“Way too many people want to get naked in Australia,” photographer Spencer Tunick told Limelight. “[More] than anywhere else in the world… besides Mexico. A good thing for me as my medium is people.”
Tunick has made work in Australia twice before, the first time in 2001, photographing 4,500 naked people with the Melbourne skyline as a backdrop, and the second time in Sydney for an event that carpeted the steps of the Sydney Opera House in 5,000 nude bodies. He’s got Melbourne in his sights once more, however, with his next Australian work, Return of the Nude, to take place in Chapel Street as the headliner of the 2018 PROVOCARÉ Festival.
5,000 people stripped for Spencer Tunick’s 2010 photo at the Sydney Opera House. Photo © Spencer Tunick
“Chapel Street reminds me of the East Village in New York, Sunset Strip in LA, and San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury, but all combined into one juggernaut,” Tunick said in a media release. “I think people from Melbourne are a little braver because of their willingness to pose no matter the weather. I get a sense of resilience and risk taking.”
Tunick was also attracted to the ambience of Chapel Street itself. “It’s multicultural, people seemed open and generally happy while I was walking by them,” he told Limelight.
Spencer Tunick’s 2001 photo shoot in Melbourne. Photo © Spencer Tunick
Tunick has staged 125 mass nude installations around the world and has also been arrested a number of times, including in 1999 when he encouraged 150 people to lie naked in New York’s Times Square so he could photograph them as part of his Naked States tour.
Desert Spirits 1.1 in Nevada, USA, 2013. Photo © Spencer Tunick
“To be nude in a place that there is never normally nude people, for artistic purposes, creates a unique dynamic between you and the concrete world,” Tunick explains. “One pays attention to how vulnerable yet powerful the human body and spirit is as their image bounces off the sides of structures and the paved road beneath.”
These are ideas Tunick wants to explore in Melbourne, “working with the body as temporary human graffiti and calling on the spirits of love and mystery.”
Spencer Tunick and PROVOCARÉ Festival Director John Lotton. Photo: supplied
Registrations are open for participants wanting to be involved in the event. “Over two days, Spencer will direct hundreds of Melburnians while using Chapel Street as his canvas,” PROVOCARÉ Festival Director John Lotton said. “As the name suggests, this is a provocative and challenging festival of the arts, and you will certainly need to release your inhibitions to participate in this experience, which has been described as ‘tribal’ by past participants.”
“The art event will go ahead no matter what the weather is like on the day,” said Chapel Street’s Events & Marketing Director Chrissie Maus. “If you’re worried about the cold, don’t be, because participants will not be naked for long periods of time.”
The Bavarian State Opera in Munich, 2012. Photo © Spencer Tunick
The festival is calling for participants (over the age of 18), “regardless of age, race, gender, ability, or body shape.” On one of the two days, the artist will be using a specially formulated cosmetic body make-up, small canisters of which will be handed out for participants to apply.
So what will the experience be like for those who want to get naked for art? “It’s always different, but it’s an overall positive experience,” Tunick told Limelight. “Hopefully they will see how hard I am working to create a finished piece that expresses my ideas and at the same time fills a void in their lives that they never knew was missing. Having a nude communal art experience with your friend or new friend is something memorable and hopefully artistically satisfying.”