camp Gymnasium at Burning Man 2016

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).

naturist philosophy camp Gymnasium 0000 Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV, USA

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’.

naturist gymnastics wheel Vitruvian Man camp Gymnasium 0000 Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV, USA

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.

Vitruvian Man

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,

naturist gymnastics wheel camp Gymnasium 0002 Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV, USA

and it seemed like it was self-explanatory that one was supposed to get naked for a photo à la Vitruvian Man 🙂

naturist gymnastics wheel camp Gymnasium 0001 Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV, USA

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,

naturist gymnastics wheel camp Gymnasium 0004 Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV, USA

and they were creative with poses.

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But we didn’t forget the primary function of the gymnastics wheel,

naturist gymnastics wheel camp Gymnasium 0003 Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV, USA

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.

naturist gymnastics wheel camp Gymnasium 0075 Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV, USA

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.

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After we learned that, the success rate among all the newbies to gymnastics wheel skyrocketed, and we were on the roll 🙂

naturist run camp Gymnasium 0000 Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV, USA

Our first athletic event in the week was the running race.

naturist run camp Gymnasium 0002 Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV, USA

This year we only had a short race on our street,

naturist run camp Gymnasium 0001 Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV, USA

but it was a nice way to get attention from our neighbors and passers by.

naturist run camp Gymnasium 0004 Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV, USA

It was all for fun, but it was a competition nevertheless.

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It was no surprise that David won the race, as he was among the top runners at Bouncing Buns trail race two years ago.

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Our Gymnasium also offered daily fitness exercises, with Matt leading push-up sessions every morning.

naturist camp Gymnasium 0000 Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV, USA

This year we had a certified yoga/acro-yoga instructor among our campmates,

naturist acro-yoga camp Gymnasium 0002 Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV, USA

so we had a few sessions at the camp

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and also played a bit on the playa.

naturist acro-yoga camp Gymnasium 0000 Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV, USA

We probably should have spent a little more time posing with those amazing and massive art pieces,

https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5702/30885939485_b68b54a42d_z_d.jpg

but unfortunately some of them were burned much earlier in the week than we had anticipated (e.g. the pyramids on Friday morning).

naturist camp Gymnasium 0001 Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV, USA

Some installations were quite interactive and served as great frames for photos, literally.

naturist camp Gymnasium 0002 Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV, USA

Other installations referred to familiar views of the “default world”, like NYC skyline at the Kostume Kult, making the whole experience only more surreal…

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(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,

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but we arranged some decorations to highlight our reference to Ancient Greece.

naturist camp Gymnasium 0003 Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV, USA

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 😎

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Speaking of wrestling, finally getting to our camp’s most famous feature – naked oil wrestling – with more than 600,000 views of our last year’s wrestling video on Vimeo and a mention in the Independent, we can truly say famous!

naturist wrestling camp Gymnasium 0000 Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV, USA

As you’d expect, our wrestling matches are preceded by oiling up (with a pure Greek olive oil),

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which feels great in the arid environment of Black Rock City.

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Our entertainers led the show,

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and we had a good turnout of spectators and participants for all three matches that we hosted.

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Just like last year, we used sumo wrestling rules, as the simplest to adopt at a festival setting.

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The wrestlers had to stay within the boundaries of the blue mats,

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and only their feet were allowed to touch the ground.

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There was a great deal of pushing

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and lifting,

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or even carrying the opponent outside the rink.

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Though pushing was certainly the favorite technique,

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and sometimes our puzzle mats did not withstand all that force.

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But some matches looked a lot more elegant,

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almost like a dance.

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And surely it helped to possess a good grip (which the oil made more difficult)

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and/or ability to escape one (which the oil made easier).

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We had some well matched participants,

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so their matches were intense

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and unpredictable.

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Sometimes we’d need a few judges to decide who stepped outside or touched the ground first, but often enough the victory was clear.

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When the most active participants had wrestled each other a few times, we selected those with most victories for semifinals and finals.

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You could tell the finalists took the competition seriously,

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although all they’d get was a laurel wreath and glory, just like in the authentic Olympic Games 😉

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After the winner was determined for each of our three competitions,

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we awarded them at our ‘temple’.

