Perhaps standing around with a group of naked strangers is its own ice-breaker. With clothes left on the sofas behind us, our group marvelled at how natural it was to leave them there. Some stepped away to fish a phone from the piled clothing, heading to the heavenly banquet table in an attempt to photograph the candlelit curiosity, mindful not to mistakenly snap any of the other equally unclothed participants that kept appearing in the room. It somehow felt wrong to have my phone in my hand, an intrusion into a space that felt increasingly sacred.
I was attending The Fude Experience (as in, food in the nude) at a London location. Run by the multidisciplinary artist Charlie Ann Max, she describes it as “a liberating space that celebrates our most pure selves”, involving art, meditation, conversation and—most enticingly—dining naked.
This evening in particular, entitled “Muse/Museum”, featured breath-work sessions from Charlie Moult, gorgeous table-scapes by Anissa Kermiche, participatory figure drawing, and an art history conversation over dinner led by the historian of the ancient world Cosi, where much more was bared than just our bosoms.
While some people find art history to be inaccessible, we were deftly led to connect to it in ways many never had. We discussed the nude in art and its influence on our society. “The ubiquity of nudity in museums, nude women in particular, reflects the deep vestiges of sexism and objectification sanctified by much of art history,” explained Cosi.
This easily led to a conversation about the muse, but refreshingly not the sensual, sexually available kind we see depicted by so many movies and tropes. Rather, the muse we discussed was the “Divine”; those moments of meaning, clarity and purpose that drive us to action and understanding. Surrounded by bodies of strangers—eating clean food, talking about art, travel, hard times, and triumphs—this felt necessary.
I’ve worked for many years as an artists’ model, I use my body in my own artwork, and I am an activist against censorship of the body in art—nudity in art is basically my thing. So while I spend my time fighting for body equality, writing about censorship and wishing I was naked, this experience gave me a glimpse of the future I am fighting for.
We ended awkwardly, because how on earth do you end an experience like that? Grudgingly donning our clothes, we disappeared into the night, strangers wishing each other luck. Just as when we began, we marvelled at how something like this was so natural.