“Israel is not a theocracy, it is a democracy. We want to create a work that would probably not happen anywhere else in the Middle East.” Spencer Tunick, photographer.
If all goes according to Spencer Tunick’s plan, the Dead Sea will serve as the backdrop this Saturday September 17 for his next photographic installation: hundreds of Israelis appearing naked at what some have hailed as the world’s deepest natural wonders. Any would-be gawkers please take note: the exact location is top secret.
Update: Read Full Frontal Exposure: World Reacts to Naked Israelis for more on the Naked Sea Project, including photos.
Models will be bussed in from outside locations the morning of the shoot, explained the organizers. All together, the kickstarter fundraising campaign raised $116,000, well over the $60,000 needed to fund the Naked Sea project, and 3000 signed up to participate with 1000 selected to pose.
Environmental or pornographic art?
To some, this is a controversial shoot in a region already beset by political and cultural turmoil; for others including the artist, it’s a visual testament to the frailty of the planet, the Dead Sea in general, and humanities role in the mismanagement of our planet’s resources.
Tunick’s naked art is hardly pornographic, insists the artist. “The (human) body is vulnerable. Our bodies, which are so fragile, are driving this amazing sea to destruction,” he said in an interview earlier this year.
Supporters of his work point out that there is no sexual context to his creations – intended to deliver potent messages – which is in this case highlighting the plight of the Dead Sea.
Red tape could derail the event. Some religious officials want to stop the shoot, and local officials have claimed that necessary permits were never requested and therefore not granted, reports Ynetnews.
Dead or Dying Sea?
Experts warn that the Dead Sea could dry out by 2050. Historically, the Jordon River fed the sea, but now fresh water is diverted by Israel, Jordon and to a smaller degree by Syria. Extensive mineral harvesting by Israel and Jordon, the countries bordering the world’s deepest body of water, are depleting the sea as well. It’s a popular tourist destination, with luxury hotels on both sides catering to those who want to bathe in its waters or partake of the renowned health benefits. Combined, these factors highlight that nature knows no boundaries, and efforts to restore habitat require collaborative cross-country solutions.
“Hopefully my work with this will be associated with the human-made natural disaster at hand, and not with war,” Tunick said.
Some estimates show that the surface level of the Dead Sea is shrinking by a meter (three feet) each year. The shoreline is also receding at alarming rates.
The Dead Sea is currently in the running as one of the New 7Wonders of Nature campaign, a list that includes Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the Amazon, Grand Canyon in the United States and sites in Lebanon and United Arab Emirates.
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