< > Alchemy for Dummies 2: The Two Most Surreal Moments In My Life Part 1

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Two Most Surreal Moments In My Life Part 1

With Spencer having just had an installation in Venezuela, and one coming up in San Sebastian, Spain my thoughts go back to my last time posing .....
This time last year we were in a Tunick lull. All our poses were behind us (no pun intended) and we had picked up the Buffalo photo in January, amazed we could drive to Buffalo and back with no snow. We then found out there would be an exhibit/party in May. We picked up our Milford print in Pennsylvania, again with no snow. And in May we went to Buffalo again for the party and exhibit and again met friends. I was happy but also a little down as I then anticipated no more participation for a long while. Brugge came and went as did Newcastle-Gateshead. Then came August and the chance to go to Lyon. For the heck of it I had put in the fare to Lyon after a friend had booked a flight here in the US. The Lyon trip was only slightly more, I joked to Betsy. Betsy, who had worked an extra week, offered the money to by my ticket if I could pay for my hotel. I thought it over for two days- and booked my flight! I was going to Lyon. Lyon, France--I don't speak French!! I was worried I didn't speak French, worried about where my hotel would be in relation to where the shoot was. Then I learned the location of my hotel. Hotel Elysee was in the middle of the Presquile, near Place Bellecour. Where was that to be in relation to the shoot? How could I get a cab? Then instructions came. "The Spencer Tunick installation will take place on Sunday, Sept 11, 2005 at Edouard Herriot Harbour." That was great news. My hotel was on rue Pres. Edouard Herriot. This had to be close, right? But what else is there? A nude picnic! That sounds like fun. But where will I find food for a picnic? I check the maps provided. The site for the installation is not near the hotel. So it's a taxi and food I need. And the weather was going to be cold and rainy. All the internet weather services said so. Ah well, I was committed to go.My flight from Akron-Canto to Detroit on Friday the 9th of September and then on to Amsterdam was long and, while not bad, was boring. I did see the Oscar winning movie "Crash" as my inflight movie, which was great. When I landed in Amsterdam early Saturday morning I was amazed and pleased the sun was coming out. It had obviously rained but was clearing. When I landed in Lyon it was a partly cloudy day in late summer. Not overly warm, but by no means cold. I took a taxi to my hotel and checked in. Then off to do some sightseeing before it was time to meet up with my MSN friends at Place Bellecour by the Louis the IV statue. I went to the Place Bellecour, a short walk from my hotel. I had crepes. I bought a tee-shirt and I took a tour bus. For a little over an hour and 15 minutes I rode in the upper deck unashamedly gawking at the sights and taking photos in an occasional light rain shower. I was an American tourist in Lyon! ( For photos of this vacation email me and I will send a link to Yahoo photos) Tour over, I went to find the bistro I was to have dinner at, only to discover it was closed till 1900. It was only a little after 1600 so I returned to my hotel as I had two hours before I was to meet my friends. I fell asleep almost at once I think. I awoke with a start at 1800 exactly. I zipped out of my hotel and up the street. I arrived about 1810, just in time to get caught up in a political demonstration that was a bit noisy but in good spirits. (The rioting in France did not take place till later in the next month ) They were headed for Louis too. But as I wandered about I was rescued by Craig and Diane and taken to the rest of the group at the base of the statue. We quickly moved to a little cafe nearby and made introductions. Big Bad Jane, Simon,The Bernard, LJ, Kris from Belgium, Robert, Phillip, Craig and Diane and little Emily. I was made to feel as welcome as if I had known these people for years instead of just a little over a year online. We talked for nearly an hour , posed for a group photo taken by the cafe manager and then folks had to get back to their hotels and dinner. Kris, Robert and Phillip were willing to try the bistro with me. We made our way to Le Bistrot De Lyon where we had a terrific dinner and conversation for about 3 hours. We talked of past installations, told Phillip what to expect, as it was his first installation. It rained lightly but we were fine under an awning, and Kris was acting a translator for us to staff and our fellow diners, including occasionally folks who just happened to join us at our table. Then off to my hotel and bed about 2230 for a good, albeit short, night's sleep. At about 0230 I woke up, sooner than I planned but rested enough and excited. After my shower and getting dressed I gathered up the things I though I might need. By a little after 0300 I was asking the night desk clerk to call me a taxi, which came in 5 minutes or so. This was astonishing to me as taxis never come that quickly in Cleveland. I was off! The taxi driver spoke no English. My French crammed into the three weeks prior to my leaving was almost totally useless. But I did have printouts of the map. We drove to the intersection on the map, and arrived about 0400. But there were no signs, no people walking along toward the site. Hmm, what to do? We circled the blocks again, a fairly large circle due to configuration of the area. As we came back by , I noticed the street we had come down at first extended into a parking area. I motioned for us to head that way and within moments saw barriers set up. We stopped and security came up and when I said "Spencer Tunick" he waved us through. I paid my driver and he left, leaving me to wonder what had i gotten myself into. There were maybe 50 or 60 people milling about, all French as near as I could tell, and it was very early yet. I went over to turn in my release form but they were not ready to accept those yet. I was happy to learn that some of the people did speak English. A short time after that as more people came drifting in we moved to the place further back from the parking area, where we would eventually undress and leave our clothes. A place with cargo containers piled high on top of each other, now looking very much like an industrial port with a dirty, black asphalt and oily puddles. But the sky was mostly clear, with only a few very light clouds, and few stars.And then I saw Andy Eienhorn, busy filming away. I went over and said "Good morning, Andy" and he turned with a wonderful look of surprise which was worth a good