Mass Nudity as Artwork
Spencer Tunic is a Contemporary photographer famous for his projects involving hundreds, or even thousands of nude volunteers posing for him in public. Tunic claims that, “These grouped masses which do not underscore sexuality become abstractions that challenge or reconfigure one's views of nudity, privacy and the environment.” Tunic shot his first nude photograph at a bus stop in London in 1986, and his passion grew from there. In 1988, he graduated from Emerson College in MA with a bachelor’s degree in Photography. Since 1994, Tunic has created over 70 projects involving hundreds to thousands of nude volunteers. His largest project took place in Mexico City, where he attracted 18,000 volunteers to pose for his Zocato shoot in 2007. This work became a part of a documentary called Naked in Mexico. Later that year, he created a human sculpture of 600 nude people on the Aletsch Glacier. Any critic can agree that the inspiration Tunic receives from masses of nude people is a truly unique quality. Because public nudity is considered a crime, Tunic has been arrested a total of five times, all in New York. After he was arrested in Times Square in 1999, he filed a Federal Civil Law Suit so that he could continue his artwork without the fear of jail time. The next year, the US District Court declared that Tunic’s art was protected by the First Amendment in the US Constitution. Despite this, New York city officials refuse to grant him the permits he needs to produce his artwork in the streets. He now continues to produce his artwork abroad. Tunic has his own website in which anyone can volunteer to pose in his photos. The sign-up only involves your name, email, sex, country, occupation, and skin tone. It also features many pieces of his artwork, which you should definitely check out. The photo posted above is a project he did at the Dead Sea in 2011, and is my favorite piece. Although the concept of photographing nude people in the masses sounds odd, it is very understandable once one views the beautiful pieces of artwork that come out of it. I personally admire Tunic’s work for revealing the vulnerability of humanity. His photographs often portray thousands of bare naked bodies, contrasting with a background of some giant formation in nature (such as the Dead Sea or Aletsch Glacier). Despite the sheer beauty of his photographs, Tunic was arrested because his artwork defies New York’s law 245.00 Public lewdness. This law states that “A person is guilty of public lewdness when he intentionally exposes the private or intimate parts of his body in a lewd manner or commits any other lewd act (a) in a public place, or (b) in private premises under circumstances in which he may readily be observed from either a public place or from other private premises, and with intent that he be so observed.” (http://www.hg.org/article.asp?id=31193). Now, according to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of lewd is “crude and offensive in a sexual way” (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/lewd). This would mean that New York law found Tunic’s artwork to be ‘crude and offensive’. I ask you to go look at his artwork. Do you find it offensive in a sexual way? Yes, the subjects are naked, but note that no one is posing in a sexual manner. No one is even touching each other. Yet, any form of nudity is considered rude by the law. It is not logical, but the morale of the story is that the law often overrules logic. Unfortunately for Spencer Tunic, the law overrules beautiful artwork as well. All of his mass projects must be done abroad.