Artist Spencer Tunick will highlight the current eco disaster in the US when he visits The Big Chill festival this summer.
The 43-year-old American – best known for his installations featuring large numbers of naked people – will use the festival at Eastnor Castle Deer Park in Herefordshire to raise awareness of the environmental plight caused by the BP oil spill off the coast of Louisiana.
It will also be the first time Tunick has used paint in one of his famous pieces.
“We’re actually going to be painting bodies, [putting] colour on people’s bodies, so that will act as clothing in itself,” says Tunick, who has created installations across the world including Mexico City, Sydney and Bruges.
The Big Chill will be Tunick’s sixth in the UK.
“We’ll be using an astonishing amount of black; I’m interested in making a work that references the British Petroleum oil spill; it’s big news here, we’re obviously going through a lot here with this issue, it’s on our minds now and I’m sure it’s on the minds of the English, so I’m going to form a black oil type line of people; for me it seems to define my feelings about it and hopefully it’ll bring attention to these issues which are physically connected to life – not only animal life, but also human life.”
He adds: “I’ll also be thinking of colour field paintings that reference Elsworth Kelly and Yves Klein, so the linear black lines will also be full frames of colour paintings with bodies, very abstract colour work.”
Tunick is the latest high profile name from the art world to visit The Big Chill; the Chapman brothers, Sir Peter Blake, Rankin and Gavin Turk have all been previous contributors to the festival’s visual arts programme.
The artist says: “When they first contacted me I said to them that most of my works are predominantly done with contemporary art institutions and commissions from museums, but they said that their festival is unique in that they’re curating their own arts element, it’s very thoughtful and they have a big history of bringing in top named contemporary artsits – the Chapman brothers and others – to make works within the context of the festival.
“They have a really great arts programme – something that you won’t find at other festivals that I’m familiar with in the US. I have worked at a festival before,” he adds.
“In my early days I did a few works without being commissioned on my own at Burning Man in the Nevada desert, and sometimes you need a festival if you want to gather people to make your artwork; it’s hard to get 1,000 people out into the salt flats of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada – you really have to travel with them, be part of them.”
Having been won over by the team behind the festival, Tunick then made a site visit to the picturesque deer park which has been home to The Big Chill since 2003.
“It’s just pristine and beautiful and that’s why I thought it was such a great place to create this black pipeline,” says Spencer.
“I was a little bit worried about finding a location, but I found two within the site; the people that are posing will not be subject to massive amounts of onlookers, it will be more secluded to the side of the site, not in the middle – people will be able to keep their anonymity.”
With his own team of six, plus volunteers to help with the painting of bodies, Tunick says he has a rough idea of how many people to expect to strip – not that he will be one of them:
“I base it on how many people turn up at an event; on a very basic equation I try to get five to ten per cent of the people, so if there’s 40,000 people, that means 4,000 people could be participating – but with that said, the idea of work’s not to get as many people as possible.
“Working naked just didn’t work out for me; when I’m working I end up climbing a lot of scaffolding and working with a lot of metal equipment and I ended up covered in blood; it’s easy to walk into a field and get painted, it’s very difficult to work with machinery naked.”
* The Big Chill festival, featuring Massive Attack, Thom Yorke, Lily Allen, M.I.A. and Spencer Tunick runs from August 5-8 at Eastnor Castle Deer Park, Herefordshire. www.bigchill.net/festival
* Everyday People by Spencer Tunick runs at The Lowry in Manchester from June 12 to September 26