Going naked in public is a joyful release for mind and body
doubt I shall ever see blue in the same way again, since blue paint on my skin was the only thing covering my nakedness. I was among the 3,200 people – strangers to one another when it all began – who took part in the largest naked photo shoot in Britain, wearing nothing but four shades of blue body paint.
This work of performance art, named The Sea of Hull, was conceived by New York-based photographer Spencer Tunick and commissioned by the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull in north-east England as part of the city’s place as UK Capital of Culture in 2017, with Tunick’s exhibition as one of its highlights.
Tunick’s work has been widely discussed in academic literature as much as in the tabloids. But in the book Judging the Image by sociologist Alison Young, she describes Tunick’s early years and struggles against the law in the US, and also includes comments from those who have participated in his many installations. The spectrum of feelings aroused in those participating in Tunick’s work – as described in the book – echo the sentiments I have just heard expressed from my fellow participants in Hull.
My nude buddy summarised the event as joy, community, and release. And these are the three words with which I want to develop an approach to Tunick’s work and try to explain the reasons that led me to be a part of his human sea.