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And the winners awarded us with their glorious smiles 🙂

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Besides giving the golden laurel wreath,

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we added one more touch of the Ancient Greek ceremony by scraping dust, oil and sweat from the winners with a strigil (bought on eBay, supposedly authentic!)

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And here is a video compilation from the wrestling matches – our only video from Burning Man this year. Enjoy, hopefully it’s a good reward for your long wait for our report!

 

on being a building block of a city made of humans…

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?

Angelo Musco – Sanctuary

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!)

camp Gymnasium at Burning Man 2015

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.

naturist gymnasium 0001 Burning Man 2015, Black Rock City, Nevada, USA

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.)

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The final touch was putting up the banner of our camp.

naturist gymnasium 0009 Burning Man 2015, Black Rock City, Nevada, USA

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.

naturist gymnasium 0002 Burning Man 2015, Black Rock City, Nevada, USA

And that view proved to be nothing short of amazing on the first night, with the supermoon rising next to the Man statue.

naturist gymnasium 0004 Burning Man 2015, Black Rock City, Nevada, USA

Another nature’s wonder was a mini-tornado coming to us from the playa –

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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:

naturist gymnasium 0013 Burning Man 2015, Black Rock City, Nevada, USA

We had a simple bike rack available for the visitors (note the horse head masks used for its decoration, I’ll mention them later).

naturist gymnasium 0014 Burning Man 2015, Black Rock City, Nevada, USA

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.

naturist gymnasium 0015 Burning Man 2015, Black Rock City, Nevada, USA

The schedule of our activities was put daily on the blackboard.

naturist gymnasium 0018 Burning Man 2015, Black Rock City, Nevada, USA

Our first event included two running races – a 100-yard sprint

naturist gymnasium 0006 Burning Man 2015, Black Rock City, Nevada, USA

and a longer, approx. 1.8 km run from our camp to the Man and back.

naturist gymnasium 0016 Burning Man 2015, Black Rock City, Nevada, USA

The sprint was won by Chris, and the long run by yours truly 🙂

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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.

naturist wrestling gymnasium 0012 Burning Man 2015, Black Rock City, Nevada, USA

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.

naturist wrestling gymnasium 0014 Burning Man 2015, Black Rock City, Nevada, USA

Each match started with ceremonial wide steps, and then opponents tried to push each other

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until one of them stepped outside the ring;

naturist wrestling gymnasium 0025 Burning Man 2015, Black Rock City, Nevada, USA

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.

naturist wrestling gymnasium 0041 Burning Man 2015, Black Rock City, Nevada, USA

But perhaps the most effective approach is simply carrying the opponent outside the ring, preferably keeping him upside down! 😀

naturist wrestling gymnasium 0043 Burning Man 2015, Black Rock City, Nevada, USA

For each pair, the victory was decided in 2 wins out of 3 matches.

naturist wrestling gymnasium 0026 Burning Man 2015, Black Rock City, Nevada, USA

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

naturist wrestling gymnasium 0022 Burning Man 2015, Black Rock City, Nevada, USA

and were well matched –

naturist wrestling gymnasium 0048 Burning Man 2015, Black Rock City, Nevada, USA

so their sparring was very intense and captivating.

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But even the fiercest match ended with a hug.

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And both of them received well-deserved golden laurel wreaths!

our winners!
our winners!

(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.

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Besides planned events, we had a few spontaneous activities, e.g. dance practices by Antony and damoN.

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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 🙂

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And with Tam around, acro-yoga was bound to happen sooner or later –

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to our own and guests’ entertainment.

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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.

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This structure proved to combine very well with acro-yoga,

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as its multiple lines were quite easy to align with the body parts of the posers.

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From afar, it looked as if the giant metal ball was resting on Antony supported by Tam’s legs…

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or arms.

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Then we posed with the Man himself –

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can you spot him here?

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And how could we forget ‘the Woman’?

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(This statue is actually called R-Evolution.)

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And one of the Mars Molecules seemed to be designed perfectly for acro-yoga, not just as a background, but as a base too.

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Here is a composition with three men again.

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And now, three men intertwined into one ‘laughing dragon’ –

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laughing and causing laughter in viewers alike.

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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).

naked skateboarding at Burning Man 2015

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,

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and we were treated with a show of really good slackline walker  who was naked and walked it all way through.

