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Last Updated: Monday, 18 July 2005, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Stripping off in the name of art
By Yve Ngoo
BBC Newcastle

BBC News' Yve Ngoo revealed her naked ambition when she joined 1,700 men and women stripping off for Spencer Tunick's first large-scale UK art installation in Tyneside.

Being a "crazy media type", it's readily accepted that I'd do anything in the name of art.

Volunteers posed on Gateshead's Millennium bridge

When I announced I was going to take part in this culturally historic event, reactions ranged from "are you mad?" to "you pervert".

Even my mother feared I could suffer some sort of post traumatic stress disorder - and be blighted by flashbacks for the rest of my life.

But all I wanted to do was experience what thousands of people across the world had previously done - take part in a Spencer Tunick installation.

Personal experience

In the past five years, the sheer enormity of Newcastle Gateshead's cultural regeneration has left many gasping for breath and others grasping at straws.

So when New York-based contemporary artist Spencer Tunick invited thousands of volunteers to become part of his latest art work, taking place on Newcastle Gateshead Quayside, he promised every participant a very personal experience.

BBC News reporter Yve Ngoo
Yve bared all for the sake of art

Inviting the hoi polloi to take part in civic art is also canny way of investing in people, instilling ownership, civic pride and courting cultural awareness.

What I had signed myself up for didn't really hit home until I received the lengthy email containing my consent form, which included the demands for sobriety and the banning of socks, hats and sunglasses.

Once undressed you had to leave your clothes, possessions and dignity in an unidentifiable plastic carrier bag in the middle of a car park.


I decided to make a pact and enjoy the Tunick experience with a couple of friends.

At 3.30am on Sunday, people were arriving from every direction, in cars, camper vans, on bikes and on foot. Before long the large car park was filled with around 1,500 people, aged from 18 to more than 80.

There wasn't time to be nervous, registration was swift - hand over your consent form in exchange for a plastic bag.

Inhibitions fell away for those taking part in the Tunick experience

After maybe 30 minutes, Spencer Tunick and his crew welcomed us, addressing the crowds via megaphone, whilst perched precariously on a step-ladder.

Spencer explained the "set ups". These would involve walking three abreast (if you can have three breasts) across the magnificent Millennium Bridge, along the Newcastle Quayside, up historic Dean Street across the Swing Bridge, along the side of the Sage Gateshead to return to the car park.

Getting naked

At advantageous points that would take in the exciting and the fantastic surroundings of regenerated Quays, we would be asked to stop and pose.

You could sense tension, excitement and apprehension in the air. There was also a final rush for the loos.

Finally, Spencer, spoke the words we all waited for: "OK, you can get naked now".

Everyone started stripping, very rapidly, as if it were a race - men were particularly quick at disrobing.

I took off my sweat top and jogging bottoms. I was naked.

Spencer Tunick's 2003 nude photo shoot in New York
It follows Tunick's 2003 installation in New York's Grand Central station

Other naked people were appearing everywhere, some balancing on one leg trying to remove socks and shoes without bending over. I didn't look at either of my friends.

In less than two minutes, only naked bodies were visible. People started looking at each other, friends and strangers, seeing their bodies totally uncovered in the diffused early morning light, in a Gateshead car park!

Dunkirk spirit

Then people began to whoop and cheer, laughing and talking like nothing had happened. Tunick had to call for quiet.

To be surrounded by hundreds of naked people is an awesome, overwhelming sight. So many different shapes and sizes, in varying hues, blending into a uniform mass.

Then we all started walking towards the bridge. The only people clothed were Spencer, his crew, security and the police.

When you're surrounded by total nudity in all its diversity, inhibitions gradually become less.

Tunick installation in Bruges' Stadsschouwburg theatre
About 700 people took part in Tunick's Bruges' installation in May

We dutifully fell into rank - full of the Dunkirk Spirit, we marched triumphantly from Gateshead to Newcastle across the magnificent Millennium Bridge to embark on cultural expedition that would affect each and every one of us.

Three hours later, and it was a bit sad to dress again, People dressed slowly - some holding onto their precious naked moment as long as legally possible.

It was just after 7.30 am, and Newcastle Gateshead was beginning to wake up to lazy sunny Sunday morning.

Watch extracts of the naked photo shoot on Tyneside

Hundreds of nudes cross the Tyne
17 Jul 05 |  Entertainment
New York women strip for Tunick
27 Oct 03 |  Entertainment
Barcelona bottoms break record
09 Jun 03 |  Europe
Naked truth of art volunteers
29 Apr 03 |  Entertainment
Selfridges hosts naked art show
27 Apr 03 |  London

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