Naked: Institutional fear and bodies in public spaces

The Naked Soul (1)Argentinian artist Syd Krochmalny’s recent project ‘The Naked Soul’ explores different ideas of ‘nakedness’, public space and justice drawing on the case of the Naked Rambler here in Scotland. Dr Sarah Wilson of the University of Stirling writes in this article about some of the surprising responses to Krochmalny’s project and some of the issues it raises in terms of access to ‘public’ space and the fear and self-censure provoked by risk management practices in the workplace.

A recent art performance involving the projection of a video in a public place in Edinburgh raises key questions regarding freedom of expression, ‘public’ space and how it is controlled in contemporary Scotland. The video (‘The Naked Soul’) was made by Argentinian artist, Syd Krochmalny. Syd was invited to Scotland to give two seminars (one at the University of Stirling and one in the University of Edinburgh), an exhibition and to create this art work. After months of discussion, the resultant video draws on Biblical and philosophical texts, poetry and Scottish history to reflect on the case of Stephen Gough, the ‘Naked Rambler’, who spent over 6 years in Scottish prisons. It highlights different ideas of ‘nakedness’, attitudes to the body, imprisonment as a response to bodies seen as out of place, and ultimately of the kind of society Scotland is and could be. Do we want a society in which debate and ideas are valued as, we are often told, during the Scottish Enlightenment? Or one in which notions of ‘freedom of expression’, the ‘public’ and of dialogue are decaying in the wake of an all-encompassing institutional fear of controversy and the bureaucratisation (and potential criminalisation) not only of protest, but of any public gathering?

In the beginning was the word. And the fears provoked by the word. The ‘Naked Soul’ refers to the Greek myth of the origins of justice recounted by Plato. But the inclusion of the word ‘naked’ on our application for permission to project in public was ‘alarming’ to Council officials though I assured them no naked genitalia would be shown. Indeed, much less of the body than in many television programmes and advertisements, than on the covers of lads’ mags freely displayed in most supermarkets, than in the flesh during stag or hen party antics. In conjunction with the word ‘naked’ however, even arms and legs can become dangerous. A visceral fear of ‘offence’, of something ‘inappropriate’ seemed to pervade. It seemed an excuse to veil the fear of nakedness itself.

Don’t Push the Boundaries

Yes ‘freedom of expression is important’ but we don’t want anything that ‘pushes the boundaries’ said one official awkwardly, anything ‘offensive’ or ‘inappropriate’. Our first idea was to project the video onto the statue of the Scottish Enlightenment philosopher David Hume in the centre of Edinburgh in front of the High Court of Justiciary.  This attracted an aggressive response from the sculptor (backed up by implied threats from Edinburgh artistic and legal Establishment ‘heavies’  based on interpretations of Copyright Law that ignored established Scottish customs of hanging traffic cones on public statues and of rubbing Hume’s toe.) The sculptor’s representative suggested that if we didn’t believe in the aura of a work of art such as this sculpture, we should consider projecting onto a poster with the words ‘David Hume’ on it. In spite of having accepted a commission from an organisation with a definite political purpose (the Saltire Society), the sculptor himself employed Kant’s argument of the ‘Kingdom of ends’ and ‘art for art’s sake’ against the idea of temporarily projecting anything not only onto ‘his’ work but also onto the space around it.

Political Debate

The idea of political debate in a public place, or even of public space itself, seemed to be disturbing for artists, public bodies and others. It was suggested that ‘as a matter of courtesy’ we should ask the permission of the courts if the projection were to hit ‘their’ walls. Naïvely, we suggested that the walls of public buildings might be seen as ‘public’ property and not ‘theirs’. ‘That sounds like sedition’ was one response. Commercial suppliers were also frightened of causing ‘offence’. A company of equipment suppliers suggested we do something less ‘political’, concerned that they might lose contracts if they were seen to be ‘involved’. A Council official then suggested that one way to appease local artists and the ultimate local commandment of ‘Thou shall not interfere with the traffic even minutely… except during the commercially successful Festival’ was to transfer the projection to a local cemetery in which no one had been buried for over a century. Of course, this would also be a transfer to a less visible public place. This official in a public institution happily engaged in discussion around the project, but was afraid of censure from superiors concerned to ‘manage’ risk rather than encourage freedom of expression or dialogue. ‘I don’t want to get a call from the local newspaper about this’. No one was unhelpful. Most were interested in the project and wanted to chat. But as employees they knew well the contemporary concern of institutions to avoid anything ‘controversial’. They were scared and preferred to pass the decision onto someone else.

