I've been reading your weekly newsletters for sometime now and have been struck by how similar most of them are in experience and sentiment. Although there are exceptions, the standard script seems to be that a respectable man meets a similarly respectable woman and together they share in a private mutual display of their nakedness - commonly referred to as a 'DOMAI moment' in these newsletters. Such a moment then seems to have a profound effect on the man involved (and perhaps the woman as well). The man is overwhelmed by beauty; the man is overwhelmed by how natural the experience feels; and the man is deeply unimpressed by the lies and shame that are heaped on him by society at the thought of such encounters.
As I said, I have been reading these newsletters for sometime. Meanwhile I have been sitting on a poem I have written which, I believe, captures the common sentiments of the experiences just described. I suppose I could say that this poem also captures my own DOMAI moment. However, whereas most newsletters describe one man and one woman (or perhaps two or three) in a more or less private setting, my DOMAI moment literally involved hundreds of people right in the heart of a city and under the gaze of anyone who happened to be around.
This experience was an art installation in Newcastle/Gateshead, UK in 2005 by the American artist, Spencer Tunick. For those unfamiliar with his work, Spencer Tunick goes round the world getting hundreds, sometimes thousands of people together, mostly in cities, arranging these people artistically, and then capturing the scenes on photo. What makes Tunick's installations unique, though, is that every single person in these photos is completely naked.
Can those who have had a private DOMAI moment imagine this? Whereas they have had a secluded, intimate 'DOMAI moment', those who take part in Tunick's installations have a 'DOMAI moment' in public and on an industrial scale. When Tunick says 'strip', there is no time to think. Undressing is simply a rapid mechanical process, and within a minute or two a normal crowd transforms into a naked crowd. And the amazing thing is, this naked crowd remains normal, or rather it transforms into something even more normal than what it was before. Indeed, those few still dressed - who, in the case of the Newcastle/Gateshead installation included Spencer Tunick, his assistants, emergency services and police (there as a benign presence simply because we were a large crowd and nothing at all to do with our state of undress) - very quickly become distinctly abnormal.
As for the normality of crowd beforehand, after the event in Newcastle/Gateshead the national news reported that the participants included everything from accountants to zoo keepers. There was even a Church of England clergyman and his wife present. Dressed, this crowd really could have be any group of human beings. Undressed, this group became humanity as most people never get to see it - in all its forms, all its flaws and (therefore) all its beauty. The images of that day will stay with me for ever. It was literally one of the most amazing and beautiful things I have ever seen. One man and one woman seeing each other naked may well sense beauty and innocence in each other's bodies as described in DOMAI newsletters. Hundreds of people seeing each other naked know these things as undisputed fact for humanity as a whole. We are who we are and we are all the more beautiful for that. As proof that I believe this, guess where the print of one of our poses that I was given for taking part is hanging? Not in my bedroom, not at the back of the house out of sight, but right at the front door in full view of anyone who visits.
Before I give the poem, I should say a little bit more about the details of Tunick's installation in Newcastle/Gateshead. We arrived to register for this event very early in the morning before the sun had risen. At this time everyone seemed to be in a state of nervous excitement - however, this nervousness fell off at the same time as our clothes. The event itself began just as the sun peeped over the horizon so that the photographs would look their best. The upside of this early start was that most potential gawkers were still fast asleep in bed (the sun rises very early in the UK in summer). The downside, though, apart from having had little sleep the night before, was that it wasn't very warm at all. A couple of the photographs took place in a street surrounded by buildings, and every so often a cold breeze would whip round the buildings causing a loud 'brrr' from the crowd!
With that in mind, here is my poem:
Spencer Tunick in Newcastle/Gateshead 17/7/05
Under cover of darkness
And the watchful eye of the law,
Pockets of individuality came,
Each absorbed in their own fashion
Percolated from every fabric of society.
There we waited,
In an uneasy simmering mix,
To divest ourselves
Of our lifelong
A secret we are born with,
And carry to our graves;
A shame we are burdened with
By those we first burdened
With teaching us to conceal it
Within colourful layers
Of deception and pretence;
A secret shrouded in myth,
Unless unveiled in glamorous legend
(Which true life cannot be);
A shame reinforced by Church and State,
And their many constituent bodies;
A secret, nevertheless
We dared to share, and,
As the light began to dawn,
We did not have.
For when pretence was peeled off,
And deception lay crumpled at our feet,
The shrouded myth came true to life,
(If they're ever true in real life),
Were truly laid to rest.
Yes, then we learnt each other's secret,
And thus our own at last:
There is no secret,
As far as we could see.
That the secret was
The sameness of our secret
(The inherent beauty in our common humanity
Shameful isn't it?
That breeze of cold truth
Sure leaves one feeling vulnerable and
It will soon be redressed
With layers of warm deception.)
No wonder the secret must be kept.
"I've written you a couple times over the years, but I've never told you how I first discovered DOMAI. As are too many people, at the time I had many reservations about nudity and beauty. However, being human, I also had certain impulses that craved filling from time to time, and I had found a few newsgroups that posted lots of images. Mostly I'd just click through, barely pausing on any of them, but occasionally one or two gems would stand apart from the rest, refreshingly full of beauty. I'd lose myself for minutes at a time just soaking up their beauty, happiness and spirit, but I'd also download them to my computer to keep and enjoy later. Over time, I began to notice that the vast majority of these images (the ones I saved) tended to have this gray bar at the bottom, with the text DOMAI.com on them. When I finally made that connection, naturally I browsed over to domai.com. Imagine my surprise and delight to be greeted with a beauty of the day just as lovely as any I had so far downloaded! I spent literally hours that first day just devouring every newsletter, article, story and, of course, picture that was publicly available on your site! I also subscribed to the newsletter, and domai.com immediately became the first page I'd check in the morning, to brighten my day. I think it made the sun rise just a little faster in the morning. Within a couple months I had convinced myself to join, despite my college-student budget, and to this day, it's the only site I've ever subscribed to. I've never regretted that decision! Thanks for the beauty! It never fails to make me at least a little happier than I was, and to restore some hope for humanity!" - Rhett
These are samples from the members' section. In fact only from this week's pages! And the pages go back to the nineties.
Pictures are available in 6X size for members.