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He must be quite good at balancing, as I remember this guy on a unicycle at the Naked Pub Crawl 3 years ago.

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Speaking of which, the Naked Pub Crawl was again among the best events at Burning Man

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and certainly the largest naked one.

naturist naked pub crawl 0002 Burning Man 2015, Black Rock City, Nevada, USA

You can see more of it in the first video above,

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but as you can guess from the name, it involves cycling naked around Black Rock City with hundreds of fellow burners and getting drinks at participating camps.

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Duckpond camp offered some extra entertainment with their ‘mechanical bull’ ride,

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but unfortunately my favorite part from the Naked Pub Crawl 3 years ago – the slip’n’slide “duckpond” – was absent, being apparently prohibited by the state health agency… A slight consolation came from a slide at another camp, which was down a giant sheep’s ass 😀

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But we did plenty of naked cycling on our own too,

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exploring the playa and its installations.

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One of the most intriguing and impressive was the Totem of Confessions,

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which featured plenty of nudity in its decoration among other elements.

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Another view of the R-Evolution statue.

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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!)

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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!

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And for comparison, this is how the same place looked like one day after the end of the festival…

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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.

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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.

recap of the BodyPainting Day in NYC

NYC BodyPainting Day 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:

from the painting process

and a bit of posing

– luckily it didn’t rain!

– reference to last year’s theme – faces?

– 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. naturist 0000 BodyPainting Day, New York City, NY, USA Well, for now, we need events like this to be able to take a nude photo by the UN building 🙂 naturist 0001 BodyPainting Day, New York City, NY, USA I tried to replicate DNA double helix shape with my body; naturist 0003 BodyPainting Day, New York City, NY, USA 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!

FreeForm Festival – first experience as a theme camp

naturist 0000 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

FreeForm Festival really lives up to its name, and after I had so much fun there last year, I was determined to come back, and even more excitingly, together with our theme camp Gymnasium. FreeForm brings together a very diverse crowd, and although you wouldn’t see many naked participants, it is officially a clothing-optional event. Our camp was the only one where nudity was at its core, but there were some occasional fellow nudies here and there, e.g. two naked fire-spinners at the effigy burn (to which I unfortunately forgot to bring my camera).  So, we saw it as our opportunity to reach out to many people who don’t have experience in naturism (or simply said, those who are not used to hang out naked) and show them the great fun that comes with nude recreation. This was also a good test for us before launching our project of Gymnasium on a much larger scale at Burning Man later this summer. We got lots of encouragement and ideas for collaboration, and here are just some highlights.

Our first event attracted about a dozen people, but only our camp members were naked. Well, we thought it was still a success, as to bring across the idea of social nudity, people should get comfortable with others being naked, and then maybe it will not be too long until they feel comfortable in their own skin too.

naturist 0001 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

And our event required quite a bit of collaboration, often between ‘skins and shirts’, as it was a race that combined a piggy-back ride

naturist 0002 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

and a barrel run.

naturist 0003 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

It was pure fun,

naturist 0004 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

but to add a bit of competitive spirit and even more fun, we arranged a final race for the first 4 pairs from the initial run;

naturist 0005 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

for the final, the leading person had to wear a horse (or pig, in one case) mask, which partially obscured vision.

naturist 0006 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

Thus, besides making it more fun for the spectators, these masks were supposed to encourage communication between riders and horses.

naturist 0007 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

At the turn from piggy-back ride to barrel-run, riders and horses had to swap, so the participants in each pair experienced both roles, though in different versions.

naturist 0008 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

Just seeing these photos, it looks like barrel run in the mask was a bit more difficult to control,

naturist 0009 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

but everybody made it till the end 🙂

naturist 0010 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

My pair won, and is it was the only one where both participants were naked, let me conclude (admittedly, in an anecdotal manner) that  communication and collaboration work best between naked people 🙂

maskot program 0000 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

And the horse sort of became our camp’s mascot (we hung our program with historical references at the entrance to the camp).

