Naked in the Holy Land -Part Two

Naked in the Dead Sea for Spencer Tunick

Naked in the Dead Sea for Spencer Tunick… (photo credit: Emil Salman)

What was special about this particular Spencer Tunik  Art Installation?

Well for me, personally, it was the fact that I was one of the 1200 participants.

For security reasons we travelled to the location in special buses. It is a strangely surreal feeling,   journeying with a busload of strangers,  when you know that, in a few hours, you, the passenger next to you and everyone else in the bus – except the driver – are going to strip naked in front of each other!

And such a diverse mixture of people; young and old, fat and thin, white and black, gay and straight, a real cross section of  the part of Israeli society that values freedom of expression above religious bigotry. In Israel – being an open democracy – we have both!

Spencer Tunick started the photo shoot before dawn

So, we were all stripped and standing inside the  Dead Sea in semi -darkness, waiting for the sunrise. Spencer Tunick was photographing us, but directly into the rising sun. A great photographic effect – but the timing was crucial. no second chances!

Then came the next set -up;  the 1200 people  had to lie motionless on the surface of the water with their  bodies all pointing in the same direction

The Dead Sea that Spencer Tunick wants to save

The Dead Sea that Spencer Tunick wants to save

After this came other set-ups on the beach area. All in all, we worked very hard in he hot sun for several hours,  and had to contend with the sharp salt encrusted ground – no shoes allowed – very painful!

But the logistical arrangements were very good; dozens of volunteers were on hand with water , both to drink and also to help remove the mineral rich, oily seawater clinging to the body and the eyes.

I am sure that you would like my answer to the question:

” How did you feel, at the moment of truth, when the clothes had to come off?”

Speaking for myself, the sense of strangeness lasted only a few seconds. It appeared to be similar for everyone else – although I did detect that the women were marginally more reticent than the men.

But all this disappeared once we got to work and, if anything, nakedness became the norm, and it was the fully dressed volunteers who seemed out of place. I got the feeling that the participants were not experiencing any sense of shame – people were just comfortable with each other.

Also, the spirit and willingness to do what was being asked, quickly and without complaint, in order to make the project a success, showed a rarely seen aspect of the Israeli character. Whilst some were motivated, like Spencer Tunick,  by the desire to help promote the Dead Sea in the  “7 natural wonders of the world competition,” I think most people were motivated more by the ability to express themselves in such a free and open way.

This type of freedom is under constant attack by the religious zealots, which is understandable from their point of view. One just hopes that, ultimately, their view will not prevail.

And, when it was all over we were thanked by Spencer Tunik and  we just got dressed, got back in the bus for the return journey, and returned to the real world again – with just a tinge of anti -climatic feeling after all the excitement of the day.

Whilst on the subject of freedom, I must inject a sombre note by referring  to the Holocaust.

Naked Jewish women stand in line for execution

The only twinge of doubt that I had when I first learned of the project, was the mental image of naked Jews on their way to the gas chambers of Auschwitz  or waiting in line to be shot by the Enisatzgruppen.

But, I rationalised to myself, the difference was that these Jews had no choice . They were forced to undress. The Israeli Jews in the project today were projecting the exact opposite image. What they did now, they did voluntarily,  as an expression of freedom in their own state. I think I satisfied myself with this explanation, even if  it didn’t satisfy all the other critics.

The main criticism of the Spencer Tunick concept

came. of course from the religious right. It was attacked in the Knesset ( parliament) where it was termed anotherSodom and Gomorrah .   And was subjected to a vicious campaign in the talkback forums. Spencer Tunick, himself, came under personal attack, as if he were a pornographer, not a photographer! Ultimately there were legal issues as well when a major backer –  the local regional council -withdrew its backing and financial support at the last moment. This matter is now before the courts.

There was also the suggestion that, at this momentous period of Israel’s history, with the pending application of the Palestinian Authority to the United Nations for the creation of a  Palestinian state,  a project like this was a frivolous distraction.

On the subject of Palestine, it is clear that such a project as this will never tale place on its soil.

Nor in any other Arab State

Nor in any Muslim country.

Freedom of expression has a different definition there!

Andyboy- telling it as it is!


7 comments on “Naked in the Holy Land -Part Two

    • Nice to hear from another participant.

      I know that only those of us who were lucky enough to be there can truly understand the unique experience.

      And to understand that it was a totally non -sexual environment. This seems to be a reality that most people dont comprehend or believe!

      Well, to be honest, had I not been there I would also have been sceptical.

      Just for interest how do you feel now that a month has passed?


  1. Pingback: Naked in the Holy Land | andyboy

  2. Pingback: Naked in the Holy Land – Part Three | andyboy

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  4. Ten months have passed and to be honest, I’d do it again. I wasn’t crazy about the photo chosen for the participants but it does have artistic value, more than the press photos which tended toward the pornographic aspect of the event. I must admit that I enjoy being naked, and the more people who see me, the more I like it. For me it was not about saving the Dead Sea, but about being in a mass nude photo shoot.

    • Always good to hear from another participant.

      I agree that the final selected photo didn’t really give the full atmosphere of the event but, at least, those of us that were there know what was the true experience.

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