We performed this in Barcelona and so used a mix of Spanish and English words bodypainted onto the model. Each word represented an item of clothing; for example ‘bra’ might have been written across the chest and ‘jeans’on the legs. We then took a 20 minute walk around the pedestrianised Gothic Quarter. The performance was carried out twice; once by a male model and once by a female one, taking care not to repeat the same route.
The area chosen was heavily pedestrianised, with relatively little vehicle traffic. For both the male and female performers there seemed to be little adverse reaction; a lot of people would double take and make ‘what is going on?’ gestures or faces to their friends and family. However, this was nearly always with a smile on their face.
The reaction was noticeably more positive than Brownfield, which is a similar concept but without the option to hide behind the artistry or social message of the body painted words. That said it was not just the public that reacted different, but also how comfortable the performers felt. Was it therefore the public’s reaction influencing the performers’ self-confidence, or the performers’ only negative projections marring the public’s opinion? In any case it appeared that nudity in the name of art, as this performance was intended to be perceived, was more tolerated than casual nudity.
With the female performer the public seemed less willing to look or participate whereas there was more overt interaction with the male performer. The male performer also elicited a wider range of reactions than the female performer; three people asked for photos and a couple more cheered or gave other vocal support. However, there were also two very negative reactions (involving a torrent of angry shouting in Spanish). The female performer did not have this same range of reaction – everything was more neutral and the public generally participated and looked less. We wondered if this was because it was generally seen as less acceptable to look at the naked women? In some of our other performances the naked woman has been perceived as more vulnerable and if that imaged held here then it could explain the more neutral reaction.
This was the only performance where some of the public asked to take photos, although more did without asking. We are not sure why this would elicit a request for photos more than similar performances such as Brownfield and The Emperor’s Clothes. Given that two of the photos happened one after the other it is possible that more people thought of taking a photo but did not feel confident enough to ask (and the first person that asked broke the ice).