Later in the day, we went to the temple area, played wind gongs

naturist 0011 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

and climbed trees (because why not? This won’t be an option at Burning Man :-))

naturist 0014 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

Then it was time for our nude dance workshop aka NuDance, for which we collaborated with our neighbors, ‘Priority 5’ camp – they provided the soundtrack. Thanks again, guys, in case you read this! We were really lucky to have them as our neighbors, as they had some of the best music around (probably among my 2 favorite music camps along with ‘Echo’).

naturist 000000 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

But here is a sad side note about music at FreeForm: apparently, some outdoors after-hours music sessions that were not supposed to take place kept some locals in the neighboring village awake to the extent that they filed a complaint and now FreeForm has to find a new home 😦 Hopefully, it won’t be difficult for the organizers.

Then there was another event that triggered some joyful nudity – a crossover from Holi festival, where participants splash each other with brightly-colored powders. I missed it, as I was getting massage at that time, but luckily other campmates brought some extra powders, so we had our own naked celebration of colors.

naturist 0012 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

And our colorful rabbit with a powerful jump deserves an extra credit 🙂

naturist 0013 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

We continued with Indian-inspired activities by doing yoga that turned into a symposium (as you may know from our theme camp description, this idea of drinking wine in different poses was also inspired by depictions of symposiums from Ancient Greek vases).

naturist 0015 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

We discussed a bit how to increase attendance of our events next year, and one solution was obvious – we should apply for workshops at the lawn by the main stage to increase visibility and traffic.

But then our last event was very successful indeed. Perhaps because people started packing and bringing down their tents, so our camp became more visible, or simply because many liked the idea, we had a very good attendance at our oil wrestling match. Even the founder of FreeForm Festival stopped by; he liked the idea of our camp, being both very interactive and educational, and advised to get some Greek-themed decorations such as columns (which we’re already planning for Burning Man).

oiling
oiling

Quite a few people showed for our wrestling match, and then more were joining from passers by. It was a good idea to use oil for participants (and we used a good quality Greek olive oil), as this encouraged them to get naked (and all did except for one who kept his underwear, because his girlfriend was strict about that allegedly :-))

naturist wrestling 0073 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

Here are just a few highlights,

naturist wrestling 0075 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

so you get an impression of how our matches went.naturist wrestling 0076 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

We used sumo wrestling rules, which are the simplest of all wrestling styles, i.e. only the soles of the feet are allowed to touch the ground and you have to stay within the ring.

naturist wrestling 0077 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

The most common winning strategy was pushing the opponent outside the ring, sometimes quite vigorously,

naturist wrestling 0079 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

but even then all matches ended in a peaceful manner

naturist wrestling 0080 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

and the whole atmosphere was very friendly.

naturist wrestling 0081 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

Another strategy was lifting the opponent and bringing him, or her as in this case, down… Though it didn’t work for me, as my opponent clung to me, and I had to extend my arm to the ground not to fall.

naturist wrestling 0006 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

Lifting the opponent and carrying him outside the ring worked well too.

naturist wrestling 0058 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

And some more selected moments for you:

naturist wrestling 0010 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

I really like these pictures,

naturist wrestling 0013 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

as they show interaction between people,

naturist wrestling 0017 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

many of whom are complete strangers to each other,

naturist wrestling 0024 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

while some are close friends,

naturist wrestling 0026 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

but in either case, it is both very physical and social.

naturist wrestling 0046 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

At times it looked almost like a fist fight,

naturist wrestling 0050 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

and then more like a dance,

naturist wrestling 0061 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

but keeping it balanced was the key to maintain the fun,

naturist wrestling 0031 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

even when the opponents were of quite different size.

naturist wrestling 0143 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

Which by the way wasn’t often a good predictor of who would win:

naturist wrestling 0147 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

our match showed that size doesn’t matter, but skillfulness does! 😉

naturist wrestling 0101 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

Admittedly, the matches between more similarly skilled and sized opponents

naturist wrestling 0110 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

were the most exciting to watch

naturist wrestling 0117 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

and lasted longest.

naturist wrestling 0134 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

And I guess you’ve been wondering – yes, we did have an all female match too!

naturist wrestling 0139 FreeForm Festival, Pennsylvania, USA

And I’ll just finish here quoting a comment from one of them, which makes me think that our mission was accomplished: “thanks for making me feel so comfortable naked and learning how much I love how it feels!”

PS I actually love these photos so much, and I think they quite grasp the essence of the whole idea of Active Naturists and our theme camp, so here is a gallery with an extended selection for your enjoyment.

