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Spencer Tunick: peeling off in Peel Park

Jonathan Schofield watches as hundreds of naked people join in for group art installation

Written by . Published on May 1st 2010.


Spencer Tunick: peeling off in Peel Park

Here are pictures of lots of naked people in Peel Park behind Salford Art Gallery.

Maybe in Peel Park in the sun in spring, the naked women should have reminded me of The Garden of Eden: Eve among the fruit trees before The Fall. Instead I just got the Fall. The loneliness, the anomie, a view literally of the God-forsaken.

They are part of Spencer Tunick's evocation of the work of Greater Manchester miserablist Laurence Stephen Lowry. Naked people are Tunick's thing. He's been attracting attention around the world for a while now, gathering and photographing hordes of naked people. He said in Peel Park, “by using nudity I give a space new meaning, I enthuse it with nudity, revealing a different or new relationship between the concrete and the human world.”

Tunick's here as part of a commission from The Lowry at The Quays to mark the building's tenth birthday celebration. Later in the year the photographs Tunick takes will form an exhibition at The Lowry. It's the bravest thing the arts venue has done in its decade of existence.

Back to Peel Park. It should have been beautiful: the park was almost violently green, and flower decked, on a sunny Mayday morning. But watching the action live, watching the naked people being directed round the park, I didn't see beauty, only fragility.

In fact I shivered, but not from the morning chill. Here was the strange horror of The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch. My mind played back footage of Holocaust victims being shuffled to their death trying to protect their dignity with their hands.

Peel Park by L S Lowry with no naked people

Others in the press didn't seem to be getting this. They were cooing about how lovely it all was. Looking at the pictures on this page I can see human softness and beauty, especially with the women round the flower beds. The naked participants seemed to have a laugh too, clapping each other, giggling at shared jokes, while the artist ordered them this way and that (another Holocaust association) with a loud-hailer.

Maybe the mild hangover I was carrying was souring the experience. Maybe in Peel Park in the sun in spring, the naked women should have reminded me of The Garden of Eden: Eve among the fruit trees before The Fall. Instead I just got the Fall. The loneliness, the anomie, a view literally of the God-forsaken.

This might be what Tunick wanted – along with giving Peel Park, 'new meaning'. If the artist wanted to echo Lowry's work then he achieved it.

Lowry was an introvert of stunning magnificence. He should have won awards for his introversion. When he painted crowds all he gave us was isolation, humans all together and all alone. Tunick has taken Lowry's industrial scenes packed with individuals seemingly moving without independent purpose, parts in the industrial machine, and converted them into a post-industrial world where, as he says, “culture has become the industry of the area.”

At the same time he's exaggerated the separateness by having the participants take their clothes off. Lowry's bitter vision full of ant-like humans has been re-invented and given greater emphasis by these vulnerable, naked people paraded round Manchester and Salford.

That aside, it's a coup for The Lowry to have delivered this project. Congratulations to the venue for bringing a world-renowned artist to the region, and well done to those who got their kit off. On Tuesday we've got a report from one of the latter: the naked truth you might say.

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23 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Jonathan Schofield - editorMay 1st 2010.

By the way if you wonder why there are only women (well apart from one man) on these pictures, I confess I got there late, and missed the naked men. Timing is everything. Also I texted a picture of the nude scene to friends. One of them texted back wondered if I was thinking of partaking of self-abuse while watching all the women. He's a very naughty man, but that was another characteristic of this experience, it was the least erotic thing I've ever seen. Thank God.

starkers in the parkMay 2nd 2010.

Johnathan, I think you have completely missed the point, from where you were standing that may be what you saw ( Haulaucast? seriously Johnathan?) but from where we all were, together it was an amazingly beautiful thing, hundreds of different people, free and non judgemental just being human without any hangups or BS, it was a unique thing and very empowering for many people and it was not supposed to be erotic but a coming together of humanity.

Rachel ClaytonMay 2nd 2010.

I was there the whole morning & I can tell you it was the most amazing liberating experience of my life. The vibe you might have been picking up on in peel park could be due to the chilliness, hunger & fatigue of the participants by this point. This was the last of 3 shoots and we had all been involved in the process since 3.30am at the latest, I had queued outside the lowry from 12.30am!

Spencer's shouting was a cause of amusement to us all and in trying to manipulate 500 naked people I think it was absolutely necessary. Any holocaust association is surely a product of your twisted mind.

What I have taken away from this is the camaraderie, good humour & acceptance of my fellow participants, plus some new friendships and being part of an amazing naked artwork. What more could anyone ask?

Kevin CMay 2nd 2010.

This is fun. The characters in a picture hit back. Schofield's entitled to his point of view. And it's a reasonable one, look at some of the noticeboards and you'll see people have mentioned the holocaust angle.

PGMay 2nd 2010.