Monument to Thomas Muir, democratic martyr in New Calton Cemetery
Monument to Thomas Muir, democratic martyr in New Calton Cemetery

But the cemetery which contains David Hume’s tomb was, we realised, a good location for a project related to myths around death and judgment. A liminal place, for souls banished from too public places: Jews originally, transported activists such as Thomas Muir, prostitutes, Naked Ramblers perhaps, and artists wishing to explore certain issues (while still not offending against another British commandment ‘Thou shalt not show willies in public places least not outside of a commercial context’). Sorted we thought, with the blessing of two Council departments. But unbeknownst to us, the cemetery took us outside of the invisible boundary lines of these two departments and inside those of another, according to whom, even though Old Calton Cemetery functions more now as a tourist attraction than as a ‘live’ cemetery; ‘The families of the dead might be offended’. The idea of offence takes multiple forms and multiple spaces then.  We’d seen no sign of mourners in amongst the detritus of local drinkers, which we offered to clear. How many people might be the descendants (or the potentially offended) of these people buried over century ago?  What kind of offence related to never known ancestors might this be? How far might such offence travel over time? The project was coming to resemble its subject: the banishment of the (nearly) naked body to the margins, the fear of sexuality and death. But still there was no official response, yes or no. The official processes left us hanging despite several phone calls; with the blessing of some departments, but passed to others who did not respond. Was this silence the result of miscommunications….or a type of silence intended to silence, to lead us to self-censure? …..better to not engage in anything ‘controversial’, right? An effective silence too. It was beginning to get to me. I realised that I, too, was scared.

Managing Risk

Our final no came through an unexpected but revealing source. The afternoon before the projection, a university press official phoned the Council media department which suggested the Council did not know of our previous negotiations, or that we had been directed to the Cemetery by Council officials, and stated that the cemeteries’ department’s response was a definite ‘no’ (not that anyone had told us this). Rather than questioning this process or broader theories of freedom of expression or notions of public space, the increasingly cautious and commercialised university, too, preferred to avoid anything ‘controversial’, anything that might tarnish its monolithic, clean ‘brand’.  A university officer suggested that the video would be better shown in a more ‘private’ space, such as, in his view, the university itself. The Council media department’s gratitude to the university press office was obvious in an email ‘thanks for the heads up’; two institutions managing the risk posed by employees and their pesky, creative ideas.

Furious, and animated by an Argentinian who could not quite believe that this was happening in the country of Hume and Smith, we went ahead. After the cemetery we projected in the AugustineCentralChurch. In contrast to other institutions, this church honoured its tradition as a place of public dialogue and welcomed us with open arms. Here, at last Syd was shocked and impressed by an Edinburgh institution!

Is Another Scotland Possible?

We are left though with many broad questions at this crossroads in Scottish history. Is another Scotland possible? One in which the body provokes less official fear and revulsion, and in which children are not taught that the naked body is exclusively sexual or something perverted? One in which the many intelligent, creative workers within institutions –whether in the public or private sector- are allowed space to engage with ideas and spaces around them without fear of censure? One in which dialogue is welcomed, rather than ended by risk management practices in institutions relating to (potential) ‘offence’ to a few and the reaction of powerful media outlets? More broadly, can a society administered, explicitly or otherwise, through such a state of fear and self-censure, in which words such as ‘inappropriate’ and ‘controversial’ are used to close down rather than to open debate, be truly democratic? If democracy is constructed through dissensus, then does the aversion to such debate within some Scottish institutions reveal a latent timidity, and from an Argentinian perspective, proto-fascist, spirit at their heart? The spirit of the Scottish Enlightenment may still haunt CaltonCemetery, but it seems to be well buried in today’s institutions and (increasingly privatised) public spaces.


2 thoughts on “Naked: Institutional fear and bodies in public spaces”

  1. Two words cover the issue that you were confronted with: Cultural Marxism.
    Ironic then that you have published in a Marxist journal!

