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    Posted March 1, 2010 by
    Sydney, Australia

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    Posing Naked For Art: About Spencer Tunick's Sydney Opera House Shoot


    Sydney, Australia

    March 1 2010

    Despite chilly temperatures and a 4:00 am  start, over 5000 adults of all shapes and sizes showed up to participate in one of the world's most bizarre art spectacles- a Spencer Tunick mass nude photo shoot.


    Tunick takes popular icons - and surrounds and covers them with human flesh. Rather than have a sexual component, the pieces can take on an eerie, sometimes somber note. Fans of the artist marvel at the logistics of getting thousands of people to strip off their clothes and pose still, all in the name of art.


    There were as many reasons for wanting to be a part of the production as there were people. A woman in front of me said she was doing it because she was having a mid-life crisis. Others were celebrating Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (Tunick's work was part of the festival). I was there, along with my husband to ring in our 25th wedding anniversary. We arrived in Sydney 25 years ago and on our first day in the city, all those years ago, we went straight to the Opera House. This seemed like an amazing, adventurous way to kick off a quarter of a century of married life...


    The mood in the crowd was happy, lighthearted. Everyone took their clothes off in sections and at precise times in order to capture the right light of the sun (as it turned out, the sun was behind clouds the whole time). As clothes came off, the waiting crowds cheered them on. When it was our time, we said “Oh my god, here we go!” and just started cracking up and stripping off as the crowds behind us cheered for our turn. We put our clothes in bags, left them where we had been waiting for a couple hours and followed directions walking up stairs, stark naked.


    The whole time my husband and I were laughing our heads off, saying we could not believe we were doing this - especially smack in the middle of one of the world's most iconic landmarks. It felt safely rebellious and at the same time had that feeling of safety in numbers – there were a few “perfect” bodies but for the most part, we were all normal no matter how big, small or whatever. This was collective courage - we were all in it together.


    For Spencer Tunick, getting over 5000 people to form the vision in his head took time. He commanded assistants from a microphone to move a particular section of a crowd one way, or to tell a lone person who would not pay attention to him to look another way. The direction process was surprisingly low tech. There were no monitors for the assistants to get a gauge of what Tunick was seeing. It was “yell directions, get them running to the problem area and go from there”.


    For us posers, we were not only naked, we were naked people with goosebumps. Sydney has had record warm temperatures this summer, up until a day or so before the shoot, but of course, this was the day when winter started to make an appearance. Every time a blast of cool wind whipped through, the crowd gave off a collective, "whoa...." Even with the less than perfect climate conditions for nudism, no one appeared to give up or walk out because of the chill - we were on a mission to be part of something. And besides that, I've watched enough cycles of America's Next Top Model to know a real model puts up with all kinds of situations. "How would Tyra approach this shot?" I thought, trying to distract myself, as I laid flat on my back against the cement with everyone else, the cold concrete shooting straight through my core.


    As the city started to wake up, so did the media and morning commuters. A television chopper or two hovered over the scene and when we didn’t’ have to be still, we waved and cheered at them. When ferries started bringing their passengers back and forth past us - they got a full frontal, “G’day!” The press, held at a distance behind a rope, also got into the moment with a television presenter putting his microphone down and taking his clothes off.


    Probably one of the strangest things for me was when we needed to change locations - go inside for a shoot in one of the concert halls- and were told to grab our bags of clothes, but to stay nude as we found our seats. The Sydney Opera House is where some of the most elite performances are held and to walk inside, up the stairs, into the halls and sit down (we were given plastic bags to cover the chairs we were sitting on) nude, nude, nude was surreal. While we waited for Tunick to set up, people spoke to their neighbors just as if you were making small talk with someone next to you just before a show.


    When it was all over, Tunick thanked us from the bottom of his heart and we were told we needed to have our clothes on before we left the building. This once in a lifetime moment of going against a social grain and taking a giant step out of personal comfort zones was over. We peeled out of the Opera House  and the mood immediately turned from joyous to normal. It was a grey Monday morning at 9:00am and everyone was heading back to their usual lives and their "nine to fives".


    My husband and I did the same but all day long, we couldn't stop smiling about what we had just done.....

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