After two years of workshops and open space conferences, I have taken a year our (2019) to move to Scotland and re-consider everything I have learned from this work for my personal and professional practice. I am now ready to shape the next stage to explore the intersection between those working in live art and theatre, with those working around the sacred, sexual and spiritual aspects of the body and selves, and those members of the public who are naturists or just comfortable to be clothing optional along a creative journey.
I am reaching out to people who are excited to be part of the early stage as we consider the core Key Research Question: “How do we choose to reveal our bodies and our selves through life, performance and art ?”. What happens to an artistic/creative project if there is an invitation for the “audience”/observer to be clothing optional themselves, as a participant and as a creative investor of their stories and life in this Happening.
I am interested in International collaborations, cross-artform exploration, and particularly reaching into communities where naturism and body discussion can be challenging. I am to work with colleagues to hold safe space to allow transformative and inspiring opportunities to find the liminal spaces in our life and existance.
Please don’t circulate this page, but please do let me have your thoughts, and indeed any suggestions of others I could reach out to.
The Journey so far:
There was a theatre conference Jan ’16 in Birmingham, at which I raised a question to allow for a discussion exploring nakedness/nudity in a performance, art, audience relationship. Here are the notes from this fully clothed discussion. https://shar.es/16i3na
My thanks to those at Devoted & Disgruntled: Open Space events, run by Improbable, for the welcome of this session, and to those who attended with very personal stories and ideas explored.
This led me to decide a first step: To facilitate a one day conference/workshop to explore Clothing Optional theatre/performance, which itself would include the invitation for participants to choose at times to embrace the clothing-optional experience. My intention was that this should be a series of wide ranging conversations around the (provisional) question “How do we choose to reveal our bodies through life, performance and art ?”.
This was held using “open space” principles but within a closed/safe space. Every person invited was known to me. Around 50 people were invited and 17 were available and joined us for the day. The participants were a mix of sacred/spiritual/sensual workshop leaders; theatremakers and performers; artists and live art practitioners; experts in healing, therapy, and related academic study; and professional theatre creatives/producers who are themselves interested in, comfortable with, clothing optional spaces.
I had no expected outcome, except the wish to be surprised by some of the conversations which would occur when different experienced and interested people worked together. This first gathering did not include “audience”, naturist/general public at this point – all invitees were leaders and “makers” of work.
Experiences and follow-ons
From the first day there were a series of provocative agenda items and notes, these were shared with those present and, for the moment, have not been circulated more widely. Those attending the next event will have a digest of the discussions and actions. Here below are a summary of the topics explored:
|COT – Is this just another gimmick ?|
|Creativity Art, Sex and Sexuality|
|Finding & Making pleasure in a time of sadness|
|Gender Sexuality Nudity|
|Nudity Spirituality Madness|
|Our body (bodies) and others|
|What next for Nature’s Nun|
|Who makes and enforces the rules|
|Witnessing / Making Art Conscious Intimacy|
|Reflections on the day (from final circle)|
|Regaining the body|
Summer Workshops 2016
British Naturism invited us to their annual conference for further discussion where two of us help short workshop sessions with members. Here nakedness was the norm, but considering art and creativity as a means to reach deeper into self understanding was new to many. We had some rich and emotionally powerful moments.
A small session was held at the Quintasensual festival near Glastonbury, which was a clothing optional festival and the participants were experienced in exploring sacred, spiritual and sensual practice. Here it was the connection to art and theatre which caused interesting discussions. It is very clear that the three elements of art, nudity, spiritual practice come together in very different combinations – rarely are the three explored in balance.
2nd One Day Conference
For our second London based conference, in November 2016, we again used Open Space Technology to create an agenda of discussions on the day. Again there were around 20 people in this safe clothing optional environment. This time we encouraged some experiential workshop moments – less talk, more feel. The report on this discussion has gone to those present. Below are the items raised and explored:
The role of CGO / Revelation
Balance of boundaries and risk (experiential)
Being vulnerable to what is
Body Transformation / design and nature
Defining radical sexualities – possible ?
