On Monday, March 1, Spencer Tunick will ask Sydney’s gay and lesbian community to grab “a token straight friend” and get their kit off, in the name of art and Mardi Gras.

The renowned artist, who over the past 18 years has convinced thousands of ordinary men and women to bare themselves to the elements, art critics and their own internal monologues, comes to Sydney to create another work made of supple human flesh. Flesh that will this time be draped against that most iconic of Australian images, the Sydney Opera House.

Positioning thousands of GLBTI-identified people and their supporters on the steps of one of our country’s most recognisable sites could be one of the greatest interpretations of the ‘We’re here and we’re queer’ mantra ever staged, but Tunick maintains this is not a distinctly political work.
“I’m a big advocate of equal rights for gay couples and gay groups and this is my way of shouting with my art,” he said.

“I’m trying to create this equal canvas, so it’s social and there are personal connotations that are political but it’s not so much a political artwork, in that I am trying to make it sculptural.

“There are vibrations of equality though, that will hopefully spread out.”

The work will be called The Base, a reference to the site as a base of Australian pride, though the connotations are wider.

“It’ll be a flesh base of nude bodies — many of which are gay and lesbian — holding up this great mass of a structure. The idea is that any truly open and democratic society has at its base flourishing equality for the gay and lesbian community.”

In the name of equality, as well as building up participant numbers, Tunick has asked that people bring along a straight friend.

“We want to break down some barriers. We want to get people comfortable and equal and naked,” he said, explaining the power of nudity.

“The feeling of your closeness to the earth and your closeness to other people is overwhelming and it’s a great equaliser. Doing it sheds a lot of baggage from your emotional state about who you are, the way you look and your place in this world.

“It’s quite an interesting phenomenon that happens physically and mentally when people unclothe.”

Tunick explained that at the end of his last Australian venture — a series of shots along Melbourne’s riverbanks in 2001 — a group of older women who had been asked to pose in one shot were brought to tears by the experience.

Tears of joy and release, he assured anyone who has started to get cold feet about taking part.

Since that trip to Melbourne, Tunick seems to have become smitten with our country. He returned last year to attend Mardi Gras — a “fantastic experience” which left him excited about taking part in the official festival this year, and perhaps doing some smaller-scale artworks with our Bear community.

“I’d like to get all the Bears together, at the zoo or something. Get them in a Bear environment — don’t ask where I got the idea from, maybe too many glasses of shiraz,” he said half-jokingly.

But readers, rest assured, we have offered to facilitate in any way necessary if he’d like to make this a reality. The editor has even offered to handpick a bevy of buxom Bear babes for the shoot — simply to save Tunick some time, of course.

info: Participants are still needed for Spencer Tunick’s The Base. To register or for more information, visit www.mardigras.org.au/tunick/

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