herald

Thursday 23 November 2017

Body myth put to rest

Well, well, well....who knew?

Hundreds of us, if not thousands, are willing to get naked for art. Maybe there's something in the water down in Cork. We've always known the inhabitants of the Rebel County were a little, well, rebellious, but they're obviously not behind at coming forward, judging by the thousand people who signed up for the latest Spencer Tunick project.

The "installation" as Tunick calls his pieces, took place at 3am on a chilly morning, when more than a thousand participants who had applied to become a living piece of art made their way to Blarney Castle, more famous for the gift of the gab than grappling with flab, to strip off while the photographer, atop a crane, directed them into posing.

The result is truly incredible, and is similar to his other installations in New York, London, Lisbon and many cities around the world. But Cork isn't the Big Apple, and you'd have been a bit naive to think that in a small city you wouldn't find yourself standing next to Mrs Murphy from Number 47.

So fair play to the people who were brave enough to, er, brave it. In fact, the artist was delighted and surprised that so many agreed to take part. While the Blarney installation was over-subscribed, the mirroring Dublin one, due for shooting on midsummer's day next Saturday in the Docklands, still has a few spaces left if you're feeling inspired.

Personal

Whether or not you perceive such photos as "art" is personal, of course, but what it has managed to achieve is the popping of the myth that everyone else has a better body than you.

When we're used to being bombarded with magazine and television images of what the body beautiful is supposed to look like -- if only we dieted properly, wore designer clothes, had a sympathetic surgeon and a personal trainer, it can become wearying, if not downright depressing to regard your own nakedness in the mirror and despair at ever getting the droopy bits to migrate upwards, the flabby bits to suck in and the dangly bits to become anything approaching attractive.

Any woman who has ever had a baby looks like she's eaten a beanbag for years afterwards anyway, and bears no relation to the size zero celebs who bounce back into a bikini five minutes after giving birth (and launching their latest I-don't-know-what-the-big-fuss-was-about fitness and exercise book).

And anyone at all on the wrong side of 40 has an uphill battle on their hands to keep all their bits in the right place. Knowing nobody else has the ability to defy gravity either is reassuring rather than depressing. How refreshing it is to actually see all those bodies in the flesh and think, whoa, actually, I look a bit like her there, and her, and that one there. In fact, amid all the soft tissue you'd be hard-pressed to pick out too many who actually look like any of the bikini-clad set we're so used to seeing. Look carefully now and compare what you see to the shape of the starlets, wags and models captured cavorting in their bikinis by some poolside. Can you spot the difference?

And isn't that good to know?

awe

Maybe if we all saw celebrities in magazines in their full birthday suits rather than air-brushed to perfection, we wouldn't be so in awe of them or try to emulate them. Even top models say there are things they hate about their bodies, and they're probably right. But when it's your job to measure yourself against someone equally beautiful, or you're the tiniest bit insecure, it can be an awfully high standard to keep.

For the rest of us, knowing we're sort of somewhere average and normal is perfectly fine. And if art works such as these give us any comfort in that regard, even though that's not at all the artist's aim, then it's all to the good.

On the radio people were interviewed as to why they took part in the project. Many said they thought it was a bit of craic, or their friend was doing it or they happened to hear about it and came along, but it was heartening to hear one woman who said she had turned up to celebrate her recovery from breast cancer, "to celebrate being well and fit", she said.

If that isn't a good enough reason to love your body, I don't know what is.

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