    Do you look around and see an Orwellian aura of 1984?

    Are you aware that Scotland is intending every newborn child to have a “state minder” for life?

    Orwell (Eric Blair) was a Fabian ( founded 1884 ) whose stated goal was to control every government in the world in 100 years – whether he was warning us or preparing us is debatable. They are getting close to it now.

    Don’t offend; insults and tweets can get you arrested. Don’t say anything “racist” if you are white and don’t speak out about mass immigration – Mr Peter Sutherland , chief of UN Immigration for Europe would get upset because he wants you to agree to use it to “dehomogenize” your national identity – so in other words – just shut up. All the easier to manipulate you if you have no country and no identity that you can stand up for. Try being gay and lose your family identity too – the state will look after you – the state wants your dependency – they’re going to have your kids anyway. Don’t try this and you are clearly “homophobic” – a Frankfurt School special!

    Yes Mr Sutherland also published a letter only a few weeks ago about when he was in charge of the World Trade Organisation and how it had been lauded as the single most important step towards “World Government”. He also headed Goldman Sachs and BP. Now he is deciding on Immigration – not anyone who was elected because that’s not what any of this is about – and it never was. It wasn’t ever – even when Wall Street financed the Bolshevik revolution – and more importantly – not afterwards. That’s because socialism is a front – as Lenin commented “useful idiots” – blindly on the way to elitist totalitarianism.

    Hold on – what has this got to do with freedom of expression? Ask your Marxist friends if you still don’t get it.

    To answer your question; Is another Scotland Possible?
    F*ck no!

    You see “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity” may have been the cry of the French Revolution – but that’s because it was the motto of the French Freemasonry (Karl Marx was a 33rd degree mason), which financed by the Rothschild banks, together, made the revolution for profit and power – and onwards… Rothschild was spectacular after Waterloo!

    Scotland is utterly rotten to the core with Freemasonry and the word “liberty” is just as meaningless and used to corrupt ends.

    Marxists are the masters at this – though Stalin did one better. Was it 100 or 120 million of his own he killed? A mere “statistic” of course – according to him.

    As long as our educational establishments are perverted by Marxist doctrine then Scotland has no future. Marx was not only a blood relative of banking internationalist Rothschild he was a Shabbatean Frankist and wrote the communist manifesto directly under the influence of the utterly perverse Lurianic Kabbalah – his father Heinrich having been introduced to the sect. If this doesn’t set alarm bells ringing then nothing ever will.

    Basically, poor old Stephen Gough doesn’t have a cat’s chance in hell and neither does “liberty” on the horrible journey that Scotland is taking.

  2. I was asked to do a film review for this film and a brief summary. I hope it’s not too long for here.

    The Naked Soul (La Primera Parte) Film Review
    by George Cavanagh

    “The Naked Soul” is a conceptual art project being developed by Argentinian artist Syd Krochmalny. Syd was first invited to create the project by his colleague Sarah Wilson, a Scottish social sciences lecturer at Stirling University. Sarah has now taken on the roll of curator, ably assisted by a growing number of artists, sociologists and other academics.

    The idea is to look upon the subject, Stephen Gough, the so called “Naked Rambler”, as a living, breathing and interactive piece of art form. Both social and experimental, being unleased upon the British public and the ensuing media attention that it brings forth. Each consensual encounter with the public and media brings with it, a new phase in the process of regeneration into something bigger and better than before. Put simply, Syd Krochmalny has reinvented the wheel of the art world, turned it on it’s axis and built up an intricate spider’s web of modern day expressionism. The question is… who is the spider? and who or what is the fly pulling on the silk threads?

    The Naked Soul Film was eventually premiered in Edinburgh on Friday, May 10th, 2013 at 20.30hrs in the Augustine United Church, on George IV Bridge, due to the original prearranged venue, The Old Calton Burial Ground, being deemed unsuitable for use because of inclement weather on the night. Syd however, did manage to project the film there, three times, in the Old Calton Cemetery beforehand, for some private viewings in the rain.

