Salford and Manchester are certainly not the warmest of places to get naked, something that is made abundantly clear in the video work of Spencer Tunick’s (b. 1969) latest exhibition, Everyday People, now showing at The Lowry, Salford Quays. On a weekend in May, Tunick undertook to orchestrate his latest installation in locations across Salford and Manchester. With the help of a large number of brave volunteers, who pose naked, Tunick creates works that incorporate the human body into the landscape in a variety of intriguing ways.
The resulting photographs from this weekend show the range of Tunick’s vision, with works that vary from the highly structured to more naturalistic images. The bodies milling outside the Lowry look as any post-theatre crowd might, with one notable exception – they are all, of course, naked. In contrast, Tunick’s installation in a Manchester park shows the mass of people arranged around the existing landscaping, reflecting the pinks and hues of the blossoms and extending and amplifying the careful manicuring of the park gardens. It is interesting to note how in the former photo your eye is drawn to study the individual body, whereas in the latter it is the lines created by the grouping together of so many bodies that is compelling: the geometric shapes and colours appear more significant when the groupings are more choreographed or composed.
Humour and humanity abound in these photos, which demonstrate subtle relationships between crowds of people. Tunick took his inspiration from L.S Lowry, famous for his depictions of Salford and Manchester. Lowry’s figures, set in crowds in an industrial landscape, always appear distinctly alone despite their proximity to one another and some of this is captured in Tunick’s contemporary interpretation: the nudity of the figures creates an incredible sense of community and shared experience whilst at the same time subtly forcing distance between participants.
The exhibition is remarkable in many ways, not least that so many people were prepared to give their time to stand naked in the freezing city. The video depicting the experience is a fantastic insight into the generosity required in such an artwork and the surrounding photos are testament both to the artist and the volunteers. It is debatable whether or not the artworks are controversial, but they certainly inspire discussion around the body, nudity and privacy, opening up the artistic understanding of the nude and offering an opportunity for celebration of the human form in the context of our landscape.
Everyday People is on at The Lowry, Manchester until 26 September. Entry is free. www.thelowry.com
Image © Spencer Tunick from Everyday People.