To Hull And Back

Considering just how hot it is here in the UK now, as I swelter trying to type this out with hot sticky fingers it amuses me that over the last couple of days I have been reminding myself of spending three hours freezing cold early on a July morning last year. The Lovely Wife and I took the opportunity of seeing my Dad for Father’s Day to stop off on the way back to see the small but interesting ‘Skin’ exhibition in Hull. The core of this are some of the finished photos from Spencer Tunick’s ‘Sea of Hull’ series of installations photographed last year, in which I participated, along with over three thousand other insane people. The photos are impressive and I’m rather proud to be in them, even if, to be honest, I am a tiny bluey-green blob buried somewhere among a mass of (variably) bluey-green blobs. The final works are quite impressive, even pretty (the Lovely Wife agrees) which is somewhat different impression on the day as it is rather difficult to work out what something like this will look like when you are participating. Individual brush strokes cannot see what the final picture will look like.

Around the time most comments I received other than ‘you’re mad’ where related to the whole concept of being naked around so many strangers.  Personally, I think that is not actually a problem because the sheer mass of humanity just emphasises how diverse we are and how much clothing can be a barrier in a way to treating each other as human beings. I had lots of interesting conversations (you had to fill the time somehow) with complete strangers of both sexes and all ages, who just happened to be also naked and painted one of four shades of blue. There is quite a lively online community now where people have identified with the shade of blue they had been randomly allocated. I belong to the B3 brigade for the record. I think that the most embarrassment you can have regarding getting undressed is probably in the company of a handful of people that you know a bit, but are not close friends – like people you work with. Complete strangers; fine. Very good friends; probably OK. Bill from accounts? No thank you.

Obviously, I have no concerns in taking part in what is a piece of art, and would happily do something like this again, although I think that something this scale rarely comes along. I cannot say all the experience was enjoyable. The wind whistles off the North Sea mercilessly and while it was July we started in the early hours and finished about 7am, if we were not already painted blue then that probably would have been the predominant colour anyway. The whole thing lasted the best part of three hours, and I think that was a lot longer than many of us had anticipated. Finally, some parts of Hull have ground surfaces that might be long lasting and fine if you are wearing shoes but did not do nice things to bare feet.

While talking to the volunteer in the exhibition it appears a lot of participants have been through to look at the results. This is not that surprising as many of the participants came from the Hull area. One thing that was consistent is that many had the same views as I hold, in that they were happy they had taken part, and that it would be an experience that would stay with them (in a good way) for many years.

‘Skin’ is on at the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull until August 13th   and admission is free.

While I can I must put in a good word for Hull itself. It has a poor reputation which maybe historically was justified but we have been there three times in a relatively short period and been charmed by the friendliness of the people, some very good pubs (shout out for The Sailmakers Arms) and restaurants (very good tapas at Ambiente Tapas on Humber Road) and some interesting historical connections with William Wilberforce and the fishing industry – there is plenty to enjoy and during its ‘City of Culture’ year is probably the best time to visit if so inclined.