    Sarah Wilson began our evening with a short introduction to the film. Sarah continues… ” The history of this film is a bit complicated. I went to Argentina last summer for a conference abroad. We went to Buenos Aires and met with Syd Krochmalny as part of a visual studies group. Syd is a conceptual artist based in Buenos Aries and has worked with another very well known conceptual artist, Roberto Jacoby and others. And he’s part of an artist-run space called, rather ironically, the Centro de Investigaciones Artísticas or The C.I.A for short. So when we went to Argentina, we became very, very aware of the sort of difference to Britain in terms of visual culture on the streets and also in terms of students’ movements and the protests generally on the streets, in the faculty of social sciences in Buenos Aires, about which he [Syd] made a film. During those discussions, I was trying to explain how we were discussing issues about the body, which is an interest of Syd’s research. I think I mentioned it, almost as a throwaway comment to something that he [Syd] told me about, that was going on in Argentina [at the time], that in Scotland and elsewhere in Britain, there was this guy called Stephen Gough, the Naked Rambler, who was trying to walk across the UK, naked! And the response to that act [in Scotland], had been to imprison him, accumulatively for over six years. So that got us thinking alot, about the openness in Britain about the body and also about different views of the body in the bible, in philosophy and across Scottish history. We have several presentations of Scotland. For example, of the country in the Scottish Enlightenment, issues around freedom, philosophers like David Hume… and we wondered what he [Hume] would think of what was going on in this respect. We also think of the way Scotland tends to be marketed, particularly since the time of the film “Braveheart”, which drew on very much earlier [in history], myths surrounding The Picts and having gone into battle naked. This effectively being used to market Scotland at the same time as this guy [Stephen Gough] who’s walking across Scotland [naked], almost like a modern day Pict… and is being imprisoned for that act. So, this is the Genesis for the film, The Naked Soul. Syd drew on the Greek myth from Plato [Gorgias – The Judgement of Naked Souls] of the origins of justice, which relates to the idea that for judgement to be just, after death, then both the person being judged and also the judge themselves, should be naked. So that’s where the name of the film came from. It’s been worked on in Buenos Aires. The actor here is Juan Manuel Wolcoff*, music by young musician Fernando Manassero and narration by Roberto Jacoby. We’ll show the first film now, in Edinburgh, which has come to almost mirror… some of the history of Stephen Gough.

    Scene I The suffering of Job 1:20

    The action opens with what sounds like the reassuring chimes of an old grandfather clock, in a backdrop of complete blackness which carries on throughout the entire twenty minutes footage of the film. We see only the actor’s expanding torso illuminated, as he breathes slowly in and out. Then a glimpse of the naked man’s hunched-over back, as if compliant, ready and willing, waiting for a beating with the lash. It never comes! He rises and turns to face the camera, now with a head, chest and shoulders view of the ascending adonis, as if posing for a mug shot in a foreign jail. Judgement day begins! The narrator [Roberto Jacoby] makes an entrance with his voice… “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

    Scene II A parable of Jesus. St Matthew 25 :35>36

    Opens with the actor now recognisable as portraying Stephen Gough, the so called “Naked Rambler”, albeit, a very much younger, tanned, muscular long curly haired version, compared to the somewhat bedraggled, emaciated current look we have all been accustomed to seeing in the British, no! world-wide media. The actor, let’s call him Gough now, sits at a small square table that is covered in a rough brown patterned cloth. He sips some water from a small brown bowl, clasping it with both hands as he raises it to his dry lips. The background music to this here, sounding like the feedback from a microphone that’s been left far too close to an amplifier. We see on his right wrist, a thick silver bangle. Then suddenly a flash of a dead silver fish’s head on a rectangular silver foil dinner tray resting on the table before him. Gough unsheaths a short ornate knife and begins slashing into the fish from the tail to the head. Jacoby speaks again, as we listen to the sound of a low hum, as if coming from a continuous burst of a Star Trek phaser gun set on stun … “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”

    Scene III The Garden of Eden – The Forbidden Fruit. Genesis 3 :10>11

    The sound of light piano finger play decends like droplets of water on a tin can and our ears imagine a small stream rippling, somewhere close by. An upper body figure of Gough stands facing before us, one half in the shadows, the other brilliantly lit around the left arm and shoulder. Gough holds a bunch of herbs/flowers below his chest. He plucks off a flowerhead, studies it, sniffs then pulls at the petals with his teeth. He chews and swallows discarding the stem to the ground. He pushes back his long hair with his right hand then tries eating some more and some more again, each time tossing away the worthless stems. Hearing once again, that continuous hum of the Star Trek phaser gun, set to stun, Gough stands to attention but continues to ruminate on the remnants of the flowers. Jacoby beckons Gough with his accent… “And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, where of I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat?”

