in the road or park or somewhere like that, sometimes filling a huge space completely, at other times carefully lined up down the centre. At other times they're all standing. He works in both colour and black-and-white, and also does photographs of individuals.
Lots and lots of people volunteer, and he keeps a mailing list of people in each place who are willing to join him at short notice to participate.
He has done this work in many places all around the world, but his most persistently preferred venue is Times Square in New York, no doubt for the reason that he keeps getting arrested, and wins his release, and is determined to do it without molestation, whereas the local authorities are still determined to stop him. He has been arrested five times in New York since 1992. He filed a suit against the city and in May 2000 the Second U.S. District Court upheld that his artworks fell within the protection of the First Amendment. The Supreme Court confirmed this judgement in June.
Just recently he has been in London, first at the opening of the new Saatchi Gallery in the old County Hall, and then at Selfridges department store.
He was born in Middletown, in New York, in 1967, and has a BA from Emerson College, Boston.
Go to www.spencertunick.com and look through the section on Installations.
Update: In the quiet morning of Sunday, 8 June 2003 the streets of Barcelona were filled with seven thousand naked bottoms, Mr Tunick's personal best.