Theme camp Gymnasium has become a big part of Active Naturists project, and we are set to continue at this year’s Burning Man festival. We’ve already scored some tickets for the core crew, and a few of us are applying for Low Income Program, but the rest should get tickets through the Main Sale: registration opens next Wednesday, and the sale itself is in two weeks (info and dates here). We are open for new campmates too, so if you would like to participate, please e-mail us or leave a comment below!
If you read this blog, you must have heard about our theme camp quite a lot, but if you are new here or would like a reminder, here are some key links:
Burning Man festival this year saw the second installation of our theme camp Gymnasium, which refers to the Ancient Greek institution for athletics, philosophy and socializing. You can read more about the concept of our camp on its webpage, but here is our report with some imagery that should help you imagine what it was like (or evoke some good memories, if you participated in our events).
Even though our theme camp was first conceived with an idea to revive the ideals of the Ancient Olympics, this year besides the athletics we put more effort into another aspect of the concept of ‘gymnasium’ in its original meaning – philosophical discussions (with wine). For one session, each participant received a quote of a Greek philosopher and lead discussion on its subject, which let us cover all kinds of topics. We also had a session when we talked about our personal attitudes towards nudity as well as our views on the possible role for naturism in the [default] society. The common theme was the feeling of liberation and bonding with others that brings the simple act of social nudity – and the photos here seem to confirm that.
An entirely new idea for this year was the gymnastics wheel (aka German wheel). Several month before the festival, I stumbled upon a photo with German wheel gymnasts from 1920’s and immediately got an impression that it would be a big hit at Burning Man. As you can see below, it provided a perfect link between the theme of our camp and the theme of Burning Man this year – ‘Da Vinci’s Workshop’.
We of course refer to the drawing of the Vitruvian Man by Da Vinci, and expectedly the Man himself took the iconic shape this year.
We were so happy to see that our idea was immediately understood by other burners – as soon as we rolled the wheel onto the playa, we had people queuing to take a picture,
and it seemed like it was self-explanatory that one was supposed to get naked for a photo à la Vitruvian Man 🙂
This was a big success in terms of bringing all kinds of people to try a new fun activity in the buff and in public,
and they were creative with poses.
But we didn’t forget the primary function of the gymnastics wheel,
and the flat playa surface was perfect to roll it.
We had to be careful to avoid possible injuries, as even one rotation proved to be a lot more difficult than we had anticipated. The gymnastics wheel turned out to be a great magnet for people back at the camp too – dozens of passers by stopped to try it every day; only a few managed though, even with helpers.
In their defense, I have to note that in the first days we only knew one, difficult way of holding yourself in the wheel during rotation: pushing up with your arms with all power while maintaining them as straight as possible. That was until someone came by and said that there had been a workshop on gymnastics wheel at Hellfire Society camp. (On what subject isn’t there a workshop at Burning Man?) So we went there, and the camp lead gladly arranged another workshop specially for us. It turned out that while our technique wasn’t impossible, the typical and much better way to hold yourself during rotation on the wheel was by hooking your feet.
After we learned that, the success rate among all the newbies to gymnastics wheel skyrocketed, and we were on the roll 🙂
Our first athletic event in the week was the running race.
This year we only had a short race on our street,
but it was a nice way to get attention from our neighbors and passers by.
It was all for fun, but it was a competition nevertheless.
Our Gymnasium also offered daily fitness exercises, with Matt leading push-up sessions every morning.
This year we had a certified yoga/acro-yoga instructor among our campmates,
so we had a few sessions at the camp
and also played a bit on the playa.
We probably should have spent a little more time posing with those amazing and massive art pieces,
but unfortunately some of them were burned much earlier in the week than we had anticipated (e.g. the pyramids on Friday morning).
Some installations were quite interactive and served as great frames for photos, literally.
Other installations referred to familiar views of the “default world”, like NYC skyline at the Kostume Kult, making the whole experience only more surreal…
(I wish we could sip our morning coffee in Manhattan just like that!)
Unfortunately I enjoyed my nights out in an immediate manner, and recorded neither my own naked dancing on the ashes of the burned Man and at the White Ocean nor the performance by a couple of naked fire-spinners at the Mayan Warrior art car, which was probably my favorite mutant vehicle in terms of the music (and certainly in terms of the lights). But here is a short clip from that night I found online, where you can see those two naked fire-spinners, but resting in the crowd at the time – perhaps a video with their performance will appear at some point too, but I’m just happy to have witnessed it.