How to live & move…world fixed & fearful
Nudity Madness and the Theatre…
Radical Honesty, Authentic Connection
Relating, balance, authenticity & power
The Many masks we wear…honest expression
Touch Me/You (experiential)
Transformation through movement
Unexplored !! (experiential)
Why do we need “safe” space ?
In the evening the participants were invited to stay for a reading of a new piece about body image and nakedness entitled Eve Ate Figs. A beautiful sacred safe space was created and the audience chose to be clothing optional in response to their sense of the piece.
Clothing Optional Hair
On November 11th 2017 one performance of the smash hit Manchester Hope Mill production of “Hair” in London was reserved for CGO. We reached out to a new audience for the production with a twist. For this one night the audience would be Clothing Optional. Within a month of going on sale we were sold out, and on the night itself the atmosphere was one of a great party. We learned from the experience of creating these bigger, more open and accessible, naked/clothing optional events. The cast loved it. The management were happy. Now we will be delighted to work with theatres and producers on future events.
What Have We Got So Far
On 6th April 2018 we gathered a small group of volunteer theatremakers in the morning to “create” a short Happening for the afternoon. The morning was part devising, and part deep deep digging into our own stories and connection to revelation and nakedness. In the afternoon we were joined by a volunteer audience of participants who were up for a safely curated circle of exploration. It was joyful and moving.
“The whole day was very rich and deep. I am left with lots of questions, some about myself: the different ways I behaved when I was naked, the times I felt I wanted to put clothes on and what was happening etc. I think this awareness and communication about it could be a rich vein to explore in a possible performance. Also questions about performance, what/who is it for, what are we sharing? The go round of things we didn’t talk about was particularly interesting! Would love to explore some of these things with a group who worked together and build up trust and openness. Basically has left me intrigued and excited and wanting more. So i hope more happens!” Participant in the morning & afternoon
From this day, and the 2 years of open space and explorations we have a wealth of material, tools, “elephants in the room” to explore, taboos, joyful stories to share, painful memories to consider in a theatrical form. We are ready to make “Revelation – The More Show” – a clothing optional exploration of our humanity
Final projects in 2018
On October 8th we enter the r&d space. We will, hopefully, have our first grant of funding to pay actors and creatives for the first time. We have had donations to enrich the pot and reduce our reliance on Arts Council.
This is the opening paragraph of the Arts Council application: In Oct 18, we will r&d ‘Revelation – The More Show’, the first participatory workshop theatre Happening with a clothing optional participants and naked artists. Over 6 months, I will work with three other artists and form long-term relationships with body-image experts, psychologists and drama therapists to offer participants a space where we explore, acknowledge and celebrate the complexity of, and our attitudes to, the naked human form in art and life. We will share with an invited audience of producers, artists and programmers to secure a tour in Summer 2019 opening at The Vaults, London and reaching 3000 participants.
Sadly the grant was unsuccesful but we were encouraged by their positive response to the pitch. We held an almost unpaid r&d week to explore what we had. I then took a break from the project for a year.
In November 2018 we worked directly with the Vaults again on gathering a clothing optional audience for a performance of Divine Proportions, where we learned even more about working with participants in a theatrical environment.
After a year’s break to move to Scotland for work and to reconsider the underlying explorations, I am reopening Revelation as a process (Nov 2020 and onwards). I welcome your thoughts including suggestions of other people I should know about, and concerns on anything I have written so far. I especially welcome collaborators/drivers who may see the right way forward for this embryonic r&d.
If you would like to be on the invitation list, please email me, in confidence advising how you work or connect to this field. If you are a naturist “audience” member or workshop participant, then again I would be happy to hear from you, so we can build the best routes to gather test audiences for specific events.
In 2020 I intend to secure some funding for the next stage of this work.