Human Orchestration, an explosion of nudity and sound

Dear Blog, this event has moved me; or rather it has been a culmination of a series of drives to ascend ourselves. We have created a new standard, a higher level of our art as models with a way to give voice to our internal thoughts and feelings, in the same time that we pose, collectively as a group. We communicate as one, individually audible, and collectively uplifted, empowered to speak back, feedback in real time, more than just a look or building up a feeling inside. This is a way to channel ourselves further into the art through the people drawing us.

I speak as if I posed, but really I was an orchestrator, conducting from the side. I was not even naked, but in my skin coloured body suit which is like being naked but with less definition, and room for a muffin top which otherwise doesn’t exist, squeezed up from tight leggings. I helped to deliver instructions, and as well I was a negotiator. London Drawing had their idea of what would happen, and sometimes the models had theirs. The balance was fine, and beautiful too. Spontaneity necessary, the models’ prerogative more than an important gesture, and truly the soul of Spirited Bodies. We are not just mannekins to be ordered by artists! We are creators too, and well we understand our craft, and what it might be to step outside of a comfort zone and the value therein.

With Ursula atop a pyramid of models, who were as Matt put it, “semi-autonomous noise generators”. Not entirely autonomous as they had to adhere to a few cues from myself as well as work as a group, listening to each other, and letting the sound come naturally from within them, or about their body, whether a note, a hum, a tap or a click. And Ursula led; although notes were preferred by London Drawing, she had a feeling to sing snippets of words too. I did not want to block this idea – nor could I – which was very creative and powerful. Ursula is a pun-meister and creates new arrangements of popular songs to suit the moment, in this case the present time of being drawn by artists. ‘Big Spender’ began, “Let me get straight to the paint!” (or was it ‘pen’?) At times she was not singing known songs, but rather voicing an undercurrent in the room, almost as if furniture could speak. “How do you feel when we are posing for you?” or something like, yet in sonorous tones. This part with the words was unrehearsed, and undiscussed. But the other models got it straight off and chimed in with their part, especially Tom and Christine our other professional singers.

The Church, St Johns, was perfect and seemed to beg our performance. With chairs neatly rowed for the usual practice, this awesome space demanded to be shaken extraordinarily, furniture strewn and space transformed. A light, almost completely open space with organ gallery at opposite end to altar, the high ceiling called down to us to fill it with our sound. Not just singing. Not how it has been done before, but something stretching the congregation to make it really listen, and to make a music out of just our everyday breathing, sighing, laughing and uttering, because we are celebrating the joy and wonder of being human for all our flaws, we are extraordinary too.

The Reverend Giles praised our art in spite of its controversial nature in the eyes of some of his congregation. He at least can see that the naked human is at the heart of Christianity. I suddenly felt like he was blessing our work, giving us Christian approval and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. But it was a compliment and he was right. At Spirited Bodies we are about allowing people to find their truest selves without fear, to be the best that they can, in such a way that they must face themselves truly. There may be something Christian about that, and it is certainly spiritual. I had a very good feeling about Giles, welcoming us thus. He knew that we belonged there too. We offer something that his church also needs, and I really enjoyed this event more than any other.

Surprise when our models posed as artists. Horror when they gradually stripped off next to their unknowing neighbours – “will it be me next? Do I have to take my clothes off too?” Quite a few models remarked that this part – the first part – was similar to an event I and several of us took part in during the Summer at Guerilla Galleries, called ‘Inversed Voyeurism’. Turning the tables on people’s, especially artists’ expectations of the model, the idea that the model is something separate, like an object.

These were not typical Spirited Bodies, and yet they were also very typical. And very experienced. People who we have gotten to know, through our events and others like them. These people love to be part of nude art. Some will travel the world for good opportunities. Maybe it is their religion. As well a couple who were very new to what we do. A very nervous woman who fared very well.

A success of working relationships. Our 3rd collaboration with London Drawing. We get better at knowing what to expect and how to navigate the sticking points. And a growing team of dedicated Spirited Bodies; our soul is thriving, we just want to keep growing and travelling further with our shared passion.

The following photos of artwork are courtesy of Steve Ritter, who also wrote about Saturday’s experience; http://charoigne.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/a-human-orchestration/ as did Matt Whyndham; http://repulsivemonkey.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/life-modelling-3-and-bit.html In many ways they each have outlined more clearly what actually happened than I have, but it would be boring if we all wrote the same.

