All the Spirited Nudes, in Edinburgh

FAO Esther: an email arrived from Scotland on 22nd July. All The Young Nudes wondered if I might be about in Edinburgh in August, to hold an event with them for the festival. We hadn’t been thinking of it but it was within the scope of my schedule and I didn’t hesitate to book it in. It had been 3 years since my last trip there, with Lucy and Thelma. We had done 3 events across Glasgow (with ATYN) and Edinburgh (with Edinburgh Drawing School at Marchmont St Giles parish church centre, and at Arts Complex, St Margaret’s House).

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At the end of the evening, Steve and I clearing away. Taken by a model

The event would be held at Studio 24, an alternative nightclub in the heart of the city, and a festival venue. Joanna, director of ATYN, reckoned we could comfortably fit about 10 models in the space. Last time we’d collaborated and I’d put a call out, just 3 models had come forward and all were professional. We had found first-timers for the church gig, but I considered that perhaps ATYN was more daunting at the time, for a newbie. The full-on music and nightclub atmosphere might not suit the more nervous types we were appealing to. It required a certain amount of confidence just to step up to that opportunity in the first place. In addition back then we weren’t so well known, especially in Scotland. It was the first time that such an occasion had been presented and the response was more tentative.

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Models in situ, all ready for their audience

By contrast, this time the people properly groomed by social media no doubt, were ready for us. I was inundated with interest from potential and professional models alike. In the interim years ATYN have expanded and not only operate in Glasgow and Edinburgh, but also with regular weekly sessions in Dundee and Aberdeen. Joanna is furthermore preparing to export her brand of life drawing abroad to beyond the UK and even Europe, such is the popularity and accessibility of her unique set-up.

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All artworks & photos in this post are from the event on 23/08/’16 at Studio 24

It seems in many parts of the UK life drawing (and modelling) have expanded, gone mainstream; so it was lovely to feel the increased appetite and enthusiasm. It in fact felt greater than presently in London where ever more similar opportunities are available and there has possibly been a saturation.

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I quickly signed up 10 models – a good mixture of experienced and not, male and female. ATYN are famous for their music playlists and as I constructed a pose schedule including a couple of (now familiar to the scheme) movement poses, I liaised remotely with the music man. I remembered the wonderful eclecticism of the score last time, and while I wouldn’t attempt to unduly affect Pete’s choices, I was really keen to align the movement poses accordingly. A few days before the gig he sent over his Spotify setlist for our session and I spotted Clark’s Upward Evaporation; a suitably timed and ambient piece that lent itself perfectly to the seeds slowly growing into full bloom pose. Also catching my ear was Oneohtrix Point Never’s Ships Without Meaning, perfect for the models in a circle making a chain of movement pose. Just one moves very slowly at a time, until s/he touches the next, and hence the chain of movement.

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Models as seeds about to grow

Having emailed the models with extensive instructions and notes on what to expect, they were already well briefed and we easily got into our groove during the bonus hour before the event in which to practise. We physically ran through the tableaux and I outlined some practicalities. Despite a few last minute cast changes and at one point having a total of 12 models arranged, when the time actually came, there were as originally planned 10 models including my partner Steve. Steve wasn’t in all the poses particularly the shorter ones, rather helping me to photograph them, but he joined in 4.

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Steve joins in this scene of a Roman bacchanale

After a beautiful day climbing Arthur’s seat and the nearby hills, we arrived early and met Charli who was managing for ATYN, as well as Keira who was also involved. We set up a space against a brightly painted wall of the rectangular space, opposite the bar. There was strong (blinding) lighting directed on the model space, and a separate corner allocated for models’ belongings. The DJ booth was in another corner and Charli was happy to manage the music so that it was quiet when I needed to address models between poses, for the set-up and let the artists know the pose length.

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The first pose

I was really pleased with how smoothly everything ran, all the models working so well together (mostly strangers to each other) and good vibes all round. Here is the pose schedule as it finally flowed on the night (some poses were shorter than planned as the break was longer, and set-up each time had to be factored in too);

5 minutes dynamic pose with all models connecting just minimally
10 minutes models in a circle, chain of movement with one model slowly moving at a time until s/he touches the next
10 minutes models pose as if family or anyone from their lives who may be shocked to see them life modelling walks in (if there is no one to be shocked that’s fine too!)
15 minutes models create gangster poses, think Reservoir Dogs
15 minutes a scene of a Roman bacchanale
15 minutes break
5 minutes slow movement growing from a compact to an expansive pose
10 minutes scene of witches ceremony
25 minutes scene at the beach

 

Here are some more images from the session.

