Mâcon, France
A collaboration with Greenpeace in Burgundy,
highlighting the effects of climate change on French vineyards.
October 3, 2009

Christian writes:

A location of culture and history

The Spencer Tunick installation on October 3rd, 2009 was held near Mâcon in France, in the well known vineyard of Pouilly-Fuissé, in the gorgeous landscape of the “Roche de Solutré”, much appreciated by the former french President François Mitterrand. The event organised by Greenpeace attracted about 700 people and the main message was the fragility of the vineyard as well as the fragility of mankind due to global warming. The “Château des Rontets” where the shooting took place belongs to Fabio Montrasi who took part in Spencer's installation in Lyon in 2005.

Photo:  Fracois Mori, AP

4 setups today guys!

Spencer explained to us that there would be four setups today, a first where the camera is facing the slope of the vineyard and where the people would have an (empty) bottle of wine in the right hand. A second setup will be in another location where the camera is at the top of the slope offering an unobstructed view on the landscape. A third setup will be only with the men holding a glass of wine in the hand. The last setup will involve only the ladies and their body will be covered with grapes. Spencer explained that this last installation is very evocative and very important and he invited the ladies to stay until the end of the shooting.

Oh shit, how did we miscalculate that!

The people undressed and the first setup began. The people was directed along the lines of the vineyard to be distributed between the grapevines. Spencer was very friendly and I expected this was because he had plenty of time to organise the setup properly. When everybody had reached their positions, Spencer climbed onto a platform which was raised few meters above the ground and it was then possible to hear a “Oh shit, how did we miscalculate that!”. Obviously it was not quite looking as expected and it took few more minutes to rearrange the people. Spencer became a bit tense, he obviously did not want to leave the last details out of control.

The second setup was a bit easier to achieve and Spencer took pictures with people facing the camera, facing the landscape, and then facing each other in pairs touching hands and creating arches with the person opposite.

For the setup with men only we had to lie in a new vineyard holding a glass up as if to make a toast. The ladies' setup took place at sunset and from the first picture I saw evokes the fertility of the girls as well as the fragility of their existence. Another shooting took place on the next day in another location nearby where about hundred people have been invited.

Photo: Francois Mori, AP

From shyness to openness.

Most of the participants as well as myself were a bit shy at the beginning of the day, but once everybody was undressed the communication was much easier in a kind of friendly and open minded atmosphere. The fragility of the naked body also gives a feeling of power, what seemed impossible in the morning was possible in the afternoon. All the naked bodies moving between the grapevines made a very esthetic composition demonstrating Spencer's concept of the living sculpture. I was impressed by his kindness and his compliments and gratitude to the participants. I went there to see Spencer at work and I realized that at the same time I was actor and spectator. Occasionally he had difficulties explaining exactly how to position our bodies and I got the feeling that there was a part that was planned in advance but a large degree of improvisation as well. Spencer's creative work was perceptible from the participants.

A perfect day to be naked!

The weather was perfect to be naked, with a high temperature, sunshine and a light breeze. However it took about one hour to bring together each setup and at the end of the afternoon everybody was very thirsty. I was a bit disappointed by the people making silly jokes during the setups or asking the press people to undress for example. I just wanted to enjoy this special time and to grab a bit of the message that Spencer tried to communicate that day. I also think that the message of Greenpeace is strong because the people are brave enough to undress in front of the cameras.
I would have appreciated it if Spencer would have given a bit more explanation about the message behind each setup, I had my understanding of the different setups but would have liked to compare my feeling with the vision of the artist.

Refreshing for the soul.

That day was not only refreshing for the body but also for the soul. I will not see a body the same way anymore because Spencer has shown that a body is always a living sculpture, not just a commercial support like we see most of the time. I was a fan of Spencer's work for a long time before that day, but now I understand much better the work that is behind a picture and Spencer's logic when he makes a composition. I have only one question in my head now: When is the next time?

By Christian Wuethrich

Alistair writes

Photo: AP

As this was a Greenpeace Installation I decided to go by train and not fly. I have to say Eurostar is a very quick and pleasant way of travelling. The Gare du Lyon was only two stops from the Gare Du Nord, and I took the TGV to Macon - also very quick and comfortable. 

It said on the joining instructions to meet at the TGV station at 10.30 am, a very respectable time to get up! So I booked a hotel which I thought was only 50m from the station. Unfortunately it turned out that the hotel was not 50m from the TGV station but by another station 7km away in the town centre. But thankfully Greenpeace had laid on shuttle buses between the two stations.

So at 10.30 we all (713 of us) arrived at Macon – Loche  TGV station. We were told it was going to be an hour’s walk to the Vineyard, but as it was a beautiful day nobody minded and the countryside was beautiful too.

We gathered at the Vineyard and were given a talk by the President of Greenpeace France and Spencer. Despite being told to wait to undress, it was such a lovely hot day that some participants (men mostly) couldn’t stop themselves. When we were finally told to undress there weren’t many people left with clothes.

On the way to the first setup we were all given empty wine bottles, and were asked to walk between the vines and hold the bottles high in the air.

For the second setup we moved to another part of the vineyard and linked hands, along the vineyard rows, and then with the person opposite us.

The third was men only, were we asked to lay on the ground holding wine glasses in the air and touching each other’s glasses as if to say cheers.

When we got back to the area where our clothes were, we found the woman had been given wine to drink and were in high spirits. They all went off to a woman only set with bunches of grapes.

I wasn’t there but heard that bunches of grapes were strategically placed on their bodies. Towards the end of their setup we heard a lot of shouting and screaming, and we can only imagine what was going on involving the bunches of grapes, because when the woman came back to the dressing area their bodies were covered in squashed grapes and grape juice. 

So that was the end of a very enjoyable installation - one of the best I have ever been to.

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