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capturing the architecture with the figures
capturing the architecture with the figures
Models interspersed amongst artists
Models interspersed amongst artists

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View from the gallery, art work spread on the aisle
View from the gallery, art work spread on the aisle

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the sum of our parts
the sum of our parts

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models singing an echo in a line
models singing an echo in a line

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A finale of models on a platform in front of the altar
A finale of models on a platform in front of the altar

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a sort of human pyramid
a sort of human pyramid

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a flaming cross
a flaming cross

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And from our life model friend Santosh who also took several photos:

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aisle Anne & David talking to the artists

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Rehearsing the final pose
Rehearsing the final pose
Setting up the 'singing drum' pose
Setting up the ‘singing drum’ pose in the morning

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windows

Looking forward to more of such collaborations, with gratitude for a remarkable team effort on all sides, and the pleasure of enjoying some outstanding artwork.

Here is some more from artist Jess Miller; http://jessmillerart.com/2013/10/13/the-drawing-theatre-2013/

Favourite moments? (1) Seeing artists squirm as other ‘artists’ were given the nudge, and obliged by removing clothes. (2) Grinning fiendishly from the outside as the models raised their pitch and crossed into new territory empowered by voice. (3) Watching Morimda take the central standing position in the final piece, as the guy before needed a break. The symbolism of a black female replacing a white guy on the top spot gave me a big kick, and, after all, we wouldn’t be here without Morimda.

Will be sharing more pictures from London Drawing soon.

‘A Human Orchestration’ with The Drawing Theatre, October 12th

An artist friend Lily, described the power evinced by the model when delivering words, poetry whilst posing. The total stillness (of the model) contrasting with the presence of the words expressing the essence of the model/performer with such intensity. The words, normally danced as enunciated, skipped into the space on stage; now squeezed through the tiny holes of the face, the only part of the body moving except for breathing. Potent words given extra fire by a taut poise extreme in stillness.
She was speaking of our mutual friend Ursula who has appeared on these pages before (a few times), a life model and performance poet who sometimes combines these talents. Lily said that unlike the other artists present at the recital described, she felt unable to draw whilst the words were spoken, so transfixed was she on Ursula’s delivery.
Then we imagined non-linear words which do not require a level of concentration antithetical to the focus necessary for drawing, but instead circular words sung as a mantra, harmoniously and in congruence with a chorus of models humming in accord. Sound that allows you to join in seamlessly so you lose yourself not only in the looking, but the calling, the surrounding of the sound these models make. These are more than bodies, they give you something else of their being for you to respond to. Like an orchestra they have a conductor, and this will be a naked symphony.
Particular models will be featured as singers in this avant garde explosion of sound and harmony; Christine, Tom and Ursula. It happened that Ursula composed this poem late last year and it does resonate with the theme at hand.
Drawing Symphony
like an orchestra
it feels
as the artists
draw their lines
on their canvasses
and in so doing
moving their hands and their arms
as if they play their violins
in an orchestra
like a drawing symphony
this is
with me, model, conductor
as the artists
follow my outlines
until the shape of me
is reproduced
on the other side
of the assembly of easles
with their canvasses
with the artists, the instrumentalists
artistic reproductions appear
out of some sort of nowhere
because the canvasses were blank
before my outlines started to appear
I have been drawn
with pencils and brushes
like a string on a violin
I have been drawn
I have been realized, mirrored
abstracted or elaborated
or improvized like jazz
I have been composed
like a piece of music
I sing, the echoes of my shapes sing
the artists give me voice
we can say something
together
they in their drawing
me in my posing
we speak
we have a dialogue
I call and they respond
I admire how they respond
so artfully, accurately, abstractfully
they represent me
it’s the drawing symphony of artists
that gives me voice
that translates my stillness
into music, patterns, colours, liveliness
life-drawing-ness
we speak together
for we have something to say
we come to life
in the life drawing
we model, we mirror, we muse
we make
music.                              © Ursula Troche, 12.2012
Turning the tables: Toni, me, Rodger, Ursula and Peter participating in role reversing art installation at Guerilla Galleries last month. Organised by Natanski we posed as artists who undressed before our models who then photographed us. Spectators got drawn by us finally.
Model friends; turning the tables: Toni, me, Rodger, Ursula and Peter participating in role reversing art installation at Guerilla Galleries last month. Organised by Natanski we posed as artists who undressed before our models who then photographed us. Spectators got drawn by us finally.