As you can see, our camp was primarily focused on providing interactive events rather than art and installations,
but we arranged some decorations to highlight our reference to Ancient Greece.
This year we added a statue depicting Hercules wrestling Diomedes for his 8th labor. By the way, I haven’t been able to find an explanation behind that ‘penile grip’ – so if there are specialists in history of art among the readers here, please enlighten us in the comments 😎
And yes, we are long overdue with our report re Burning Man experience this year, but it’s coming. And here is just another reminder about the nu-dancing video we shot at Burning Man last year with our instructor damoN – still can’t get enough of it!
I know many of you are eagerly awaiting our report from Burning Man, but I am still working on the photos. However, this reminded me that I’m also overdue with reporting on an ambitious photo/digital art project by Angelo Musco, where I participated as one of the numerous models… but became a focal figure in the final art piece! You can read about this project in the Huffington Post article, or watch the video below to get the idea and the work behind it.
By the way, can you spot me?
I really like Angelo Musco’s works, which create intricate landscapes and shapes made of hundreds of human bodies. I have been following his art for a while, and was happy to finally be able to participate in his work as a model this June.
Looking at his previous works, I was wondering if I’d be even able to spot myself in this immense ‘Sanctuary’…
so I felt very honored when I found out that I got in the spotlight, being a landing spot for the butterfly, which, as mentioned in the video, symbolizes metamorphosis.
I hope that I’ll be able to see the actual printout at an exhibition – whether in New York, or any other city,
as I am sure that will be a much better way to fully appreciate this masterpiece than on a computer screen.
But it’ll be also fun to try to spot myself as a ‘brick’ in a wall or a part of a column of one of those towers…
And just a few words about the photoshoot: Even for a person like me, who is naked whenever possible and has participated in massive events involving social nudity, e.g. Philly Naked Bike Ride and NYC Body-Painting Day, this was a very special experience. The way we, models, had to act and interact with each other was quite unique and intimate – it was a bonding experience for all of us, although we mostly didn’t know each other at all. It was interesting to participate in something together while only guessing what the final product would look like, and feeling like becoming a part of something much, much bigger. And the result is quite amazing indeed!
PS It was also my first time naked in a church. (Yes, the NYC photoshoot took place in a church!)
Our NuDance project has become a regular feature now, with nude dance classes on Friday nights in Midtown Manhattan. We have fun trying to imitate and learn from our instructor damoN, and then sometimes going out together to New York City’s nightclubs (where we do have to wear clothes, though). Our long-term goal is to stage a performance, perhaps also attracting external professional dancers, and also organize a naked dance party in the city. If you are interested, let us know and get on our e-mail list for updates as well as to find out the location and timing of the classes.
Here comes our report from Burning Man festival this year, when 18 of us gathered together to create a camp themed around Gymnasium as an Ancient Greek institution for athletics, philosophy and socializing. You can read more about the concept of our camp on its own webpage; we launched this project a few months earlier at FreeForm Festival, and here you can see how it came about at the festival of festivals, Burning Man. (But keep in mind that this is by no means an attempt to write about the festival as a whole, there simply “too much” fun stuff happens to be able to grasp more than just a fraction of it.)
After months of preparation, the last days before the festivals were very exciting but also a bit scary – with this endeavor being our first experience as such a theme camp, something was likely to go wrong! Indeed, our early arrival/construction crew had a flat tire at the start of the trip in San Francisco, and as we collected all the stuff that we planned to carry to Black Rock City, we realized we had to buy an extra trailer. We resolved all the issues smoothly but experienced another setback due to the weather, as on Saturday before the opening of the festival, when we had planned to construct our camp, a severe dust storm took place; we could only enter Black Rock City in the evening and started construction early on Sunday.
Well, luckily we didn’t plan on building anything complicated, so we raised most of our shade structures before the rest of our campmates arrived. (Then later on in the afternoon a strong gust almost blew off a part of our shade structure, bending some of the carrying metal parts and tearing apart one of the tarps, but we were able to fix it; although it doesn’t say so in the instructions, it is apparently important to fix the structure with additional ropes and rebar.)
The final touch was putting up the banner of our camp.
Our location was great – at 7:30 Portal and A, we were at a busy intersection, but also with easy access to the Esplanade and an open view all the way to the man.
And that view proved to be nothing short of amazing on the first night, with the supermoon rising next to the Man statue.
