Eternal Sunrise - Montauk Point, Long Island
June 22, 2009

In August 2008, Spencer Tunick was planning to hold an installation at Montauk Point State Park, Long Island NY, as part of the The Parrish Art Museum's show “Sand: Memory, Meaning, and Metaphor" in collaboration with the Salomon Gallery. The authorities did not give Spencer permission to hold the installation at the time, and it was postponed. 

The installation finally took place 10 months later, after a permit was obtained with the help of the Parrish Art Museum and the Salomon Gallery. Around 300 people turned up early morning, Monday 22, 2009, to participate.

This signifies a breakthrough for Spencer, being the first installation to be held with permission in a NY State Park. In a review of the installation, The East Hampton Star indicates that Spencer would like to use this precedent to plan an even larger installation at Niagara Falls, although no date has been cited for this yet.


Photo: © Casey Kelbaugh
Photographer Casey Kelbaugh accompanied the installation and took some photos alongside Spencer, which have appeared on the Flavorwire Blog. He has given us permission to reproduce a few of his images on this page, for which we are grateful.

Fallopia Tuba recollects:

Photo: © Casey Kelbaugh

I participated in "Eternal Sunrise" at Montauk Point State Park on Monday morning; it was the third Spencer Tunick shoot I'd done.

Most of the people had traveled to the shoot from New York City, but while I was there I also met people from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, upstate New York, as well as a few townies. The hotel I was staying at, Solé East, was to be the location of the after-party after the shoot, and everyone I met there (except for the staff) turned out to be there for this shoot. The staff fell all over themselves for us because they had such a sudden surge of guests; a few people I talked to are thinking of going back sometime this summer.

The hotel had been renovated from the "Shepherd's Neck Inn;" one of the townies I talked to had worked there pre-renovation just a few years before. (The rooms were probably cheaper then, too.)

When we reached the location, a lot of us said "Ow! Ouch!" walking barefoot over the jagged rocks. I participated in the first three poses (which included the "crab,") but couldn't make it over to the rocks for the fourth one, which was an all-female shot, and he rejected women anyway who had tan lines or too many tattoos—"Too distracting." Wouldn't that suck if I cut my feet bloody getting over there only to be rejected because of my tattoos?
Overall, this was a hugely successful shoot for a few reasons:

• Although probably fewer people showed up than Spencer would have liked—owing to the dismal weather forecast—there was a turnout of about 300 people.

• It didn't rain on the shoot, and in fact the cloud cover provided perfect lighting conditions for the work Spencer wanted to do. In fact, he sent out an e-mail before the shoot stating that he refused to cancel for just this reason: although dismal weather was forecast, an overcast morning would give him just the right lighting conditions.

• This set a precedent, by being the first installation Spencer has done in a New York State park.

I had a lot of fun; it was a great one-day vacation. And I met a lot of people; the woman I roomed with lives about a block from me in New York City—small world! I look forward to the next one.

Photo: © Casey Kelbaugh

Naked in Montauk: More than Meets the Eye
Bill McIlvaine

Photo: © Casey Kelbaugh
I was one of the few hundred people who posed nude at Montauk Point for New York photographer Spencer Tunick. Yes, it was wild, exhilarating, uncomfortable, fun, and enlightening. But there is more going on in these installations, if you care to look below the obvious surface.

It is true that Tunick’s work invites some derision. The local television news coverage indulged in every cliché, pun, and bad joke imaginable. (“They were there at the crack of dawn…”, etc.) I found it insulting but not unexpected. A newspaper article, which was very fair-minded, quoted a local fisherman who was amused by the commotion on the beach as saying that if it was just women he wouldn’t have minded watching, but if men were involved he wasn’t sure he wanted to see it. That, to my mind, was just exactly the attitude that Tunick was seeking to dispel.

Because when you come down to it, what he is saying in these works is that we are all human. You don’t have to be embarrassed. That’s the beauty of it. In these installations, nobody is a 10, or even close. I signed up my wife for the installation (we’re both in our mid-50s), but in the end she demurred. She was okay with my doing it, but I told her afterward she would have had no cause for embarrassment. The variety of body types, shapes, colors, ages, etc., presents you with a visual palette that can only be described as humanity. I saw an 80-year-old grandmother and a six-month-old baby. Until one has actually participated in one of these installations, you cannot adequately appreciate what the total experience is like or what it represents.
On one level is easy to see this kind of thing as a stunt: How many naked people can I get in a public place? But I don’t think so. For Tunick, the novelty would have worn off after almost 20 years, and the bureaucratic obstacles to getting permission to do this sort of thing would have become too cumbersome unless he felt he was pursuing a genuine artistic vision worth pursuing, and a statement worth making.

Because that statement is stripped of politics, social opprobrium, age distinctions, or sexual connotations. In the heat of the moment, you are too involved in trying to follow Tunick’s instructions to look around or think about what is going on around you. When we were lying flat on our stomachs on the sand, with the frigid waves about to crash on top of us, we laughed and told ourselves we were doing it for art. No matter how uncomfortable it got, when we had to assume uncomfortable positions, everyone, I felt, wanted to get it right for Spencer, whatever it took.


Photo: © Casey Kelbaugh
The typical critique of Tunick’s work is that it challenges conventional attitudes about sexuality and nudity. Nudity is not inherently erotic or pornographic, but human. I have found nothing sexual or erotic about Tunick’s work. By contrasting the human form – in infinite variety – in a variety of urban and natural settings, Tunick makes a statement about our place in the world. It might be fun to take your clothes off in downtown Mexico City, at Grand Central Terminal, or at Blarney Castle, but suddenly the human element looks terribly vulnerable more than triumphant. In the installations of Cleveland. Ohio, and Newcastle, England, for instance, the contrast between human bodies and the impassive urban landscape is far more poignant than erotic. The images suggest that we are fragile, temporary, and intrusive. Man looks almost pathetic. But in the next moment you notice the dignity and diversity of humanity. Humanity endures even if these structures eventually wither and decay.

 Photo: © Casey Kelbaugh
Tunick’s vision celebrates the human body, and contrasts it with both natural and unnatural settings. When you see average people, not professional models or exhibitionists, from their 20s up to their 80s, participating and enjoying it, it is a postmodern event. The people who participate in these events are all of us. For some it is fun and crazy, for others the chance to be daring and unconventional. For myself, it was a personal challenge, to have a unique experience in my life, and to find out if I was actually the type of person who could do this. The sense of enlightenment I felt was like nothing else I had ever experienced. To anyone who asks me, it’s not at all about what I want to see, it’s about how I want to be.

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