Tiffany Oben performed on the fourth plinth on the 1st September at 4am and was one of the first women to choose to be fully nude. Read her thoughts on the experience below.
I do not consider myself a naturist, but do walk around my home naked much to the horror of my teenage children. I figure it's best they see a what a natural woman looks like, bombarded as we are by utterly unnatural images of humanity courtesy of airbrushing, cosmetics and plastic surgery. I have appeared in several art works, photographic and paint, naked, and insisted on breastfeeding my four babies whenever and wherever they needed it. Two of my babies were twins which meant bearing all to feed them. I considered it a political statement and our right to do so. Needless to say I was asked to leave several establishments, although this was nineteen years ago and I believe, or hope, things have changed these days.
When planning my hour on the plinth this was the only thing I was going to do. I would not be persuaded by my partner, my own fear, my younger sisters and daughter who came with me to the square or any other factor to do anything else. Even the police telling off previous nude plinthers was not going to stop me. At first I thought of ways to cover the nudity that would bridge the gap between the male and female self. I considered modest covering up with items of clothing, then one of those ridiculous nude body suits. I then realised there was no point in any of this. What was I trying to cover up? Why would I when everyone, but the ridiculously sheltered (who surely cannot exist) knows exactly what it is I would be trying to hide? We’ve all seen it before, naked women are hard to avoid these days. Half of us have what I’ve got, we were all born of the female body, many of us suckled there. There became no reason to hide, so I decided not to.
The actual act, the moment before I took off my shirt, was frightening. This was largely due to the hecklers who were absolutely horrible. I have never been spoken to in such a nasty manner, ever. It appeared to have been worse than other naked plinthers. I wonder if it was the hour of 4am, the drunken dregs of the bank holiday as I was up on Tuesday the 1st of September, or perhaps my anomalous and transformative gender status for the performance. Bizarrely they shut up when I became a ‘lady’.
I had no plan B. The alternative was to dress again and not finish my performance. I went for it. I took off my shirt and became, apparently, the first fully naked female plinther.
Looking back at the footage – a few days later I was surprised at how long I had been naked, surprised I had walked about so much, chucked my discarded penis to the crowd. I had meant to take some photographs as the nude, thereby becoming the subjective and active artist as well as the objectified, passive nude; but forgot! I think the lack of sleep made the whole affair surreal and dreamlike, hard to recall.
I am glad I did. I am surprised how good I looked as I am a 40 years old mother of four. The feedback has been great, though my Dad and older sister have yet to mention a word about it to me! This has utterly opened up the possibilities of performance for my art practice. And finally I will never look at Trafalgar Square in the same light again, I own a bit it now, it’s mine and I am so glad I ignored my fears and false modesty and went for it.
Tiffany Oben www.tiffanyoben.co.ukWatch her performance here