The Big Chill
Spencer dips his creativity into body paint for his first European festival installation,
drawing inspiration from Yves Klein, Mark Rothko and Ellsworth Kelly,
and referencing the BP oil spill in the Mexican Gulf.
August 8, 2010

Photographer unknown, but we are very grateful

Spencer told me earlier this year that he is in flux, and indeed, 2010 has seen him take new directions that have departed from what we have become familiar with in previous years. This year includes the use of poise, props and paint as homage and reference to other artists, mulitiple location installations, collaboration with the Sydney Mardi Gras, and the first European music festival installation.

"I know what I'm doing, and I don't know what I am doing" Spencer told an eager crowd of participants, who managed to wake up at the crack of dawn, or stay up after a late night of music and revelry at The Big Chill. No doubt some people who registered and had their photo release forms validated after a paint test, couldn't face the prospect of an early morning and opted to sleep in, for less than three quarters of the 1000+ who registered actually turned up. Yet these 700 participants who committed themselves to be covered in paint top to toe, provided Spencer the opportunity to break boundaries and explore new directions in his work, with loose homage to three artists and with reference to, but not to point blame at the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Spencer used five body paints in all: yellow, pink, teal, blue and black, divided fairly evenly among the 700 participants, and organised the groups in various configurations for the numerous setups. Beginning first with all five colours arranged in stripes: Yellow at one end, then Pink, Teal and Blue, with Black on the other end, Spencer then moved the Pink and Yellow painted people to the other side, so that Black became the centre strip. Spencer then took aside the Pinks and Yellows and arranged them in several configurations, thanked them kindly and let them go, and then he concentrated on the last piece with Blue, Teal and Black.

Photographer unknown
As always, he documented this live installation on camera and video, and emphasis was put on the movement of colour as people took their positions. This capture of motion took a chilling turn in the last series of setups, with four columns of black painted people slowly weaving and contaminating their way into a sea of blue and teal.

Once the installation was over, many people chose to stay naked on the hillside, hanging out with Spencer and his team, the Sunday Times people, or just photographing each other. Some people donned their clothing over their painted bodies, resembling Avatars, Smurfs and Simpsons, and remained painted for the rest of the day and evening. Most others, however, made a beeline to the showers.

I chose to be painted black and subsequently led one of the oil streams into the sea, but I will leave it to Michelle to tell of her experience.
 - Gil Limor, August 2010.

Michelle writes:

I Got Naked at The Big Chill

Photographer unknown
Five years ago I would never of dreamt of doing such a thing, being too self-conscious of an overhanging flap of skin from losing over 5 stone in weight, combined with stretch marks and self harm scars meant I hated my body. However during the past 5 years I have come to not only love my body and am comfortable in it, but treat each scar and stretchmark as a memory, and combined with my tatoos and piercings I view it as an amazing thing.

The whole experience was amazing!

Whilst making our way to the very secret location (behind the main stage!!) someone asked us what we we're doing that he wasn't, so we told him it was a secret, at which he told us "to f*ck you and your secrets then!" haha!

Once sat on the hill with the other participants I shared a joint with my friends and nervous excitement kicked in. Standing up and taking all my clothes off did not feel strange, even though this was my first display of nudity in public, suddenly it felt as though this was perfectly natural, and the painting of bodies was a lot of fun!
Once we all had our body paint on and Spencer began to give us instructions including "not to touch another colour" there was a lot of hilarity of different colours chasing each other up and down the hill, standing in front of the press and feeling how the group dynamics settled. The blues were the troublemakers; the pinks and yellows laughing amongst themselves and the black people seemed to take on a ninja style leadership approach. 

Singing "The Colours Of The Rainbow" and "Your True Colours Shining Through" was the moment we all seemed to realise we were taking part in something remarkable!

Spencer directed us into various positions with great humour and patience, although as a group we did some spontaneous things which I hope added to his artistic vision for the final piece.

Photo: Heidy Elainne
Lying on the ground with my feet over someones shoulders, i could feel his heart beating through my calf, my head was resting on someone elses thigh, and it felt as if the entire group was one, breathing together, the early morning Sunday sun warmed us and I felt so relaxed I could easily have fallen asleep!

Photo: Heidy Elainne
It all seemed to be over too quickly, and part of the experience was sitting on the hill with everyone being relutanct to get dressed again, myself and my friends opted for jsut underwear and the looks we got from other festival revellers walking through the site and sitting eating breakfast were incredible! There was a mix of confusion, wondering what they had missed out on, what had we all been doing??

Three of us opted to not have showers and partied to Norman Jay still in pink. Outside in the "festival world" we spotted many other colours, and people who had showered came and spoke to us. One person said "Hi I'm a former black person". We had been instructed to not touch another colour so we did not become "contaminated"; there was a lot of rivalry amongst the colours whilst the groups were together, but once amongst non painted people we became a minority group with a secret! 

A wonderful experience, and I can't wait to see the final product.

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