It isn’t every day that you do something that makes international news.
In the early hours of Saturday morning however I met up with my amazing BFF’s to strip off all our clothes and paint ourselves blue all in the name of Art! Namely to take part in an installation by the wonderful New York based artist Spencer Tunick.
Not only that, we paraded around the streets of Hull with 3200 other naked, and similarly sea shaded, strangers for a good two hours – yeah a typical Saturday morning….
We had registered for the event back in March, which had been commissioned by the Ferens Art Gallery as part of Hull being City of Culture in 2017. Our instructions were to head to Queen’s Gardens in Hull City Centre for 2.30am. Here we swopped our consent forms for a plastic bag with the number B1 on it and were directed to a flag where we were given our pot of body paint!
It was still dark and the gardens were full of people wrapped up in fleeces (unless you were my friend Liz who was wearing a bikini and a sarong!). We were given announcements intermittently telling us all about what was happening and Spencer gave us an overview of how thing would proceed. Still no word on actually stripping off. Safe so far! The atmosphere was relaxed and everyone was chatting to each other, drinking coffee and joking about what was to happen.
Just as the sun rose at around 4.30 am we were told by the infamous Steeeeeeve (THE man on the ground giving us directions) we were told we had three minutes to strip off and apply the body paint. I am so glad we had this time limit as I can imagine that if not you would slowly unpeel your clothes, tentatively looking around to see if anyone else had. So the reality was I hesitated, opened the pot, looked up and I was literally surrounded by naked blue people. Better get a move on then!
There were four different shades of blue and green body paint, which the artist has been testing out on his wife. Some colours really suited some people so much you couldn’t imagine them with normal skin!
I was amazed at how quickly nude just became normal. Stripped of clothes there was no feeling of body consciousness. Everyone just looked beautiful in their own skin.
We were quickly whisked, along with all the other shades, to the first part of the installation. No chance for last minute nerves, although there didn’t seem to be any – maybe we were all pretending!
The atmosphere was calm, friendly and everyone had a smile on their face and in their hearts. It really was such a liberating thing to do. We laughed at how we looked like Smurfs and “the greens” looked like the soldiers from Toy Story and huddled together to keep warm (although at this point it wasn’t actually that cold!).
It did start to get cold though. Perhaps it was lying on the stone cold streets (the effect does look amazing though!) or the biting wind from the North Sea estuary that Hull lies on? Or perhaps it was standing on the swing bridge and seeing normal life going on around us – children peering our of hotel windows at this odd collection of sea coloured creatures and our fellow participants who had decided against the bridge and were now walking around in clothes heading home or back to hotels for breakfast, with blue and green faces, hands and feet.
I am not complaining at all though. Hull has lots of memories for me anyway – nights out at Spider’s and The Adephi, shopping in Offbeat records and vintage shops in Hepworth’s Arcade as well as three weeks in Hull Royal Infirmary when I broke my leg! However this was definitely one of the best experiences I have ever had and there are lots of brilliant memories from it.
I am still on a high from it all and don’t know if and when I will ever come down from it! You can see me at the beginning of this clip standing on the swing bridge! I didn’t really feel particularly self conscious before but I definitely feel more comfortable in my own skin which is such a positive thing!
Were you there? Or is this something you would like to try?
Spencer’s photography from the day will be on display in Ferens Art Gallery in Spring next year to launch Hull as City of Culture and I can’t wait to see it. Can you?
Thank you to Spencer, Steve and all the brilliant team for such an amazing experience and of course, Lynne, whose idea it was in the first place for us to enrol!