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Model Alessandra got out into the audience to shoot us drawing them
Model Alessandra got out into the audience to shoot us drawing them

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Me & Ursula checking out the doodles
Me & Ursula checking out the doodles

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Drawing by Lily from recent event at Holborn
Drawing by Lily from recent event at Holborn
Man with grapes
Man with grapes

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Lily said drawing this couple (who have modelled at our events a few times) brings tears to her eyes, so strong is the tenderness between them
Lily said drawing this couple (who have modelled at our events a few times) brings tears to her eyes, so strong is the tenderness between them

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You can book for The Drawing Theatre event ‘A Human Orchestration’ here (to come and draw). Get in touch if you are interested to model, though I am sourcing most of the models amongst those who have worked with us before.
Ursula will be celebrating her birthday on Saturday (21st) at ‘Stables in Exile’ (The Bar Gallery), Unit 5, Queens Parade, Willesden Lane, a few minutes walk from Willesden Green station from 6:30pm and this is an occasion to see her perform some poetry as well as draw her and me – clothed. I will do some movement. This is a free event, do bring a bottle/some nibbles.

Silence is Golden; & Edinburgh Calling

Towards the end of July Spirited Bodies will be visiting Edinburgh to spread our message of nude liberation! We will be sowing seeds; giving workshops and presentations, networking and leafleting. In September when we return there will be a ripe harvest, sprouted and succulent, poised for artful appreciation.

A big event is scheduled for Saturday September 21st in The Arts Complex – a former office block taken over as artists’ studios and hub where substantial gallery space will afford a perfect venue for one of our larger events. As well as locating artists of the figure drawing variety, we will be scouting for models, of all shapes and sizes, colours and persuasions. This is not paid modelling work, but will be a chance to see if life modelling may be for you, and perhaps to free yourself of body image issues or be a step on that path. It is an opportunity to be part of a unique work of art that is as much about energetic connections made between models (and artists) in the space as it is the drawings created. Participants (and there have been over 150 in 2 and a half years) frequently report a natural high lasting several days following the event, and for some the timing is instrumental to their life changing direction for the best. See our Feedback page for a variety of testimonies.

We want to offer our usual workshops in advance of the big event, including women only if there is demand. If you want to host a workshop (usually for up to 15 people including about 10 people modelling and 5 drawing) please get in touch; we aim to be in Edinburgh from 22nd – 26th July or perhaps a bit longer and again from 17th – 22nd September. In any case we should have some workshops at The Arts Complex and another artist has already shown interest in holding one at her studio. We will also do a presentation hosted by The Ragged University in July where we will explain ourselves with visuals including ourselves modelling; expect to be entertained! If you want to host a presentation or talk, do get in touch.

During our Edinburgh trips we intend to bring life drawing to older people by offering free life drawing sessions in old people’s homes. If you are associated with a home and would like to introduce us we would be honoured, otherwise we will be cold calling. To be clear; we will not be asking older people to undress, but to draw if they want. Alternatively we can give them a dynamic interactive talk if that’s more appealing. We’ve done presentations in some fancy places so do ask for references! We are about spreading the word to as many people as we can; unfortunately some people are unlikely to make it to us, so we’re going to them.

To make all this happen we are on the brink of applying for some funding but would likely appreciate any available help. We are still consolidating which resources are available to us, and if you have anything to offer, be it time, a car, a spare couch, theatre lights, good photographing skills or inside knowledge on where to find our models… Please get in touch. In Edinburgh we largely start from scratch so this whole episode will mark a big milestone in our development. It’s an exciting time to join us and we will have lots of fun.

At the same time that Spirited Bodies is preparing for its first venture out of London, we are welcoming two new co-conspirators! They have been Spirited Bodies themselves of course, and bring with them a wealth of experience and expertise which we are only too ready to absorb. They will be introduced properly in the next blog post, but let’s just say if up until now Spirited Bodies has been run by one younger skinny woman and one plus-size middle-aged woman – both white and well spoken, that configuration is about to change substantially. Our average age is getting older, our dress size is increased, our skin tone darkened and our origin begins to feel more global. We are however still all female, and driven to find more women to join us as Spirited Bodies. Men we are not short of, but for women we continue to show that what we do is powerful and inspiring, and it can be for them too.

I had the pleasure of modelling with another model this week and what a confident young woman. Lydia is a burlesque performer whom I hope to see on stage sometime soon.

Lydia and I were painted gold and decked in bling
Lydia and I were painted gold and decked in bling

On Tuesday we modelled for London Drawing at The Goldsmiths’ Centre in Clerkenwell where they have an exhibition called ‘Rocks’ – ‘Exploring the natural world through jewellery and silversmithing’. The image on the poster is of gold surrounding some rock and from there we took our inspiration to be gold. My new blue hair looked silver next to the shiny gold! Artists were encouraged to draw us in charcoal or pencil and add sequins, glitter and sparkly cut up paper to create part drawings and part collages.

Posing while the artists got ready
Posing while the artists got ready

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The following photographs were taken by Anne Noble-Partridge of London Drawing.

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Life Modelling as part of (re)Discovering Life!

Today I spoke to Liz who modelled with us at Mortlake. It was her first time, and is as she describes part of a journey of transformation for her.