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Caught unexpectedly nude!
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Confident expressions
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Laidback
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Bewitched

And here is a little feedback from one of the models I want to share;

“So glad I got to take part in this and can’t thank you enough for the opportunity! Modelling together for the first time was definitely the best way, I as a new comer to life modelling could get inspiration of others and also connecting with people in such a vunerable setting is inspirational and phenomenal! The moving poses were one of my favourites both the short growing pose and the group connecting and moving with one touch was so unique and inspiring! I really hope to take this experience and use it as inspiration if I ever get another chance to do this again! Thank you again and hope to see you again!” Aimee.

So sweet, makes me feel very warm 🙂

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We look forward to taking Spirited Bodies to Scotland again sometime, as well as to other destinations. With gratitude for this beautiful calling.

Steve will also be documenting the event shortly on his blog, with quite a few more of the superb photos!

Girl In Suitcase

This is the performance project I am working on for The Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It began when I was looking for advice about funding and direction for Spirited Bodies, as a possible social enterprise. A new contact in the life drawing world put me in touch with one Alex Dunedin, the director of The Ragged University (http://www.ragged-online.com/), an organisation promoting free education which is available for all. Based in Edinburgh and preferring face to face encounters, I paid him a visit in early May.

Alex is a natural academic and overwhelmed me with knowledge and avenues I could explore to enhance Spirited Bodies, but what stood out the most was when he mentioned he had a slot in The Festival, and would I like to contribute a presentation about my work with Spirited Bodies, and as a life model. I immediately translated ‘presentation’ into ‘Performance’, and then there was no going back. Theatre was my first love and where I have always intended to return; this life modelling lark was never meant to take up so much time! But I am a fussy figure and had to wait for the right opportunity.

In 2009 I created a performance with a friend, Szilvia Keffert, which began with a surreal scene of a life model having an eerie nightmare. We had wanted to resurrect this piece for some time and here was a chance. As it happened Szilvi is more dedicated to theatre than me, and was already committed to a number of other shows.

I searched for another partner and travelled again to Edinburgh, this time to visit Liz Windsor, a very close friend of my boyfriend. He thought she might fill the role, and certainly she was keen to try life modelling. We modelled for each other, and then for an artist friend of hers, Philippa Carter (http://laspecola.blogspot.com/), who recently trained at the Florence Academy of Art. Beautiful sketches ensued, though we were not able to hold still for more than a little time – she being used to poses lasting months!

Liz & Esther; 'pleased to meet you'

Seeing these images now I am moved; and reminded of this unusual encounter, whereby I initiated a new model into this art of stillness. Physically we are quite similar, though I am just a fraction smaller in all dimensions, proportionally we match well. There was the being close and for some time, and touching, a woman I had really just met! Her feeling me as I lightly started to wobble in part of my leg, though it would not have been apparent to an onlooker. This our first (and best?) pose, daringly interlinked, most emotive of the session.

Though wrapping myself between Liz’s legs more serpent-like would have been stunning, my own contortion would not allow it. As it is her weighted pose contrasts my curves very pleasingly.

Sweet partnership! Finally I struggled in rehearsal to direct the most forthcoming Miss Windsor adequately, she having no prior experience in performance. I had to admit to not having much of a plan, rather being keen of her acquaintance. I had come across her briefly years ago in shadier pastures, and had been startled then by her presence, so curiosity did lead me to her. My stay with her corroborates my theory that being naked if not sexual in the company of another may lead to enhanced bonding in the shortest of time. We caught up the years betwixt us through a late night and some poses. Unforgettable Liz, I look forward to knowing her more.

She held me as if an older sister (who is actually younger), and she certainly treated me during my stay to a great deal of help on this journey. She has a natural interest in the surrounding culture of her home (http://www.happeningedinburgh.co.uk/). An industrial gothic scene in common, we have loved some of the same men, trampled the same dance floors and partaken in all sorts of parallel sleep-deprived behaviour.

For now I have returned to London with an evolved script, and to an older actress to complement my nudity. One thing I learned with Liz; 2 similarly bodied women would likely extort much comparison in an audience and we would have to address this performatively. For now that is not my theme after all, instead a cross-generational relationship.

Many loving thanks as always to my incredibly patient boyfriend Aaron. And dear Lucia for finding us.

‘Girl In suitcase’ will show at ‘The Mascara Bar’, Stoke Newington, London on Saturday 6th August, 8:30pm, £4.

And in Edinburgh from 12th – 14th August, 7:30pm at ‘Out Of The Blue’ – (http://www.leithonthefringe.com/the-shows/girl-suitcase/) Though the listing has not yet been updated, the cast now includes Jaki Loudon.

There will be an additional mini performance in record shop ‘Elvis Shakespeare’ on Saturday 13th August at 2pm.

Drawing materials provided for all shows by Cass Art (http://cassart.co.uk/)