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WNBR in Northern Hemisphere is coming!

World Naked Bike Ride will gather thousands of cyclists in many cities of the Northern Hemisphere to promote cycling as a mode of urban transportation, as well as body acceptance. The dress code is “as bare as you dare”, but in my opinion being naked is the best way to get the message across: cyclists use the power of human body for commuting in the city – so, show that body! – and yet we are the ones who are most prone to the truly indecent exposure to the traffic and vehicle pollution. In most cities, including my current hometown NYC, the ride will be held on Saturday the 13th. You can see the list of participating cities here, though it’s not entirely updated – look up if you have a local World Naked Bike Ride near you!

You can see my reports from WNBR in NYC 2013 and 2012, Boston WNBR 2014, as well as from Madrid in 2009Philly Naked Bike Ride was in is the biggest one I’ve participated so far. As long, as NYPD doesn’t disturb us like last year, we should have a fun ride all along – come and join WNBR NYC if you’re around:
Bodies assembly at 4:00pm, ride departs by 5:00 pm sharp. Arrive early for body painting, trainings, teach-ins, and socializing! Volunteers plan on coming early!
Grand Ferry Park; final route will be communicated to riders who show up only. More details on WNBR NYC wiki page!

wnbrNYC2015

theme camp application submitted for Burning Man 2015

Last week, we submitted our theme camp placement application for Burning Man, and if we get approved, we should get a nice location for better traffic and attendance. Our program is quite extensive, so we hope our guests and we ourselves will have a fun and productive experience at the Gymnasium camp. If you are going to Burning Man this year and would like to participate in any way, please e-mail us or leave a comment here! New members are also welcome! Here are some excerpts from our application (with illustrations of our inspirations as well).

Gymnasium camp layout plan + name 3.0

The layout of our camp is very simple, as our main focus is organizing interactive events rather than creating mind-boggling constructions. We will have a square shade structure with open space in the middle – our gymnasium’s “palaestra”, where most of activity will happen. The entrance will be adorned with columns, while the internal court of palestra will feature a couple of [artificial] trees typical to Greek landscape such as cypress and  olive. The perimeter of the camp will be used a track for our races.

yoga wine drinking Ancient Greecewine drinking Ancient Greece

Unfortunately, we’ve ditched our idea with serving food and drinks to our participants so far, as this would require additional applications to state authorities, which might be too much for the first year while not really crucial for our theme.

But we shall certainly have several athletic activities, as we shall revive a few events from the authentic Olympic games with some modifications.

wrestling Ancient Greece

Greek-style wrestling, and as a variation, oil wrestling; we shall provide olive oil to participants; on the one hand, oil will make wrestling more slippery = difficult and fun at the same time, but on the other, we think participants will appreciate its soothing effect on their skin, being in the harsh arid environment.

oiling Ancient Greece

We had do think how go around prohibition of animals at Burning Man for our “equestrian” events

chariot race Ancient Greecehorse riding Ancient Greece

The solution is simple, our participants will play the roles of both riders and horses:

piggy back Ancient Greece

piggy-back and barrel-run races (possibly relay races, depending on the number of participants) will be our equivalent of equestrian events. We would like to hold these two during the Burning Man’s edition of the World Naked Bike Ride aka Naked Pub Crawl. We may offer participants to cover themselves in olive oil for these events as well, as a symbolic act for filling a car tank, to remind that the World Naked Bike Ride is a demonstration for oil-independency and for alternative energy sources and body-powered transportation (not to mention that the slippery aspect will make it more fun as well).

discus thrower Ancient Greece

A frisbee throw will be our equivalent of discus competition (this is one of the reasons why we would like our camp to be at the esplanade); we could have one frisbee event during day and another during night with LED-lit frisbee discs.

For athletic training, we would like to provide workshops on wrestling, yoga, acro-yoga, street-style dances (hip-hop, house, break etc.) and capoeira. Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art disguised as a dance and usually accompanied by music. In this aspect, it is similar to the way Ancient Greek athletes often trained, accompanied by live musicians.

music and jumps Ancient Greece

As for the artistic aspect of our theme, we plan to hold a poetry slam. In ancient Greece, literary events were an indispensable part of athletic festivals, including the Olympics. Also, champion athletes commissioned great poets to compose their victory odes, so we would like to combine one of our athletic events with a poetry competition and make the losers compose odes to the winners.