Another nature’s wonder was a mini-tornado coming to us from the playa –
it was not any dangerous though, as you can see in the video below.
Well, this video shows a few other things too, but there’s still a lot more to the story (and two more videos) – so keep on reading. A couple more words about the camp:
We had a simple bike rack available for the visitors (note the horse head masks used for its decoration, I’ll mention them later).
For decoration, we used an olive tree (artificial – live plants are prohibited at Burning Man), columns adorned with ivy, and a small statue of Poseidon (without a trident, to make him look more like a generic Ancient Greek athlete…) – next time, we plan to team up with a 3D-printing camp to make a bigger statue.
The schedule of our activities was put daily on the blackboard.
Our first event included two running races – a 100-yard sprint
and a longer, approx. 1.8 km run from our camp to the Man and back.
The sprint was won by Chris, and the long run by yours truly 🙂
Admittedly, there weren’t that many participants, but it was still very early in the week, while many camps were still wrapping up their construction. We had other races planned, e.g. piggy-back and barrel-run, as we did at FreeForm, but we had to postpone and eventually cancel those due to dust storms and because the horse head masks which were meant for the final run of that race were stolen borrowed without asking from our bike rack. We also had to cancel our only night event – ‘discus (LED-lit frisbee) throw in the dark… and in the buff’ – because the nights were bitterly cold in the second half of the week! (Though as you can briefly see in the video above, we still managed to dance naked at some night parties getting warm by the fire from the art cars.)
Our ‘Naked Philosophy’ session was more of a personal introduction among our camp mates, as we did not know each of us in person; and then we discussed our experience in naturism and what it meant for us.
Our most successful event by far was the naked oil wrestling, and here is our second video dedicated to it. Unfortunately some of the video is quite blurry, because oil got on my camera, and most of the footage was not usable at all Oh well, at least it was a GoPro in a sealed casing, so the camera was totally fine after washing.
Our naked oil wrestling drew a lot of attention, even people in fancy mutant vehicles stopped to watch the match.
As at FreeForm Festival, we used sumo rules, which are the easiest to follow from all wrestling types, and added some Greekness to it with olive oil (and nudity), as a reference to the authentic Olympics.
Each match started with ceremonial wide steps, and then opponents tried to push each other
until one of them stepped outside the ring;
and the soles of the feet were the only part of the body allowed to touch the ground – so pushing the opponent down could also work.
But perhaps the most effective approach is simply carrying the opponent outside the ring, preferably keeping him upside down! 😀
For each pair, the victory was decided in 2 wins out of 3 matches.
We didn’t structure the whole event as an ultimate competition though – anyone could challenge whoever they wanted, and more than once. But we had two wrestlers that stood out
and were well matched –
so their sparring was very intense and captivating.
But even the fiercest match ended with a hug.
And both of them received well-deserved golden laurel wreaths!
(By the way, I lost their contact, so if anyone knows them – please put us in touch!)
After the final match, all wrestlers were welcome to go to an amazing massive group shower ‘perfoamance’ at the camp called ‘Something Freaky Foams This Way’. Next day, we arranged the same competition at their camp – so that people queuing up to get foamed would try their strength in wrestling and entertain the public, and skip the line. We got in touch with one of the organizers of this camp at FreeForm Festival, and this was the best collaboration we could ask for – getting clean and relaxed felt particularly amazing after days in the dust and then even more so after wrestling. Decent showers are obviously quite sought-after at Burning Man, but this camp brings the whole experience to the next level by making it a massive group (40 people at a time) and entertaining activity (with countdown and music, water and foam sprayed under high pressure).
Here are some more photos from the wrestling matches at our camp and ‘Something Freaky Foams This Way’, if the ones above and the video aren’t enough.
Besides planned events, we had a few spontaneous activities, e.g. dance practices by Antony and damoN.
Unfortunately, we don’t have any footage of our fun session of a naked Greek dance with music from ‘Zorba the Greek’. It was lead by our new friend from another camp, and he rightfully suggested we would like the idea of performing this dance naked, which he said was his fantasy from a while ago, when he learned it at a Greek restaurant.
And if you follow this blog, you shouldn’t be surprised seeing some naked capoeira here 🙂
And with Tam around, acro-yoga was bound to happen sooner or later –
to our own and guests’ entertainment.
Then we toured a bit around the playa and did more acro-posing with some of Burning Man’s most interesting art constructions in the background.
This structure proved to combine very well with acro-yoga,
as its multiple lines were quite easy to align with the body parts of the posers.
