Tomorrow morning, Sunday the 6th of August, the American artist Spencer Tunick will stage a happening in the sleepy little village I live in, Duesseldorf, Germany. His shtick is to arrange thousands of naked humans in public and then take photos of them. If you’d like to participate, just click on the website (G).
Surely you recognize Tunick’s work from the end of countless local-news broadcasts:
[Male Anchor]: Well, to wrap up on a lighter note, the artist Spencer Tunick was in town today, and arranged 3,000 naked people in Jackson Square.
[Show picture of event. If on American television, make sure any visible dangly bits are blurred out]
[Male Anchor]: Debbie, was that you there in the 5th row? [oleaginous chuckle]
[Female Anchor]: Oh, you kidder! Anyway, authorities report everything went off just fine.
[Male Anchor]: Except somebody came by and stole all their clothes! Now they’re walking around the city nude! [oleaginous chuckle #2]
[Female Anchor]: That’s artists for you. Always doin’ somethin’ a lit-tle crazy.
When Tunick does his thing in the U.S., there’s usually a strict 15-minute time limit on the actual nudity, to prevent injury to public morals.
Here in Germany, of course, people enjoy swanning about in the altogether; Tunick has all the time he needs to arrange the bodies. There’s nothing unusual about seeing naked people in public in the summer; most beaches have a "FKK" (nude bathing) section right next to the main beach, hidden at most by a discreet hedge.
The local newspaper asked Duesseldorf Mayor Joachim Erwin for his reaction to Tunick’s stunt.
Erwin, to fill you in, is the most interesting human in Duesseldorf. His battles with cancer and bad teeth make the tabloid press, but that’s not why he’s so interesting. He’s one of the most volubly right-wing politicans in Germany, in fact he was recenly hauled into court for calling a local left-wing politician a "crazy Communist." The Court ruled this insult violated the leftie’s dignity, and Erwin lost the lawsuit (G).
At a local election-watching event held during the 2004 American Presidential elections, Erwin held a "flaming speech of praise" (to literally translate a German expression) in favor of George W. Bush, something I’ve never seen any other German politician do. (I, on the other hand, reacted to Bush’s re-election with unconcealed horror, and made various doom-laden predictions).
However, conservative politicians in Germany (at least, the ones who aren’t in Bavaria), are rather different than their American counterparts. What makes Erwin conservative is that he wants the city to run efficiently, so that everyone can concentrate on making pots of money. As far as I can tell, he’s utterly unconcerned about homosexuals, abortion, adultery, profanity, or the other bugbears of U.S. conservatives.
Thus, when asked about the Spencer Tunick stunt, he said he had no problem with it at all, thought the human body was beautiful, and was just glad that Tunick had chosen to visit Duesseldorf and highlights its position as a center of contemporary art. The local newspaper even asked local Protestant and Catholic religious figures what they thought of the mass public nudity, and couldn’t get a single word of outrage from them, although the Protestant cleric sniffed that he really didn’t think taking pictures of thousands of naked people was really art.
It’s days like this that I like living in this country.