Similarly, to make our events even more interactive, we could introduce bets among contestants or their supporters: e.g. “If you win, I’ll give you a foot rub every night for three nights”.

Our camp has two certified and even more amateur masseurs, so we would like to provide massages to the winners and most active participants of our events.

To add another aspect of Ancient Greek culture – mythology and drama – we will reenact some famous duels between mythological figures.

For the philosophical aspect of our theme, we plan to hold discussions on various topics, and at the same time experiment with different forms of discussion: symposia, Socratic dialogues, debates, autobiographical explorations of themes related to the body. Our topics will include:

– body image and body acceptance across cultures and history; their roles in naturism, and what naturism may teach the rest of society about body acceptance;

– body modification (e.g. cosmetic surgery, piercing, tattoos, scarring, the practice of circumcision);

– the place of god(s) and humans in our modern worldview and in Ancient Greece;

– the concept of gymnasium, as training for the body and mind in equal measure; mind/body relationship; mediations of the body and athleticism of the mind.

thinker

Let us know what you think, and if you cannot participate directly but have an idea related to our theme, just comment here.

FreeForm Festival 2015: camp application submitted

This Wednesday, we submitted our theme-camp application for FreeForm Festival (which, in case you haven’t seen my previous post about it, is North-Eastern version of Burning Man, on a smaller scale and with grass). We’ll be a camp of a dozen people, many of whom will go to Burning Man as well, so it will be our chance to try some ideas regarding  our theme – Gymnasium.

Our camp is themed around gymnasium in its original Ancient Greek meaning: a place for physical training, socializing and engaging in intellectual pursuits. Nowadays, physical and intellectual activities are usually seen to belong to separate domains. We want to bring back the idea that they mix well together, and our activities will include both physical exercise and philosophical discussions.

The word ‘gymnasium’ comes from the Ancient Greek term γυμνός [gymnós] meaning “naked”, and our activities will be held in the nude. We believe that nudity will make physical activities more fun and at the same time will be important to bring across our message about body acceptance. We hope that all our participants will only feel more comfortable and confident in their own skin after our events.

FreeForm Festival will last 5 days this year (4-8 June), but we’ll probably just go for the weekend from Friday evening to Sunday night. Our program, as submitted, will include the following:

piggy back race (Sat, noon): an alternative to equestrian races in the original Olympics

street style dance workshop (Sat, 3pm): Urban dance workshop with a new twist – in the buff! Now you can’t cheat your moves 😉

yoga followed by some wine-drinking (Sat, 6pm): Ancient Greeks sometimes drank wine in acrobatic poses at their symposiums ;-)) Nude yoga – for a better flow 🙂 Free your body, free your mind! We’ll end the session with drinking wine in your favorite yoga poses.

… followed by  discussion on body image and body acceptance across cultures and history

capoeira workshop (Sun, noon): Capoeira is a unique martial art with elements of dance and is usually accompanied by music. Come to hear about its history, try some kicks and defense moves, and learn a capoeira song! To comply with our camp’s theme of body acceptance and make sure you do all the moves correctly, this workshop will be done in the nude 🙂

wrestling match (Sun, 3pm): Let’s wrestle like in the original Olympics – nude! Do you have any body image fears? It’s time to fight it too 😉

The most active participants and winners will be served Greek-style food and given massage!

Contact via e-mail or leave a comment here if you want to join us for FreeForm Festival or just share an idea for our activities.

