One thing i must admit about myself is that i am rather prudish.. Perhaps it is the catholic blood running through my veins that influences my reaction to certain occurences. I doubt it, as i have not been at mass for the guts of three years, unless you count my sister’s confirmation, which my gran evidently does not..
Since i have arrived here i have been confronted with several cases of blatant nudity. Firstly of course, the outdoor swimming pool. Naturally the children would frollick merrily in the nude, and to be honest i had no problem with that! But what i found most disconcerting were the women. You would think as a woman myself i would be totally comfortable with the idea of being surrounded by other half naked women ( or in some cases fully naked) . On the contrary i wasn’t. At the public pool in the open air, this one woman was walking around in just her underwear, enjoying the sun. Plenty more just got changed without a towel, not even attempting to cover up. I found myself not knowing where to look. Everytime i caught a glimpse of a naked person i felt myself blushing slightly or awkwardly staring. I thought for a moment was this perhaps a nudist colony and i was now privy to a secret meeting. It was definitely just a normal pool!
I guess i felt a sense of catholic shame that seems to be rather prevalent in Ireland. Here if one is getting changed it is expected that if one is a woman, then one must discreetly remove her bra under her towel, (an art i have yet to perfect ). It is even socially acceptable to go a step further, to wear ones clothes into the shower cubicle and bring a change with you, so noone can visibly see your bare flesh. On the contrary here, a lot of women seem to go braless, their breasts unfettered and hanging loose. Is this some form of feminist liberation movement or do they just not like bras in basle? Judging from my experience here it is becoming more apparent this discomfort around nudity could just be an irish custom, a mannerism i probably inherited from my grandparents.
I was really pushed right out of my comfort zone when visiting an art exhibition in the foundation Beyeler basel. It was here i first clamped eyes on the work of Marlene Dumas. Her work was fascinating and seemed to be based mostly around the human form. Her creations were often dark blurred figures, painted in a mixture of jet black, deep green and grey. The eyes were the most striking, in stark contrast to the blurred faces they were defined and painted in bright and vivid colours. You almost felt like the subject of the painting was gazing into your soul and reading your innermost thoughts. It really was a fantastic exhibition to witness.
However obviously as with most european art, her work revolved around nudity. She seemed to take it a step further and it was almsot pornographic in nature. I saw several pictures of a woman clasping her buttocks and wreching it open with long spindly fingers, smiling merrily as if this was the best banter she had ever had in her life! I felt like the image was burnt into my retina as i gazed right up the unfortunate subjects arse. The shading was magnificent, it was the most realistic arse i had ever seen! Nonetheless i felt just by glancing i was performing a colonoscopy on the poor one! Was this perhaps a step too far? Could this really be viewed as a creative piece? or was it, to put it simplistically, just a ginormous portrait of an arse? with little merit other than pure shock value? I am undecided about the whole thing and perhaps i am not learned enough to really comment. All i know is i had never in my life seen that far up a persons buttocks and to be frank i never want to again.