deal of the cost of the trip. "What the Hell are you doing here?" and with a huge smile shook my hand, and went back to filming. (Why no DVD for Lyon, I wonder?)Now as I knew I didn't speak enough French to matter I had prepared some 4x6 inch photos of the installations Betsy and I had been in, and had laminated them so I could show them about. Within a couple of minutes or so I was surrounded by Frenchmen, who asked questions about the installations, and a question I had a hard time answering- was I a friend of Spencer's? Well, no I knew Spencer a bit and had lost the awe that I had felt the previous year, but still friends was too strong a word. How to say working relationship/aquaintance in French? Then came the most surreal moment in my life up to that morning. Now those of you who have read my accounts or know me know that the surreal is a big part of what draws me to pose for Spencer. There is an air(usually cold) of unreality about it, except then you step on a stone or something to tell you this is real. The first time I posed in Cleveland was topped by later event's but still was pretty high up there. Spencer came up behind me , "You're here!" in a happy voice, and "That deserves a French kiss." and proceeded to hug me and kiss me on both cheeks, to a small cheer by the folk surrounding us. He then turned and laughed "His beard is soft." I was speechless! How could I answer that? So I didn't try. That was the most surreal moment in my life. Spencer then went on his way to set up. I ran into a few people from the UK, and then Steve showed up and we "met" for the first time. He'd been unable to make the Louis the IV rendezvous but was here bright and early. After a while the rest of the MSN group showed up, silhouetted against the morning and I recognized them because they had a small figure half asleep being brought along. In fact most of us could have used a nap, and it was still a long time till the installation.In fact Craig, Diane, Emily and LJ went to the back of the crowd, so Em could catch a bit of a nap. The Bernard Alan, Big-Bad Jane, Kris and i tended to stay more or less together. After a while Spencer came out and gave a speech about the mystery of the cargo crates saying we get all the things we need from them, but we don't know what is in any one of them, and the interplay between them and our naked bodies. Then Spencer disappeared again, and an enthusiastic naked French fellow climbed one of the ladders and joked for a while. And finally it was time to undress and walk into the cargo crates. It was cool, but not cold, and as always folks were undressed faster than one might think, and with the usual nervous laughter and banter. We went down and around till we had a lane of crates and Spencer had us take up positions. This was not easy due to translation problems, which were to plague Spencer all day. We did various poses in the one area, including something new for Spencer, having us hold our legs aloft in the air. At one point while lying on the ground, I was able to see the soft pink curves of the woman near me, contrasted with the multicolored corrugated metal cargo bins piled to the blue sky, with small white fluffy clouds like whipped cream on an amazing multi-layered parfait. All this left us covered in black oily dirt. LJ at one point in trying to clean up managed to give herself a nice set of racing stripes. We also had little bits of asphalt and gravel lodged in our skin. We then moved to the far back at some point, got into a triangle with the guidance of a rope laid out by staff, and latter getting into a position only a chiropractor could love, with our heads and back arched over our bodies , resting on our knees. I couldn't maintain that one and just did an approximation.. I had some help in finding out what was going on from a young French woman, Julie, as I had long since lost my group companions. We would find each other and spilt up many times during the day. At some point I met up again with Kris and Phillip. At last Spencer was done with us men, and I went on to get dressed, and to wait on bendy buses to take us to the confluence. I also met up with more of the men of our group again. While on board the buses I again showed the photos, which were handy as one of the men had a flyer telling about posing in Lyon, and it had the Cleveland women's pose on it. Wow! I was able to show them the Mather in both photos. After a few minutes the bendy buses let us off and we hiked over to the confluence. Kris stuck by me more then, realizing I was in not too good physical shape and needed some looking after(Thank-you again Kris.)The first thing i had to do was use the portable facilities and so got into line. I couldn't resist showing my laminated photos to those waiting with me, and so had my second encounter with Spencer. He came up and said "What are you doing?" and when I explained he looked at the photos and said "That's what I do." (Of course, that was where I'd got the idea). He then said "You're crazy! But in a good way." He also asked if i had any food for the picnic, which I didn't but Kris had and I had my picnic cloth. Spencer had also provided some food and fruit.The confluence was much nicer, warmer with grass, and though it was clouding up it didn't rain. At some point we began to hear of a second set of installations on Monday morning. The women had been given flyers for it in their pose. We did several poses as a group, none quite so backbreaking as in the cargo containers, but again with legs in the air. Then we split off to do the men's pose, all of us lying about the tree in various positions till Spencer found the one he liked.Then they handed out flyers for Monday, and I realized i could go to that one too. Kris began thinking about doing so as well.Then came the picnic. Not quite what Spencer wanted I'm afraid. What he should have done was to tell us all to wait to eat till he got set up for his shot, but he forgot to take into account that by 1100 people were very hungry after a full mornings work. Everyone got into a picnic mode, some dressed some not, and some partly undressed. I was then i took a couple of photos with my phone cam, met my friend Kei and Nico, her boyfriend. But no one waited for Spencer. He was very upset for a while, but he made the best of it and went through the crowd taking shots of the people eating and drinking and having a good time. Kris and I had a Belgian wine, some bread and cheese all brought from home by Kris.After the picnic we were on our own and those of us who were staying over made our way back our various places to prepare for the next mornings shoot.


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