From afar, it looked as if the giant metal ball was resting on Antony supported by Tam’s legs…
And one of the Mars Molecules seemed to be designed perfectly for acro-yoga, not just as a background, but as a base too.
Here is a composition with three men again.
And now, three men intertwined into one ‘laughing dragon’ –
laughing and causing laughter in viewers alike.
There were a few other camps that offered activities in the buff. Besides washing your body from all the dust, sweat and, in our case, also oil at the ‘perfoamance’ camp, cleaning the nose from accumulating dust seemed like a good idea too… and of course there was a camp for that – Neti’s (naked) Nose Spa – and naked too! I really liked how I felt afterwards, so when I got home I immediately ordered a neti pot. Some events were missed due to dust storms or cold nights (e.g. black light naked twister), others I simply forgot about (e.g. naked skateboarding session).
The camp across the street from us, Decadent Oasis, provided the best light show at night, with their technicolor ever-changing palm trees and great music. We were invited to do a striptease for their bachelorette party, though we first had to find some clothes to put on 😀 They also had a slackline,
and we were treated with a show of really good slackline walker who was naked and walked it all way through.
which featured plenty of nudity in its decoration among other elements.
Another view of the R-Evolution statue.
Riding on the bike in the heat of the day felt pretty nice thanks to the light wind (unless it turned into a dust storm!)
But the best conditions seemed to be around sunset time – the sun wasn’t scorching but it was still very warm before the onset of the cold night, and the air was still – that’s when we liked strolling around in our altogethers. But the photo below shows how you can be well protected against the elements while being naked!
And for comparison, this is how the same place looked like one day after the end of the festival…
Sad that everything has to come to an end, but on the other hand Burning Man celebrates immediacy, so realization of the temporary nature of… everything is part of the festival.
We made sure to leave no trace behind us and were ready to go home for the next adventure. Gymnasium proved to be a great experience for its organizers and visitors alike (hopefully all of them, let me know if not) and will hopefully develop only more in years to come!
And here is our third, bonus video with damoN performing on the playa. This was shot while the festival was still rocking, just outside Black Rock City. In case you thought it was difficult to escape from the crowds at this massive festival, it is actually easy to find a place where you can be alone when you would like to reconnect with your ‘inner self’; and the vast open landscape of the desert will only help with that. But it’s good to know that you’re next to the city full of your friends or yet-to-become friends.
Many of you are eagerly awaiting updates from our experience as a theme camp at Burning Man, but it will take some time to get through all the amazing photos and videos – stay tuned, it’s worth the wait 😉 Meanwhile, enjoy our new video from the NuDance project.
We see dance as a celebration of human body in movement, and what a better way to celebrate and appreciate it than in the nude? Beach provides a great setting for dancing in the buff, and those old poles remind of piano keys, referring to the soundtrack by Eric Prydz – ‘Pjano’. We experiment with masks here to shift focus on body expression.
By the way, we will have our last beach session of this summer at Sandy Hook this Saturday – Gunnison Beach on the right side at 16:00. Then we plan to start again regular weekly classes in New York City; if you are interested, get on our e-mail list for updates and find out the location and timing of the classes.
This blogpost is a bit unusual for this blog, as it is dedicated to just one video, and it is more of an artistic value than informative re naturist activities. Though, of course it features a naturist, and a very active one. (On the other hand, you needn’t go much further than the previous post to see that naturism and art can be a great blend.) I shot this video when I went to Sunny Bowl, yet another naked volleyball tournament, at Sunny Rest, a nudist resort in Pennsylvania that readers of this blog may know from my reports on the annual 7k trail race there. I love these events as they attract many people who are both into sports and hanging out naked – my favorite combo – but then there is always even more to them than just sports. So, this time too, our games and parties were accompanied by excellent music with DJ Ashley Crawford and a great fire show, which is what the video is about. As I watched the original videos, I had a tune in my head that was just released right after that weekend (‘Opus’ by Erick Prydz), and somehow it clicked that it would fit perfectly to the fire spinning show. I first thought I’d select just a a few short clips and combine them into a minute long video, but after playing with different speeds, I wanted to overlay the video on the whole track. I highly recommend watching this video in the dark for the best, hypnotic effect; put it in full screen mode, turn the music up, sit back and enjoy!
