Blue Nudes in Hull
I don’t come from Hull (England) – or to give it its full name Kingston Upon Hull – but it’s less than 50 miles from my birthplace (using the A15 if anyone is interested), and will be UK city of culture in 2017, and is the latest place that has been part of/enjoyed the ideas of Spencer Tunick.
Last month more than 3,000 people stripped naked and were painted blue to mark Hull’s City of Culture next year.
Hull City Council said the art project, named Sea of Hull, was the largest of its kind ever to be staged in the UK.
The work by is photographer Spencer Tunick: participants from 20 countries posed in front of various Hull landmarks.
Tunick said the crowds of blue people were a representation of the rising sea levels caused by climate change.
“It’s the idea that the bodies and humanity is flooding the streets,” he said. “So there are many ways you can think about it. “I was very surprised to see so many older people take part and so many people who had problems walking – [with] wheelchairs, crutches, leg braces. It was like the end of a war in a way, but they were resilient and we had young and old and I am so thankful to them”.
Six years ago and ‘Studio’ work
In March 2010 I posted a Tunick-related blog – Stripping off for your art? – with reference to questions about the visual arts course as it was then. I asked
“Is it IBDP art? If a student submits for part of the final examination photographic or video evidence of a naked or even semi-naked assembly, how would the examiner react? There is clearly a cultural element in this but leaving that for the moment aside, how would the work fare given the current visual arts assessment descriptors?”
Today and the ‘Exhibition’
The questions from 2010 are as relevant now as they were then.
To be honest I would love to see something like this in a visual arts exhibition.
As an examiner I am frequently disappointed with the dull and predictable photographs that students upload for their visual arts exhibition (2016) or studio (2015 and earlier) submission.
It seems that a fairly obvious photograph of a sunset, a friend or a tree is as about as adventurous as it gets for many students.
Tunick refers to “representation of the rising sea levels caused by climate change” but even without knowing the “meaning” of the piece, the photographs work: they are successful on a number of levels – formal, conceptual, compositional, technical etc
In the visual arts examination session that has just finished it was clear that some students (and possibly their teachers) felt that a weak or poorly constructed artwork could be somehow ‘improved’ when the ‘meaning’ is added, within the Curatorial rationale or the exhibition text.
Yes, this text can give the audience/examiner context and deepen our understanding, and yes, things can fall into place wonderfully when the text is provided.
But not always.
Sometimes being told the “meaning” adds nothing and changes nothing. The work and the idea were both weak and I’m afraid that being told that it “means” something or other does not help.
Photography – be ADVENTUROUS!
- Photography has HUGE potential.
- It’s a really exciting medium/process, potentially enhanced by all the creative options that contemporary technology has to offer.
- I’m excited when I see that a student has included photograph in their submission and I’m very happy to award marks where I can.
So go for it! Let’s see some ambitious, adventurous and exciting photographs!