Twisted mind to report what a critic sees and feels? No you have it wrong Naked Rach. You were the participant in these 'installations' or whatever they were. That gives you an experiential point of view, not an interpretative one. You can have had as lovely and friendly experience as you say and that's fine. But once the pictures have been taken and you've left, that becomes immaterial and only the opinion of the viewer and the critic (maybe the artist but not as much) matters.

Alfred of WinchesterMay 2nd 2010.

Good point. Learning what Naked Rach felt like is like knowing what the model for the Mona Lisa was thinking? Knowing how she felt is like asking the a Ruben's nude her point of view. Ultimately that's a waste of time because, the relationship is with the person looking at the the art and the artist not the with the model. Although I bet that guy in Constable's Haywain is saying bloody hell how I'm getting out of this, I can't even swim.

Peter RivendellMay 2nd 2010.

I completely echo Naked Rach's comments. A completely amazing experience marred slightly now by some of the press coverage. Wait for the installation to see the work as Spencer envisioned it - and from the viewpoint of his cameras.

Scott NeilMay 2nd 2010.

the above pics made me think more hippy type things rather than vibe on anything National Socialist, i must say. as a viewer think i'm more w participant Naked Rach on this one, but to each their own...

NuikMay 2nd 2010.

Nobody has yet asked what's the point. You all assume it's art. Isn't this an artist who just thinks nudity will sell? Literally the tale of the Emperor's New Clothes.

Scott NeilMay 2nd 2010.

if Manzoni could do http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artist's_shit in the early 60's, then think of the juice Tunick could get if he combined that w his current oeuvre... ;-)

Steven AgranMay 3rd 2010.

I think there's room for both reactions. And remember this isn't the artist's vision yet. Let's see what happens when the pictures go up after later in the year at the Lowry.

AnonymousMay 3rd 2010.

where is Gordo?

costelloMay 3rd 2010.

Great, thought-provoking piece and great, well-argued comments. Good to see all the morons on the Man Con forums seem to have gone away for the weekend and we have a genuinely stimulating debate. And lovely to see Salford for once in the national news for something so unusual and cutting-edge, if you can call getting your kit off, cutting-edge...

ManCon MoronMay 3rd 2010.

Naked people....Eeuuwww! If photographing people in the buff is art then surely The Daily Sport should be a Turner prize contender?!? Where is Salford anyway...?

AnonymousMay 3rd 2010.

This is just some of the different to be cool reporting from Manchester Confidential yet again. Same old crap spouting out and unless you are in with their crowd then it is to be sneered at.

I was there too and I can reiterate all of what Naked Rach has said above. It was a fantastic experience to be a part of. Maybe Jonathan, you need to lighten up, get your balls out and let some calming wind chill you out a bit.

KonradMay 3rd 2010.

Wasn't Schofield the one who didn't like Cafe Rouge as well? What a contrary man. But hey he's allowed to have his say. Thought it was a good article and I probably think that he's not being with the in-crowd on this, who probably are all for the art of it.

Jonathan Schofield - editorMay 3rd 2010.

We have the participants' viewpoint too - fairness and all that. It's the headline on the Homepage now and a lovely article too: http://tinyurl.com/39yxrk4

Harvey PMay 3rd 2010.

I don't understand Anon's comments above. The article seems very well articulated. I disagree with it though as I find the pictures very moving.

starkers in the parkMay 4th 2010.

Interestingly, and this just occured to me recently, as many people have mentioned that the point of the art work is not about the viewpoint of the participant and I certainly agree with this in one way, I also think without the experience and cameraderie etc of the participants perhaps the artwork would not be possible, I mean we all had to be willing, open and free of fears to participate. Just a thought but maybe that is also a valid part of the piece, it certainly did feel that way, as if part of the art was how our perspectives were also improved/changed and so many of us have certainly relaxed our judgementalness ( is that even a word?... is now) and have a much more respectful view of each other. Art is meant to do this right? Meant to make us see differently, think differently because it has certainly got many people thinking and talking and that is a great thing and how humanity progresses.

tuncikscaramelwaferMay 4th 2010.

Aaaah nice chin stroking point with the Romantic tragedy angle Johnston. It was, what it was: amusing, cold, naked, floral.

First time nude!May 4th 2010.

I was there, and yes by 8am it was quite tiring and cold having been out and about since 3am. Its not much fun freezing with your feet on cold wet grass, but that's not the point. After the first shoot in another small park, it felt liberating. I've never done anything of the like before. And I found it beautiful to see so many people standing like living statues as far as you see in every direction in Peel Park in the morning sun. Can't wait to see the exhibition from the artist's point of view. Then only can you judge...

Leigh ScottMay 4th 2010.

Quite randomly,that above post has reminded me of a 'Come and praise' song #19-

I was cold I was naked were you there were you there?I was cold I was naked were you there? And the creed and the colour and the name won't matter I was there!

ha- quality

TheMoronsAreBack!!!!May 4th 2010.

Anyone got Naked Rach's phone number by any chance??.

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