“I had never heard of life modelling before, until I met Morimda.” Morimda is our friend who 1st came up with the idea for Spirited Bodies. She started the 1st event with us in October 2010 then had to leave it in our hands due to personal commitments. Now she is ready to rejoin us as we prepare for a big event at Battersea Arts Centre with London Drawing for The Big Draw – http://www.bac.org.uk/whats-on/drawing-theatreOct2012/

Morimda explained to Liz how artists require life models in order to learn and practice drawing, and sometimes this is nude modelling. Liz was curious and Morimda advised her to get in touch with us and try it. Liz is a health care professional who has no background in art apart from some recent drama classes where she met Morimda which are part of a big change in her life. For some years, Liz, now 39 has not been happy in her job. It pays the bills but leaves a deep chasm unfulfilled in her. When she moved to the UK 4 years ago Liz was on a journey of self discovery. It started with acknowledging that she was not happy and this was in part due to the people around her – her friends. She felt they were generally only concerned with material things and knew they would not accept the new her who changed to part time to give herself time to discover new things.

Liz checked this blog and saw images of groups of people drawn by artists which attracted her, as well as reading their comments. At Mortlake she liked what she saw – a room full of artists who were very serious about their practise, as well as a big variety of models – different shapes, sizes and ages in particular. Seeing older people in the mix made her feel at ease and encouraged that this really was for all. She thought how brave the older models must be as she herself had been worried it would be full of very young people which was not the case.

She liked that this was an area of life she could engage with in a totally separate way from her job, which she feels is necessary as if her colleagues or boss knew she modelled nude even for artists they may judge her. She also enjoyed the professional atmosphere of silence and concentration which the models and artists work in. She understood that modelling is not ‘doing nothing’ but in fact actively being present for artists and being very conscious of how you pose. Where she had worried that artists may be perving on models she felt reassured as she understood now how artists get inspiration from models. To be present in the room with them and see their art work it all made sense.

Morimda had explained to Liz how artists look for light and shadow, curves and lines, and that if you draw yourself you may understand best what it is a model can give.

This piece will be continued. Here are some images from the recent event in Notting Hill Visual Arts Festival:

Sylvie’s Project; Naked Unbreakable!

It was really exciting to be back for another Spirited Bodies event. So many things happened since the last one… I couldn’t believe it…

I felt a bit stressed after a busy day and I arrived a bit late so I didn’t have the time to talk with my fellow models. Once my dressing gown was off I felt at ease and very comfortable. I challenged myself with some tricky poses and I was able to think of what could be interesting to the artists.

I went to a Life Drawing Class with London Drawing which was really interesting as an artist and as a model… I think it helped me to explore my limits!

Back in February, at my first naked event for Spirited Bodies, I was still under the shock of the pain I was going through, emotionally and physically and I nearly didn’t make it and I am so glad I did because it opened a new door for me… meeting like minded people, creating beautiful connections and friendships changed something in me.

For the last month I kept going through it: one weekend I am in so much pain I hurt myself and the next I am standing somewhere naked, meeting beautiful people… and something beautiful came out of it!

On my blog, I came across the “Project Unbreakable”: a young American Woman takes pictures of victims of abuse who are holding a sign on which is written a quote by their abuser. I asked Esther if it was possible for me to have my picture taken during the event so I could then send them to this project. Esther’s been so supportive and as it turned out a photographer was also modelling that evening. He was happy to take the pictures and also found a wonderful way to get the other models involved in supporting me.

I was sexually abuse by my entire family: my Mum, my big brother, my Uncle, my granddad…

Last year I decided to break all contact with them and although I knew it will be emotional I didn’t expect having 3 nervous breakdowns in 9 months… I nearly didn’t survive any of it…

I decided to join Spirited Bodies to give myself and my body a beautiful experience… to remind myself of how beautiful I am…

Well, last Wednesday, I had the most powerful experience ever when I found myself sitting down, holding the sign:”No one will ever love you-My Mum” and surrounded by my fellow models reaching out to me, supporting me. I said: “Maybe I should send this to my Mum!!”

In this moment I knew I’ve won in my heart and in my life, loved and supported by so many wonderful people and so many wonderful friends.

So contrary to what my Mum used to tell me: I am loved and I am loving… everyday.

I’d like to say a big “Thank you” to my lovely Esther for your friendship and for your support, and also to Lucy, Charlie and all my fellow models from the February event and the last.

Big Love and Light,

Sylvie Rouhani- 25th of March 2012

Sylvie has 2 blogs: http://healingtogether.tumblr.com/  which is for and about survivors – male & female – of sexual abuse, &  http://happylittlebuddha.tumblr.com/  her more personal space