Naked World.23 Jan 2004
Last weekend, I watched Naked World, the HBO documentary about Spencer Tunick. The documentary is very well done, following Spencer around the globe as he shoots photos of people on all seven continents.
Tunick is dedicated to his craft, yet I question his true artistic motivation. First, while on a ship near Antarctica, Tunick defends an accusation by his friend Chris Trela who claims, “anyone can take a photo of a nude person with penguins behind them.” To which Tunick replies something to the effect of, “it’s not about shooting the best photo, it’s about shooting a photo.” In other words, it’s not the work that’s important, it’s the idea behind it. Sure enough however, we soon find Tunick back in Antarctica shooting photos of another nude, a woman with a skin abnormality.
In the last scene in the documentary, Tunick is in Sao Paulo taking his last photos before displaying his work at the 25th Sao Paulo Bienal. It is there that Tunick reveals his high opinions of himself, first claiming “I always felt I’d be able to come up with ideas that would make me stand out” and then later stating, “I have to try and figure out how to make some money out of this, I’m almost 30 years old.”
What he’s really seeking is fame, and what better way to achieve than to exploit something taboo. Public nudity remains controversial in the USA and elsewhere. Tunick clearly acknowledges this controversy in his Artist’s Statement stating, “The controversy lies in the fact that I am using the city as my landscape.” But in fact, it’s not so much the work that is controversial, but the controversy around his work that makes it interesting in the first place.