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Barry Sykes: An Amateur History of Social Nudity in Modern Essex @ Focal Point

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‘A CONFESSION: Anarchy, Anonymity, Health & Efficiency’ An Amateur History of Social Nudity in Modern Essex 1896-2017 with Barry Sykes 
Saturday 10 December 7.00pm, drinks from 5.30pm
Focal Point Gallery

In this introductory talk to his current research for Radical ESSEX, artist Barry Sykes will attempt to trace a line from Essex’s Tolstoy Colonies, via the UK’s first naturist club in the 1920s, to the attitudes, allegiances and hobbies of present day commuter-belt suburbia.

The prospect of communal nudity can provoke horror or delight. However, in reaction to the industrialisation and chaste attitudes of Victorian society a number of utopian communities emerged in the late 1800s looking to get back to nature in a variety of ways. Inspired by the searingly honest late non-fiction writings of novelist Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), ‘Tolstoy Colonies’ appeared across Europe combining anarchism, pacifism, vegetarianism and agrarianism with a naked, outdoors lifestyle.

For his forthcoming Radical ESSEX project Sykes has made a series of visits to one of Essex’s three remaining Naturist Clubs. Employing archives, surveys, cameraless photography, typography, tennis and the power of the sun he is building a body of research reflecting societies shifting attitudes to our own bodies.

This performance lecture will be delivered within Torsten Slama’s current exhibition of paintings and drawings of fantastical municipal landscapes.

– This is the first public presentation of a work in progress.
– It will feature found images of full frontal nudity.
– The speaker, staff & audience are invited to be as #BareAsYouDare. Remove a hat, shoe, or everything.
– The room should be warm.
– No photography.


“There are no conditions to which a person cannot get accustomed, especially if he sees them accepted by everyone around him.” – Leo Tolstoy, ‘Anna Karenina’.

“True life begins when tiny changes occur.” – Leo Tolstoy, ‘Why Do Men Stupefy Themselves?’.

Barry Sykes (b.1976 Essex, lives and works in London) adapts basic handmade and digital techniques into sculptures, works on paper and performances that explore the edge of inappropriate, overlooked or unnecessary behaviour. His work is either made in focused solitude or in direct conversation with selected collaborators in attempts to quantify experience and the consequences of making. Recent projects have involved Pitman shorthand, laughter yoga, forgery, a talk in a planetarium, an acting class and a series of feedback forms.

Recent solo exhibitions include Sociable Hermit, University of Bath, Somerset, UK (2015); “it must be told”, Enclave, London, UK (2014); Recreate a Nervy Pistol? (An Early Retrospective), Plymouth Arts Centre, Plymouth, UK (2011). Recent events have been presented at Kings ARI, Melbourne; Arnolfini, Bristol; Limoncello, London; The Showroom, London; Spike Island, Bristol; Tate St Ives, Cornwall; Tate Modern, London and the Immersive Vision Theatre, Plymouth.

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Barry Sykes: An Amateur History of Social Nudity in Modern Essex @ Focal Point

Sat 10 December 2016


Ends: Sat 10 December 9:00PM

Focal Point GALLERY

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