“Hello, nude stranger”
Daily Portrait Berlin- the social media nudity project that stirred up Germany’s capital open-mindedness
19th august, 14:52, Kreuzberg, Berlin
I am home, waiting for a total stranger to ring the bell. Few minutes later, Robert and I are exchanging ice breakers in my kitchen. Shortly after, I am getting naked and he is taking a photograph of me. We choose the picture together and upload it on the internet. Tomorrow I will be the stranger behind the camera photographing a naked berliner I don’t know.
No, this is not a script from a home-made porn video. This is the new social media project The Daily Portrait Berlin.
Few weeks later, I am having a meeting with the artist who started everything.
6th September, 17:30, a small village next to Potsdam
I expect serene person, a cheeky artist, an extrovert who will make all boundaries of communication between total strangers disappear. I am wrong. He welcomes me with a muffled tone of voice, scattered and slow speech, leaving me with the impression that he is a quiet genius. “I need to get more popular, otherwise I will be just weird”, is how our conversation starts….
The artist behind The Daily Portrait Berlin is not the boy next door, even though his idea made so far more than 300 people get naked exposing themselves publicly. “It is more of a portrait of the principle of Berlin- strangers meet and get naked for each other”, Martin reminds me.
In line with my thought that a project like that wouldn’t stand a chance in my hometown Sofia where nudity is still an obscure “privilege” of flamboyant advertisement and kitch local pop.
In Berlin nudity is more like a shot of grappa after meal- you are not obliged to do it, but since everybody around you is having it, well, why not give it a try. Afterwards you realise you feel much more comfortable and relaxed with yourself, hence with the others. Crossing paths with naked people strapped with leather on an early Sunday morning, won’t strike you as “bad”, because you will understand that nudity is part of existence, maybe even the most essential part.
“I like relaxed and personal pictures where people are calm and don’t overexpose with dramatic look.” This led me to believe that Martin’s interest goes deeper into the story behind the portrait.
But there is more to The Daily portrait than the idea of self exposing — “it’s also the idea of anti-materialism. When we are naked we are all the same. You can hide under clothes and behind objects. The habitats are in the background and people in the foreground, that is another statement that infact matter doesn’t matter. “
As I am anxiously looking for the best spot in my home to shoot the Daily Portrait, I realise that living in a small flat-share, moving every few months, make my apartment feel more like a temporary nomad nest than a real home. But as long as I felt comfortable, the price of my furniture doesn’t really matter. As long as the feeling of documentary persists, the portrait is a successful one. Because elitism doesn’t have place in a project like that.
“I studied Arts in University for 2 years but I left because it was so academic and distant. It’s elitist.They live in their own bubble. Their art doesn’t really interact with the society. Maybe the project is a part of the change that needs to happen, because you don’t have to be highly educated, to create something beautiful with context.”
Martin suggests that nudity is only a tool, the project is much more about breaking boundaries, overcoming anxiety and fear. Pushes people to get out of their comfort zone looking for novelty. Not necessarily chasing Pokemons.
Touching the topic of hikikomori, Martin reveals the meaning of something as abstract and untenable as the purpose of art:
“It should show people there is nothing to be afraid of. I want to connect people with my art so they can share their fears and hope. Give them the opportunity to meet someone who has similar anxiety- the feeling that something is not working in their life and society”.
Walking along the shore of the lake, trying to follow his firm pace, a thought crosses my mind: deep down Martin is longing for the “normal life”. Asked about it, his reaction is to open another bottle of beer, plunge in silence for few minutes and reply with a touch of melancholy:
“Art is escapism but I want to change that for myself. I also want to meet a girl and have normal life, I don’t want to be a loner. I don’t believe in the segregation of art and normal human life as Marina Abramovic for instance, who never wanted to have children. My goal is to be more social. But I am afraid I will be just the weirdo”
In another few weeks the chain will be closed and the last berliner will shoot Martin naked in his place. The end will be followed by an exhibition and a printed album with all the photographs. Martin would connect more than 350 people from the scattered Berlin existence.
Maybe some of them would keep The Daily Portrait as a memorable mind artefact and see nudity is a path to a better society. One where breastfeeding is as normal as sexual appeal in advertisement around every corner.
Until we get naked fully for ourselves. And we are not strangers anymore.