Naked Volleyball SuperBowl(s), and on no-photo policy at some naturist events

Naturists playing volleyball is a cliché, but I think it’s a good one! Let me know if I’m wrong, but apparently the largest naturist sport event (after the original Olympics in Ancient Greece were prohibited) is a volleyball tournament which takes place every September in Western Pennsylvania – The Original Naked Volleyball Superbowl. As its venue, White Thorn Lodge, is probably all white in snow right now, before reporting on our experience there, I’d like to announce that a similar event will take place in one month in the Sunshine State of Florida: the 14th Annual Super Bowl South Ten Day Volleyball Tournament. Well, quite a bit of information has been included in the name already, so I’ll just add that it takes place at Lake Como resort in Tampa area from 6th to 15th of March, with finals on the last day. See you there 😉

Here is a promo video for this event. If you notice, they don’t really show much of the volleyball game itself though, and yet it’s more than the bigger event in Pennsylvania allows: although this blog usually features photos and videos to accompany most texts, absolutely no photos were allowed at the Volleyball Superbowl at White Thorn Lodge. I’d like to hear your opinions about it, but I find it unfortunate. If naturist movement wants to promote body acceptance and normality of nudity, it seems counterproductive to forbid photography and video at such a big event as Volleyball Superbowl, as it may only reaffirm general public’s opinion that nudity is something to be ashamed of or at best suitable only for private/secretive setting. Sport events make the top most watched TV broadcasts – the Summer Olympics, football and rugby World Cups, Tour de France etc. globally, and Super Bowl in USA – so it appears that naturism fails on capitalizing on demand for sport videos to popularize the movement. And it’s a pity even more so, because such videos would promote naturism as an active and healthy lifestyle.

Well, actually there is an article and a video by ESPN about the Naked Volleyball Superbowl, but unfortunately, it doesn’t do justice, in my opinion, because all photos seem to be staged and everything possible was made to conceal genitalia and women’s nipples. (Good move, ESPN, with your Body Issue series, but it’s kind of only a half-move for the aforementioned reasons…)

As a result of such policies, if you search for illustrations of naked volleyball games, as I did for the article on nudity in sports, you’ll be swamped with porn links with hardly any legitimate material in sight! Needless to say, it would send a wrong message to someone who just started getting into naturism and would look for more information and examples of naturist activities. Surprisingly, there are a lot more videos of naked skydiving and rock climbing than of naked volleyball!

Is there any solid reason behind such strict rules at the Naked Volleyball Superbowl and some other similar events? Perhaps the organizers are afraid that many people wouldn’t want to be outed as naturists publicly, and if they allowed photography and TV, fewer visitors would come and some would feel uncomfortable (which, again, is contrary to naturist philosophy of nudity’s normality). But such events as the World Naked Bike Ride attract even larger numbers of participants, and nudity is on display in front of much larger audiences in some of the world cities such as London (as opposed to private nudist clubs)… Perhaps a solution to keep ‘shy’ people happy at the Naked Volleyball Superbowl and the like would be giving out wristbands of different colors to those who are fine with being photographed and those who aren’t, and  make the photographers and TV crew sign release papers accordingly…

The only argument against photography that I personally would [maybe] accept from the organizers is if their intention were that participants enjoyed the immediacy of the event. This is how no-photo policy is explained at the ‘Output’ nightclub in New York, for example. While I don’t necessarily feel that I personally lose immediacy every time I take a picture (sometimes even on contrary, I get deeper into the moment taking a picture of it), at least such an argument at naturist events wouldn’t send you to the assumption that nudity is somehow shameful 😉

Regardless of the photography issue, there were many moments to enjoy at the Naked Volleyball Superbowl. I went with two friends – Tam and Mat 😀 – and immediately upon arrival we made a few new friends. From people at the reception to our campsite neighbors, everybody wanted to make sure that we had everything necessary for a comfortable stay. It was indeed very helpful, because my other friend Don had to cancel his trip last minute, and he was supposed to bring some camping gear. In the end, everything went smoothly, and we greatly appreciated friendliness of White Thorn Lodge members and so as fellow campers who also came specifically for the event: we were offered to use the grill, a ride to Pittsburgh on the way back, and were invited to dinners and parties. Some camps, such as Quebec’ team and Tiki-Tamba, had decent sound systems and DJs, so at night the atmosphere was very much of a festival.

