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Spencer Tunick’s nude shoots need lots of people. His composes most of his tableaux of massed skin in cities, but a few days ago he made some pictures, in collaboration with Greenpeace, on the Aletsch glacier in Switzerland. The idea was to draw attention to the effects of climate change, with glaciers in the region shrinking visibly from year to year. Tunick makes the point that both the human body and the glaciers are vulnerable to the effects of climate change. (I hope we don’t need Tunick’s photographs to remind us of the vulnerable bodies in places like India and North Korea, where the effects of climate conditions can be deadly and immediate.)

Tunick’s pictures aren’t just photographs, they’re participatory events that draw some of their meaning from the attitudes of those taking part bring to them. He talks in the 2002 documentary Naked States about how some people felt stronger and more able to deal with the world for having dared to be in one of his photos. That’s probably not the case with everyone; for my friend Paul (he’s somewhere in the photo left done in Melbourne in 2001) it was a bit of a lark rather than a journey of self-discovery. But he says the atmosphere around the shoot was very festive, with happy participants of a whole range of ages and body shapes. And the onlookers were amazed to see hundreds of nude figures streaming through their city.

Now it’s one thing getting a bunch of folks from France or Brazil to strip off, but Tunick’s photos would be quite a commentary if indeed he managed to get pictures from, say, Singapore or Beijing. In those contexts the point of the photograph would be the act of doing it. Tunick’s website is basically a sign-up sheet to be in a photo in your part of the world (I wonder if it’s blocked in China?). I’m just waiting until enough people in Adelaide put their hands up. Participatory nude-ocracy.

[post edited 30 June 2009]