Spencer Tunick on art, mass nudity and the long road to Bogotá

Artist Spencer Tunick photographs hundreds and even thousands of nude subjects for projects around the world.
Artist Spencer Tunick photographs hundreds and even thousands of nude subjects for projects around the world.

[dropcap]P[/dropcap]hotographer Spencer Tunick hopes to capture a fleeting moment; a raw — or better yet, naked — subject in Bogotá next week. On June 5, an estimated 10,000 Bogotanos will shed their clothes in public and become part of a massive photographic artwork.

But a relatively brief gathering of thousands of nude subjects will have been more than a decade in the making.

“In 2002, I met a couple from Colombia who were living in Argentina and they posed for me,” Tunick told The City Paper. “They kept raving on about how I should come to Colombia.”

In 2009, the artist started planning a project in Medellín but couldn’t gather enough funding at the time. A 2013 attempt to shoot in Colombia fell through when a sponsor pulled out over concerns that older customers might find the photo shoot objectionable.

“At that point I almost gave up,” said Tunick.

But then a friend brought up Tunick’s work at a potluck dinner for artists and art industry luminaries. It sparked interest with Bogotá’s Museum of Modern Art (MamBO).

“Now it’s happening,” explained Tunick excitedly. “It’s a long time in the making; just a dream come true. There’s always lots of energy working in South America.”

And Tunick would know. The photographer has shot mass nudes in dozens of iconic locations around the world.

But the “energy” in Bogotá on June 5 will be anything but sexual. Tunick is quick to clarify that his work represents freedom rather than pornography.

“Everyone is used to seeing nudity on HBO, on Game of Thrones, on the internet,” he explained. “But the body in art outside of a controlled environment is still very much a taboo.” Nonetheless, most participants have a very positive experience, he said.

“It’s a very fulfilling process. When people are working with me, it’s something they haven’t seen before.” And as one might imagine, each of Tunick’s 10,000 Bogotá subjects will be bringing very different life experiences to the table.

To channel that diversity, MAMBO has started a hashtag campaign #MeQuitoLaRopaPor or “I take off my clothes for” to find out why people would be willing to take off their clothes in the name of art.

According to Tunick, there are a lot of reasons.

“Some want to give power to their ability to make a difference, or to be free, or for the environment, or because they want to take away the sexuality of the body, or for women’s rights, for equality, for unity,” he said.

“In the end, the work moves those ideas and people get some answers to whatever it was that they wanted to get out of it. People want to make art.”

But in 14 years of planning, failed attempts and eventual successes, Tunick hasn’t forgotten what first put him on the path to Bogotá. “I’d like to find that Colombian couple,” he said. “Maybe they’re still together. Maybe they’re not.”

If you’d like to participate in the Bogotá photoshoot on June 5, sign up here at the MamBO website: www.mambogota.com/tunick


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