We went with the idea to play lots of volleyball, but we didn’t realize the event was indeed that serious about the sport. It actually turned into a volleyball marathon of three full days! On Friday, we built our team with our campsite neighbor John, his friend from local community and that friend’s friend’s teenage daughter. So, our team pretty much reflected the open nature of this event! With around a thousand participants (in some years, up 1500!), Naked Volleyball Superbowl truly brings all kinds of people together. Some arrive with fully formed teams, others find teammates on the spot. This diversity is also reflected in volleyball skills, as competition includes men’s and women’s AA, A and B classes, and multiple mixed C/Novice level teams. We started as a novice team but on Saturday were upgraded to C (Novice+). Sunday was the day of the actual competition, by which we were quite exhausted. None of us had much experience with volleyball, but we did pretty well, at least better than we expected, just failing to reach the finals. It was also nice to walk around and watch other matches, which differed quite a lot, depending on the surface (grass, sand, asphalt) and levels. After corn roast in the afternoon, the event culminated with men’s AA finals. I’d never seen volleyball of such high level and was amazed that it looked like a totally different beast from volleyball games that you see at a beach typically. This was inspiring and impressive, and nudity made the whole experience only more exciting. After seeing this game, where the volleyball was certainly not the only kind of balls bouncing around, I could assure that the claim by some naturist skeptics that vigorous activities are not suitable to do naked because certain body parts would “move too much” and “get hurt” is complete bollocks! Well, perhaps such skeptics should consider the Russian version of the proverb that a bad workman always blames his tools, which is ‘плохому танцору и яйца мешают’ and literally means ‘a bad dancer is impeded even by [his own] balls’. 😀

I can’t wait for the naked Volleyball Super Bowl South in Florida and then hope to practice volleyball more at Sandy Hook beach this summer to be in better shape for the tournament at White Thorn Lodge again!

[interactive] arts rock!

Lately, there’s been a lot of discussion whether New York City has lost/ is losing its artistic scene and innovative atmosphere – see if this New York Times article can convince you otherwise. However, I’m happy to be involved with two local artists – Andy Golub and Shungaboy – who have a unique approach to art, which allows people to participate in art rather than being its passive consumer (not that there’s anything wrong with that, though).

Andy Golub is a renowned artist that often uses body as canvas, and he often makes a performance of the process itself too by painting bodies of (often non-professional) models at public places in New York. This is probably as interactive and public as art can get: you yourself may be transformed into a piece of art, in the middle of a busy street! Nudity certainly draws attention, but it also certainly makes people think and re-evaluate their attitude towards human body, such as what can be considered ‘beautiful’ or ‘appropriate’, and this is when art becomes meaningful.

I’ve already written up on two events organized by Andy Golub – body art at Times Square in 2013, and the 1st NYC Bodypainting Day last year. You got it right, that was the 1st Bodypainting Day, so the 2nd must follow and so forth 😉 This year, Andy plans to double the capacity for the event in New York some time in July, but he’s also announced a date for the Bodypainting Day in Amsterdam on the 15th of August 2015! You can hear more about these events and Andy Golub’s ideas during his interview as well as see or even participate in nude body painting demonstration this coming Saturday, 24 Jan, in Nyack, NY.

 

Andy Golub has interviewed himself some of participants of his event (check out his Vimeo channel), here are just two of those.

Felicity from Young Naturists America tells how she feels becoming an art object,

and Sidney loves the public aspect of it.

My friend known by his artist name Shungaboy has just started a group for nude male figure drawing. What I like about this group is that everybody joining the group is expected to participate both as an artist and as a model. This creates a friendly atmosphere, and it also must be useful for models and artists alike to try both roles.
nude male drawing 0000 New York, NY, USA

I am certainly not the only one with this impression, as  Shungaboy’s MeetUp group has proved to be very successful from the first class. I actually had never modeled for a drawing or a painting before that, and it was also nice to brush up my painting drawing skills.

nude male drawing 0003 New York, NY, USA

The workshop allowed 15 minutes for each sketch, and with 14 participants, most models were paired.

nude male drawing 0001 New York, NY, USA

What’s nice about sketch format, is that we could put up our works on the wall for immediate discussion, which kept the whole atmosphere stimulating and interactive.

nude male drawing 0004 New York, NY, USA

Having my photo camera handy, I couldn’t resist taking some pictures

nude male drawing 0005 New York, NY, USA

of the painter and the painting process. Now, that I look at these photos, I think the scene of a nude artist painting nude models itself is worth painting too!

nude male drawing 0002 New York, NY, USA

You can see this and another works of the group clicking on the image below.

 

So, whatever you may think of the art scene in New York these days, if you consider yourself an active or artful naturist, you should definitely check out these groups!