Bushwick Open Studios is upon us once again and leave it to an event of this magnitude — really though, a decade in, BOS is like post-post-post blown up at this point — to spawn a bunch of auxiliary commercialized, money-making ventures as well as some wacky, well, outside-the-mainstream artistic endeavors. This year, to help you avoid any confusion that might arise, we’re going to draw some abundantly clear lines in the sand between the Newd Art Show (what director and co-founder Kate Bryan calls “a small, digestible art fair” that “aims to invigorate the fair model”) and something called Nude Weekend. To peak your interest, let’s just say only one of these events features a “human display case.”
There’s so, so much programming happening in relation to Bushwick Open Studios and unfortunately most visitors will spend their time moving from studio to studio in silence broken only by occasional hellos and thank yous to the bored-looking artists or the sound of countless free cans of PBR being cracked open (chug, don’t sip those as you make your way through the open studios).
That’s why we were hooked when we came across an invitation to Brooklyn Wildlife’s Nude Weekend– a two-day event series including performances, an exhibition of nude and erotic art, and a Saturday night party where organizer Christopher Carr ( who calls himself “founder of BK Wildlife, Emcee, Photographer, Curator, Event Planner, Philosopher”) hopes to share naked bodies of all types with BOS-goers. Nude Weekend promises art that evokes “the erotic, the fantastic, the risqué… the full pantheon,” and calls on artists to submit their work who “utilize the nude body.”
The first Nude Weekend was held three years ago, when Carr (who pretty much is Brooklyn Wildlife, the moniker for all of his creative endeavors, parties, and arts outreach programs) decided to open up his apartment in McKibbin Lofts to BOS rovers. “People would already come by and I wanted to do something unique that really stood out against all other events,” explained Carr, whose focus as a photographer is unconventional nudes. “Some people are doing nude art, but they’re not theming a whole show about it or making a whole weekend out of it.”
But Carr wanted to go beyond simply sharing two-dimensional nudes with the BOS crowd. “Instead of your normal gallery where it’s like, come and look at the work but leave after four minutes, we have a show going on [at the exhibition] so people stay, hang out, kind of party. And you get to exchange with artists — actually meet, interact,” he said. “Last year we had nude people in the space who we were shooting [photos of], then printing and putting up the nude photos in the space while folks were here.”
Can’t say we’ve made it to either of Nude Weekend’s previous iterations, but even if you count yourself amongst the experienced, you might want to think about giving this fleshy event another grab. “This year it’s definitely going to have a higher level of intensity,” Carr said.
Well, we wondered, how much more naked can we get than fully nude? “There’s going to be a higher level of engagement with the people who come in, there will be more of an interactive level to it — we’ve had a bit more experience now in producing these events so I’ve found better ways to manage it,” Carr explained.
This better management includes interactive games, a nude Sunday brunch, and what Carr described as a “human display case.”
“I’ve been doing more kink parties, so some of my friends are a bit more expressive, or comfortable with being nude publicly and are just down to participate,” he explained. “So this year there’s going to be a wider variety of nude performance art.”
On the one hand you don’t really see much unclothed body at the rest of BOS (aside from Tim Kent’s paintings), but on the other, it’s kind of hard to imagine that nudes can still be subversive. “But at the end of the day, most people are afraid to do this,” Carr pointed out. “The stigma and how you can be ostracized as an artist for doing something that’s perceived as offensive is still very real. As much as people enjoy nude artwork it always has a certain place.”
Carr’s photography features nude subjects who defy traditional standards of beauty, and while he denies that his own work, which will be included in the show again this year, is pornographic, there certainly will be some out-there stuff that qualifies as such. So best to keep the bbs at home.
“My work isn’t pornographic, in my mind, or even erotic, it’s totally just nude, there’s usually only one person in the image and they aren’t performing sexual acts,” Carr explained, but in curating the show he “got to see how people sexualize everything. I want to put work like mine in contrast to overtly and pretty extreme sexual images – in one of the videos, the actress is a cutter, so it’s really hard to tell if they’re using fake blood.”
This might be titillating or totally frightening, depending on how repressed you happen to be, which is exactly what Carr is aiming for. “It’s supposed to challenge people who might think they’re very liberal, but it’s also aimed to make someone who might be conservative think, ‘I never thought I could look at an image like this and still enjoy it.'”
But overall, Carr says his mission is to promote the work of independent artist and to break down segregation in the art world, because “Bushwick isn’t the most diverse place in practice. In actuality, sure, there are Puerto Rican neighborhoods, African-American neighborhoods, transplants, young white kids, older artist people who have been here for a while, but when you go to these art events and they’re hella segregated.”
And what better to bring people together than nudes? Everybody’s got a birthday suit after all.
“We don’t advertise as a diversity thing, we just push the art, but luckily I’m getting people from different countries to submit the art work, I’m getting people who are queer African-American females,” Carr said. “I’m getting the full spectrum that is this art community — I wanna get the rap kids around the performance artists and the folk people around the theater people, because we’re all pushing this progressive and this kind of not-accepted type of making art that’s non-corporate and not sponsored.”
On the opposite end of said spectrum is Newd Art Fair, which actually came after its phonetic predecessors Nude Weekend, and is now in its second year. And though clothing is strongly encouraged at this not-not corporate satellite event (they have a deal with Uber for Pete(r Campbell)’s sake), Newd is actually doing its bit to diversify the Bushwick Open Studios experience as well.
“I’m super proud of the fact that over half of the artists that will be exhibited at the fair are female, given the lack of equal representation in the art world,” co-founder Kate Bryan explained of the fair, which finds itself back at the 1896 in East Williamsburg this year.
And though the art fair is infinitely smaller than annual monster babies like Frieze (which trust us, was freaking crazy this year), with only 11 participating galleries (all of which are located in Brooklyn, most in Bushwick) Bryan is of the opinion this actually proves to be a good thing. “Our mission is to be additive to the Bushwick Open Studios program rather than distracting,” she explained. “It’s a very conscious thing on our part to hold it during Open Studios so collectors can come, walk through a very small digestible fair, and go look at the other art studios.”
Newd also aims to provide “artist-centric” programming throughout the week. Four talks, the details of which were announced today for the first time, will center on a variety of topics of interest to artists including the lack of representation for “girly art” in the art world and one titled “Beyond Resale Royalties,” which will hash out how artists can profit from the appreciation of their work over time.
So why Bushwick? “We have the goal of bringing collectors to the site of production instead of a more neutered location out on a pier or something that sort of distracts from the process of production,” Bryan explained. And while Bushwick Open Studios has certainly changed over the years, for better or worse, you can’t really argue with that – art is still happening here and BOS gets us closer to the people who actually make art.
Nude Weekend is happening June 5th through June 7th at 248 McKibbin Lofts, after party on Saturday held at 255 “Secret Loft” in McKibbin. Check out Newd Art Show on June 6th and 7th at The 1896 Studios and Stages, 215 Ingraham.