The Base, Sydney, 2010The Lowry has done an excellent job of being an excellent platform for the arts, but has never truley stood out. I don’t know if this is because of its “out of town” location means it appeals to suburbanites with estate cars out for the day, or whether it’s focussing it’s attention elsewhere. This is to change though, as Salford joins a list of (only slightly) more glamourous locations such as Sydney, New York, Buenos Aires and, erm, Gateshead, to be made the backdrop of one of American artist Spencer Tunick’s stunning nude installations.
Tunick is renowned, literally world over, for these incredible pieces, in which large groups of naked volunteers pose in eerily still landscapes, usually in high profile, densely populated locations. The effect is to create a river of flesh, and to use the naked human body, for millennia a subject of art, as a material, with which to ‘paint’ on the landscape. The resulting photographs are calming, yet strangely troubling, and serenely raising questions about humans in relation to the landscape, as well as our individuality as human beings.
It is obvious that Spencer Tunick has been strongly influenced by film, as many of his pieces feel almost sci-fi in nature, and suggest our intrusion, interrupting some unknown narrative.
But for this latest project, he claims his inspiration is Salford’s most famous son, L.S Lowry. It will be interesting how this manifests itself in Tunick’s work. Lowry’s work is sometimes seen as a simple celebration of the disappeared industrial north. Lowry’s masses of humanity are shown as part of the landscape, participating in it and changed by it. As opposed to Tunick’s who stand arranged on it, jarring with our expectations for those surroundings. Although both artists examine the human relationship to the environment, they do so in almost diametrically opposite ways. Tunick dehumanises the volunteers in his photographs, presenting them as an anonymous smear of humanity spread across a landscape, while Lowry’s subjects retain it through engaging with their surroundings.
Daisy Nook (1946)The landscape Lowry painted has almost disappeared, so where is Tunick planning to arrange his nudes? The landscape around The Lowry itself is distinctly post-industrial; all mirrored buildings and improbable architecture, and not hugely different from many other urban locations he has used in the past. Tunicks work is at it it’s strongest when the fleshy human tones contrast strongly with their surroundings, so hopefully he’s got somewhere good in mind, and not just in front of The Lowry.
If I was being really cynical, and I am, I could say that Tunick’s work here is being co-opted as an advert for Salford and the quays regeneration (Mediacity is soon to be opening it’s doors), in the same way Vaseline used it to advertise their skincare products. Hopefully, this isn’t the case, The Lowry will be spurred on to doing more exciting and challenging exhibitions.
Links for you...
http://www.thelowry.com/ The Lowry