On another note, watching this naked man spinning fire poi, it’s hard not to think of Burning Man – he’s a perfect personification of the festival! By the way, preparations are in full swing for our theme camp, Gymnasium. If you have a ticket and would like to join, contact us, we have place for a couple more people! Too bad that this guy won’t be there, but I’ll see him and many other naturist volleyball friends at the Naked Volleyball SuperBowl, which is right after Burning Man.
It’s no surprise that body painting works best with naked people, and Andy Golub brings this art form to the next level by arranging massive body painting sessions in public spaces. While I thoroughly enjoyed those body painting parties that used to be quite common in New York a couple of years ago, it is a totally different experience when you get painted by a professional artist while being watched by dozens if not hundreds of passers-by somewhere like Times Square – you do feel like you become a piece of art! And that was the theme of the 2nd annual BodyPainting Day – ‘All Bodies Are Works of Art’ – Andy Golub’s biggest event so far which he organized together with Young Naturists America. In case you missed my report from the first one last year, here it is; and you can still participate in the European gig in two weeks – BodyPainting Day in Amsterdam on the 15th of August. Don’t miss it if you’re around! Here is my recap of the event in New York just a little over a week ago, with 100 models and 70 artists! We first got painted at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza. It took 2-4 hours for some models to be finished, so it’s a pretty serious commitment for both models and artists. It turned out that my artist, Naty, and I had a friend in common, but we surely became friends too during the painting process 🙂
I was covered in bright sunset colors and strings of DNA, symbolizing our deeply embedded connection with nature. Our neighbors were a mother and her son painting her. It was really amazing to see how understanding and natural they were with each other – a level of comfort that not many people reach with their parents. And here are some more of my favorite photos:
– my friend from FreeForm Festival; he was supposed to join my theme camp for Burning Man too but had to cancel his trip – well, at least he’s on fire here!
– just chilling on the bench 🙂 – Eve and the evil Serpent in one – probably my favorite work from this year!
After all that painting and posing, we were really hungry, but luckily lunch was included in the program. I bet this was the most amusing workday for that food truck! Lunch break wasn’t too long though, as we marched out towards the UN building. Some posing with police 🙂 Even though it’s legal in New York to be naked for art performances, police gave Andy Golub hard time during his first public body art gigs, so he eventually got a special permit. Good to see police actually being supportive of an event like this! Maybe they won’t arrest us anymore during the World Naked Bike Ride either? As we got to the UN, we were surrounded by a pretty big crowd – maybe some UN workers among them? Hopefully one day the freedom to be naked will be acknowledged as a fundamental human right – the right to be just the way you were born, and the way you are, uncovered. Well, for now, we need events like this to be able to take a nude photo by the UN building 🙂 I tried to replicate DNA double helix shape with my body; handstands weren’t as meaningful, but when else would I get a chance to act like that by the UN? Too bad there probably was nobody to appreciate the view from those offices, as it was Sunday… I actually ride my bicycle on this bike lane a few times a week – this place will never be the same for me! 😀 Then we all (models, artists and photographers) got on two double-decker buses and rode around Manhattan cheering and amusing passers-by – and also being cheered back. The first stop for a group shot was at Rockefeller Center (see the first photo in this post) followed by the NYC Public Library. Then we went down to Washington Square Park, where we started dancing to the music of street musicians, so our appearance was more like a fun flashmob. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fbe1cbo5DiE During those stops we also had an opportunity to talk to people, as many were wondering about the cause. I don’t recall any negative reaction, which once again shows that by far majority of people, once confronted with nudity, don’t actually see it in a way that you might expect judging by our legislation – our bodies are nothing to be ashamed of and on contrary are works of art!
Active Naturists present NuDance, a nude dance movement, at FreeForm Festival this weekend! It may sound new to you, but we see it as urban movement going back to its roots 😉
We are about to start regular weekly classes in New York City, so if you are interested, get on our e-mail list for updates and find out the location and timing of the classes. We are launching this project at FreeForm Festival as a part of our theme camp Gymnasium. We plan to have more workshops at other festivals, including Burning Man, and outdoor locations (e.g. Sandy Hook beach), as we see nature as a source of inspiration too.
We see dance as a celebration of human body in movement, and what a better way to celebrate and appreciate it than in the nude? We also think that by removing clothes, we’ll get rid of preconceived notions of how we are supposed to move according to the social status and social group associated with clothes; also, different dance styles are usually associated with different attire, whereas we want to give your body full freedom in motion and let you move the way you want irrespective of style. In other words, free your ass, and your mind will follow!