Thursday, March 4, 2010

Living Art: Mardi Gras: The Base - Installation by Spencer Tunick (possibly NSFW)

By Beau

(Photo by REUTERS/Tim Wimbourn, appears in Sydney's Daily Telegraph)

I'm back from two weeks cruising around New Zealand and Australia, a trip that encompassed every emotion from fantastical to just weird, which, on a vacation is just fine with me.

The absolute highlight of the trip, beyond the amazing new group of friends we met, was being able to participate in Spencer Tunick's art installation "Mardi Gras: The Base" on March 1st at the base of the Sydney Opera House, as seen in the picture above.

More about our participation and how I can absolutely prove I was there among the 5,200.

Spencer Tunick is famous for his use of nudes, typically hundreds to several thousand, draped, laying, and standing in poses against the backdrop of iconic places, buildings, and structures around the world.

As it happened Sydney's Mardi Gras organization commissioned Mr. Tunick to do an installation against the world-famous Sydney Opera House as part of the Sydney Mardi Gras celebration going on this week and my husband and I were finishing our Big Gay Cruise Down Under in Sydney just as it was happening.  We showed up with 5,200 others at 4am at the base of the Opera House awaiting further directions.  Just before dawn we were asked to strip naked and fan out over the steps and platforms around the Opera House within lines and markings he'd provided.  Via a mic and megaphone, he positioned us all within a triangle-shaped structure, asking for spaces to be filled in over various parts of the base and stairs.  During the the next hour, he shot us in several positions, standing, laying down, and embracing while several helicopters bobbed overhead, people had their morning coffee on their balconies overlooking the Opera House, and the media partitioned off to the side filmed and reported on the going-ons.

To our great surprise and fortune, most of the crowd had also been provided tickets at the outset of the installation which turned out to be passes to participate in a second installation within the main concert hall of the Opera House.  We were directed there from the steps and were able to fill every seat within the concert hall while several hundred were asked to lay down and cover the entire concert hall stage floor.  He shot several pictures in the hall having us again pose standing, sitting, laying down, and draped over one another.  I could only liken this experience with being able to sit in a packed house at Lincoln Center's Met or Radio City Music Hall completely naked; something I'm not sure many can say they've ever done.  Besides the Concert Hall being stunningly beautiful, it's wood-paneled interiors blended seamlessly with all the skin-tone variations of the participants, making the inside seem to glow and come alive with the rustling of the people as they were asked to move and position themselves.

As exciting as the outside shots were, the most memorable pose for me was in the concert hall with the entire theater in the round standing and facing forward while the stage remained covered with bodies laying flat.

The entire morning participating in this installation was without a doubt one of the most memorable experiences I've ever had.  I'm not a naturalist in the sense that I don't seek out nude venues or participate in nude activities usually, but I couldn't resist being part of an artist's vision in a way that stretched my own personal boundaries.  Also, there is something about being naked with 5,200 others, standing outside in a public venue that is almost indescribable.  I would recommend anyone who has the opportunity to participate in one of Mr. Tunick's installations to do so without thought, hesitation, or concern.

The following morning, as we were scouring the local papers about the installation, a lady at the counter where we were buying papers asked us about the event and then opened one of the papers to a large picture of some of the participants and asked us where we were.  Surprisingly, as I skimmed over the detail of the photo in the paper, I actually found us in the picture, pointed it out, and said, "Umm...we're right here!"  Now while I'm sure there will be people who will claim they were in the photo somewhere, I have a picture that absolute proves it.
(Photo from Daily Telegraph, March 2nd, by AFP/Greg Wood)

More pictures from the event can be found at the Sydney Daily Telegraph and The Australian.


  1. Well if ever there was a photo that we all most assuredly embiggened... Lookin' good, Beau!

  2. Beau, what a fascinating event to get to take part in, and in Sydney! on vacation! and your nekkid pic in the local paper! And then to share it so vividly.
    I'm pretty sure I don't want to go to a naked concert at Lincoln Center.