Spencer Tunick

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SPENCER TUNICK. The charmer of bodies and cities

The wonderful Spencer Tunick will be one of the key artists of the new edition of Intramurs. During one of the days of the festival he will make an artistic installation for which around three thousand people will be summoned, who will undress and walk through the streets of Valencia, posing with their naked bodies before the attentive gaze and firm voice of the American photographer.

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Tunick’s action is presented as one of Intramurs’ main dishes, which with the slogan #Atópic tries to claim art as an external agent that makes react that which remains hidden under the skin. Spencer’s photographs make sense with this motto, since he portrays the city as a dermis over which a multitude of multicellular beings proliferate, which are anonymous, naked and barefoot bodies. The contact of the skin with the asphalt creates an authentic atopic reaction on an urban scale.

In their photographs , the naked crowds, located in public locations, are arranged in artistic formations that generate a tension in the spectator. His art opens the debate on the dichotomy between what is public and what is private, what is prohibited and what is tolerated, immoral and moral, personal and collective. On the other hand, this work goes beyond making a photograph, the real task as an artist approaches the epic, since it consists of quoting thousands of people who undress at six in the morning, paint each other’s skin and pose at Spencer’s service as a large, anonymous human mass.

But the feat is not only to get a retinue of bodies willing to show individual and collective vulnerability, it is also about tenaciously directing them to create a disposition between the bodies and the space. Spencer acts as the great directors of the mute film superproductions. He is like D. W. Griffith directing the figuration of Intolerance in the Hollywood Babylonian sets. His energy is contagious. And when this happens, the photograph transmits an authentic visual vertigo.

The facilities that make also contain a part of crude social criticism. On the one hand, it is a slap in the face to the prevailing double standard, which continues to censor our bodies or the limbs and concavities that “get in the way”. On the other, it is a detraction from the laws that govern the functions of public and private spaces. And, finally, the installations he carries out always have a slight but notable political critique. His photographs are an attack on the ruling class who, with their strategies, silence individuality and control bodies through institutional mechanisms. It shows Tunick’s 2016 photo shoot in Mexico as a critique of Donald Trump’s political campaign. In that action he photographed twenty naked bodies inside out, an image as beautiful as it is shocking.

However, Spencer’s art does not only function as a critique, since it also distills a very strong sense of humanity. The naked bodies, stripped of identity, unite in a total twinning. For a few hours, the crowd becomes the soul of the city. Because the metropolis, in the artist’s installations, is the true protagonist. The empty squares or the great avenues pose at Spencer’s service, because he fills them with a poetic and heartrending meaning. As if they were survivors of a catastrophe, the bodies shown are a metaphor for a humanity that reconciles with the animal side and recovers the shepherding instinct to conquer what legitimately belongs to it.

On the other hand, the artist’s relationship with Spain is enriching, and he has always expressed to the press his interest in returning to work in our country. The only two installations he has done were in 2003 in Montjuic, where he photographed nearly seven thousand bodies, and in 2007 in San Sebastian, where he took photographs of one thousand two hundred people in Moneo’s famous cubes. In October he will visit Valencia with the intention of making a new installation. Al “cap i casal” have ideal spaces to receive the artist’s ideas.

The consequences of Spencer’s presence in the cities where he works must also be discussed. We are not only talking about repercussions on an artistic scale, but also on a tourist and economic scale, since followers from all over the world come to Tunick’s call wherever he is. Likewise, local people who want to join the call and participate in the installation can do so by filling out the form available at Intramurs website . Participants will receive, as a souvenir of the experience, a stamped and numbered copy of Spencer’s photograph.

In short, Spencer Tunick’s art goes beyond what it shows. It takes about an hour to take a picture. Therefore, what is important is not only the final representation, but the ritual necessary to get to that point. During that hour its function is to capture the soul of a city and decode language, and it achieves this not only by aligning naked bodies, but also by synchronizing with the energy and geometry of the urban space itself.

Mauro Solanas

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