Some people hear their own inner voices with great clearness. And they live by what they hear. Such people become crazy… or they become legend. —Jim Harrison
We’re not going to mention the two political conventions taking place over the next two weeks very often. At least, not unless they do something really wild and crazy like start shooting at each other (which, I suppose, could very well happen). Political conventions are, in general, nothing more than giant pep rallies. Very expensive pep rallies. Neither one is little more than an opportunity for the party elite to get together and embarrass themselves. The voices speaking are nothing more than echoes of bovine feces we’ve already heard.
Both conventions have their protestors, too. Police are a bit concerned as Ohio Gov. John Kasich says he doesn’t have the power to suspend the state’s open carry law. This means anyone can legally carry any type firearm right up to the convention’s doors and there’s not a lot police can do about it. We’ve already seen tempers flare among protesters at campaign events. I appreciate why law enforcement might be feeling a bit nervous.
Not all forms of protest, however, are violent. There are plenty of ways through which people can make their voices heard without risking personal injury to themselves or anyone else. One such protest took place early Sunday morning in an open field not too far from the convention center. Just over 100 women met at the secret location, took their clothes off, held up mirrors, and took a picture. There was no question the act was one of protest, but exactly what the women were saying depends on who one asks.
Meet Spencer Tunick
If you follow the world of photographic art any at all, you’ve heard or read the name Spencer Tunick. For several years now, Tunick has organized some of the largest nude gatherings around the world as part of his photography projects. One recent project involved over 3,000 people. Another had everyone covered in body paint. While he certainly has his detractors, the one thing Tunick does well is organizing these exceptionally large events with precision and accuracy. He is mindful of local laws and is careful to not let matters get totally out of hand.
Tunick also allows the voices of thousands of people to be heard through a single photograph. While others may march and yell and scream, Tunick’s silent photographs carry the voices of their participants beyond a single moment. Whether the event is designed to protest poverty, homelessness, or some other critical situation, Tunick’s work keeps the reason for the protest alive as long as the pictures last. Marches fade into the dust as their echoes die off, but not photographs.
This project, which is part of Tunick’s “Everything She Says Means Everything” art installation occurring later this year, is quite a bit smaller than most. He was likely wise in doing so. A protest of only 100 women drew a lot less attention from Cleveland law enforcement than a couple of thousand would have. He also made sure the event was on private property, which he had permission to use, took place first thing in the morning so the number of spectators was few, and lasted only a few minutes. If someone is going to organize a nude protest, Spencer Tunick is the person to do it.
Tunick had a reason for choosing Cleveland as the site of this protest. He told the assembled women before asking them to disrobe:
The Republican party has given an excuse to hate. We have daughters and we want them to grow up in a society where they have equal rights for women.
The women had their own reasons for being there. These quotes were published in the Esquire article linked above:
I’m here because I’m a trans woman and we’re not supposed to like our bodies and I don’t like that. It’s going to be great! I’m very antsy; it’s like Christmas morning. -Harmony Moon, 25
Because of [Donald Trump’s] negative views on women. I think this is a great way to contrast that. -Monica Giorgio, 19
This 65-and-a-half-year-old Jewish grandma wants to take the best picture I’ve ever taken. -Marsha Besunera Klausner, 65
Donald Trump has said so many outrageous, hateful, inflammatory things. He underestimated his female, Republican vote. I feel like he shot himself in the foot a little bit. I don’t think he knows there’s a black, single, 35-year-old mom, like me, who is listening to what he’s saying. I don’t think he knows I’m in his political party—and that’s unfortunate. -Cathy Scott, 35
For me, it’s less about Trump and more about creating positive energy around the RNC and to create light where there maybe isn’t as much. -Sabrina Paskewitz, 23
Others took their voices, and pictures, to Twitter to announce their participation in the protest.
— Megan Browne (@mmbrowne) July 17, 2016
— Kim Leonard (@LittleMs_Kim) July 17, 2016
— Leah Willis (@mamaofnje) July 17, 2016
— Sharon Yoo (@Sharaoke) July 17, 2016
Stating A Message
I would be rather surprised if yesterday’s protest had any effect on the Republican nominee. If anything, I can imagine him using the event to make more derisive and divisive comments about women. The presumptive nominee doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. Therefore, protests that don’t actually confront him and directly upset his agenda don’t appear to have any effect on the candidate.
However, that does not mean voices were raised in vain. The pictures from yesterday have already made their way around the world. Every time one of those pictures is shared or published, it takes with it not only the voice of Spencer Tunick but also the voices of every woman who participated. Just because one person chooses to not listen does not mean those voices were not heard. Others do see. Others do hear. When the message is as important as this one, the voices grow until they become a mighty shout that cannot be ignored.
I’m some ways I’m rather jealous of Spencer Tunick. I’ve done some larger multi-person nude shoots, but I’ve never topped 25 people. His ability to organize and complete such large projects amazes me.
Even more important, though, is the fact that these photographs are the voices of thousands of people. Voices that will not fade. Voices that demand to be seen as well as heard. I can’t think of a better reason to get naked.