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Exhibition challenges attitudes to nudity

Friday 14 Dec 2012 9:58 p.m.

Warning – video contains nudity

One would normally find a room full of naked women in a particular type of establishment catering to the needs and desires of a particular type of clientele.

But now a performance exhibition in Wellington is hoping to change people's attitudes to nudity - by de-sexualising the female form.

The Lady Garden is a performance exhibition where everything is on show, but gallery goers insist they’re not just there to perve.

“If you go to a strip club, you go with a certain intention, with art you go with a different intention,” says spectator Rose Seaoy.

“I do respect women and it would be cool to see art that's like that as well - and see women in a natural, true form, and as a companion, not as an object,” says another viewer.

And that's exactly the point, says director Virginia Kennard.

But can we stop sexualising the female form?

“We do it so much - can you not do it? Can you stop it? It's about how common it is in the commercial realm, and how that feeds into out personal perspectives,” says Ms Kennard.

Inspiration's come from Ms Kennard’s days as a life-drawing model.

“The model always leaves the room to get changed because it's like stripping, but being naked in front of people who are drawing you isn't sexual at all - and I really liked that boundary, that juxtaposition of a naked body, but not being sexualised.”

In the past, she says she’s run into reluctant spectators.

“I've had some pretty straight-up people say to me say, ‘It makes me really uncomfortable and I can't de-sexualise you, I can't, and I don't want to be a pervert, so I'm going to leave or not come’.”

But on opening night there was little embarrassment in the room.

“You look at a piece and you go, ‘Okay cool, I can see that’ and it didn't have to be weird. Obviously it’s uncomfortable because it's a naked lady - but it wasn't arousing, so to say,” says a viewer.

“Nowadays, with the internet, it's kind of like, everyone's so de-sensitised, and it's not maybe as shocking as it was 20 years ago,” says another.

The Lady Garden shows at Matchbox Studios until Sunday.

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