Features

Nude art series addresses body image, sex

By
Senior Staff Writer

Many of us have witnessed the Naked Donut Run, been invited to a naked party or seen the ubiquitous FemSex and MSex posters. Discussions about sexuality and the body are not hard to come by at Brown.
But “Nudity in the Upspace,” a series of workshops and performances designed by Becca Wolinsky ’14 and Camila Pacheco-Fores ’14, took this dialogue one step further. The series invited the audience to “normalize nudity” and remove the stigma in a safe, comfortable and collaborative space, Wolinsky said.
The week featured an array of events including yoga, body painting and scenes from Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” all conducted entirely in the nude.

Naked manifesto
At the beginning of each performance, Wolinsky and Pacheco-Fores explained the safe space guidelines for the event, all while disrobing.
“What is said here stays here, but what is learned here leaves here,” they repeated.
Cast members and coordinators then participated in a “talk-back” with the audience after the performance Thursday.
The performers discussed the power dynamics of being clothed versus being naked. Though the cast all performed in the nude, audience members were not obligated to remove their clothes.
“We wanted to play with the idea of being hidden versus being exposed,” Pacheco-Fores said, referring to the selection of scenes from “Much Ado About Nothing.”
Props master Gabe Lozada ’15 said Friday night’s performance was the “linchpin” of the week, as it discussed “every facet of what it means to have a body.”
The devised performance piece featured cast members giving deeply personal testimonials about their bodies, adolescent experiences and sexual encounters. Some were comical – Vincent Tomasino ’14 demanded, “God, why did you put hair in my asshole?” – though the repeated chorus, “How can anyone feel beautiful if they all carry such ugly scars?” was more profound.
While the topics involved sex, the performance itself was not at all sexual – instead, it was supposed to appreciate bodies and how they work, Lozada said. It was written and produced by the seven performers, said Gabrielle Sclafani ’14, a cast member.
“The piece on Friday night was basically our manifesto for the week,” Pacheco-Fores said.

Born without clothes
Wolinsky entered the Production Workshop’s fall lottery last spring. Though she arrived with the initial proposal, after she won the week-long spot, she joined with Pacheco-Fores to devise the final program.
“We were all born naked, so why not be naked sometimes?” Wolinsky asked. “Nudity in the Upspace” was designed to bring people into an “honest and open conversation” about nakedness, she said.
“My family has always been really naked,” Wolinsky said. She said she attributes her comfort with nudity to growing up in a strong, female-dominated, single-parent household.
But she said her comfort with nudity does not directly translate to comfort with her body.
Pacheco-Fores said after nude modeling for visual arts classes, she asked herself why she was uncomfortable with nudity, ultimately realizing that it was perhaps due to social taboos.
She and Wolinsky created the program to help themselves and others become more comfortable with their own bodies.
Sisa Mateo ’13, who acted in and directed some of Thursday night’s theater performances, said she wants to promote healthy attitudes regarding the body, especially in relation to images valorized by the media.
“It will help to assuage people’s fears that there is one right body type,” she said.
Pacheco-Fores said “Nudity in the Upspace” was less about just being naked and more about accepting one’s self physically, mentally and emotionally. She is also a coordinator for Yoga and Mindfulness, and approached Riyad Seervai ’13 about the possibility of a nude yoga class.
Seervai said he has always expressed interest in getting people to become more aware of how their bodies function and feel during class, adding that being naked is the most natural form of doing something.
The concept of naturism, or “nudity in a desexualized context,” is not unique to Brown – there are places everywhere where nudity is permitted, Seervai said.

Shock value
“Are people just going to think this is crazy and weird?” Pacheco-Fores asked, voicing her concern about what the week could bring.
She said she hoped audience members would come away “feeling like they can own their bodies.”
“We can associate ourselves with some of these stories,” said Georgy Burkovskiy ’15 after the performance Friday.
Body positivity is something students could really use, Lozada said. Beauty should not be defined in relation to others, he said.
Amid the huge diversity of bodies in the audience and performance, Gopika Krishna ’13 said she also wanted to represent her own identity as a woman of color.
Zachery Rufa ’14, an actor in Thursday’s performance of “The Red Balloon,” said his interest in the performance stemmed from the idea that nudity “repulses us and attracts us at the same time.”
Nudity in difficult situations is both subversive and empowering, Rufa said, which particularly appeals to Brown students. Wolinsky said the “shock value” also drew students.
“Brown students like to address issues that aren’t addressed in everyday life,” she said, adding that the University does a good job of making its students feel safe. /> William Van Doren ’16, an audience member at Thursday’s plays, said he came away from the night “more comfortable with the concept of nudity.”
Wolinsky said she was astonished by the variety of people who attended – current and former students alike filled the audience on any given night. She and Pacheco-Fores have already discussed repeating the program next year.
She added that other schools such as Wesleyan University, Oberlin College and the University of California at Berkeley have their own naked events.

  • Anonymous

    I am so impressed by these incredible intellectuals who are mature beyond their years.

    (In case you do not realize, I am being sarcastic.)

  • Lamdba

    It sounds like a really powerful peace. I’m glad someone is doing something like this. Society has really gotten messed-up toward human body (just look at TLC…).

  • P. Rapoport

    These themes have been explored to powerful effect in Frank Cordelle’s Century Project: http://www.thecenturyproject.com (and the book from it).

    Keep going, is all I can say.

  • Anonymous

    Why? One isn’t classified as an intellectual by the choice to take off their clothes or not. They weren’t asking you to be impressed, they were just asking for you to think.

    Keep up the good work, you guys!

  • Anonymous

    They weren’t asking you to think, they were asking you to see them naked…

  • Anonymous

    Be naked if you want. Be dressed if you want. Dress how you want. Be comfortable with yourself. Feel safe in your surroundings. If you don’t feel comfortable make an easy change; open your mind or leave. It’s okay. If it doesn’t hurt anyone, then it’s okay. You’re okay.