    Scene IV The Solitary Self . René Descartes, Meditations On First Philosophy.

    We are presented with a mug shot of a Christ-like Gough or is it a latter day Adam banished from the Garden of Eden. His head moving lazily from side to side. His big brown, sad eyes closed for a moment as if in a trance from the effects of eating the wild flowers.
    Jacoby, to the ever so slight piano finger play music, again haunts us with his unusual continental voice…
    “How often it has happened that I dreamed at night that I was by the fire, though I was quite naked in my bed! … I am reminded of having been deceived by similar illusions while sleeping; and, lingering on this thought, I see so clearly that there is no certain index at all by which wakefulness can be clearly distinguished from sleep, that I am quite amazed and my amazement is such that it is almost capable of persuading me that I am dreaming right now.”

    Scene V The Intertwining—The Chiasm. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and The Invisible.

    The mournful sound of a double base, truly madly deeply impresses upon a heaving male chest, the picture suddenly cuts to Gough’s neck and bearded mouth. Jacoby begins the blessing as smoke tantalizingly escapes from within Gough’s lips. “What there is then are not things first identical with themselves, which would then offer themselves to the seer, nor is there a seer who is first empty and who, afterward, would open himself to them – but something to which we could not be closer than by palpating it with our look, things we could not dream of seeing “all naked” because the gaze itself envelops them, clothes them with its own flesh.”
    During Jacoby’s blessing, a candle lit ceremonial table appears, covered in a striped brown cloth. In the centre, a large light coloured wooden bowl with a fierce gargoyle head bears it’s awesome vampirish teeth at the camera. Surrounded on either side by small indigenous porcelain dolls with large, red or black and multi coloured dresses. A red ornate globe rests beside a sheathed short knife and three slim burning white candles are evenly placed around the bowl standing tall in their small holders, one of gold, one of green glass and one of blood red. A green drinking glass half full of liquid sits by the side of a doll. Sprinkles of herbs fall from hands over the bowl, encompassed by bayleaf like dried leaves on the dinning cloth. Gough’s hands rummage through the leaves. He lights some in the candle with his right hand, circles the embers around the flame and then casually drops them in the bowl. He repeats the burn with the right hand then with both hands picks up some leaves and burns them with both hands ending in a semi-circular motion before dropping the embers in to the bowl.

    Scene VI The Naked Walks Begin. John Stuart Mill, Question of Population [2] Black Dwarf,

    Music. That troubling double base again. Gough’s head casts a puzzling look down, as the camera pans lower over his chest then torso. We see Gough encased with the now familiar straps of his backpack over his bare shoulders and midrift. He points, then lays a questioning open palm across the small map of Great Britain, held in his left hand. Pointing then to Eastleigh, (Gough’s home town), across to Cornwall and over to Land’s End and St Ives. Up to Bristol, Wales and across to the English Midlands. Gough’s first Land’s End to John O’ Groats Walk begins, naked, except for the straps across his body. Gough is in full frontal mode, a strangely feminine march, arms flowing up and down by his side.
    Jacoby announces… “The law is, that rain shall descend upon every man’s head, and every where. But if you do not like this illustration, I will give you another. It is a law of nature that man should go naked. He is born naked; like other animals, all of whom go naked. To put on clothes is clearly a counteraction of the designs of Providence, if Providence intended that we should not violate the laws of nature. Accordingly, upon this principle, some self-called philosophers have written in defence of the savage state, and have exclaimed against every step in the progress of civilization as being an infraction of the laws of nature.”

    Scene VII Principles of Political Right. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract.

    The introduction by a hectoring tone of a screeching violin greets us with a front vision of Gough, below the shoulders but above the knees, bound by white ropes around his wrists and across his waist. He struggles to break his hands free in a waddling gait from side to side.
    Jacoby… “Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they.”

    Scene VIII Consciousness. Jeanne Hyvrard, Waterweed in the Wash-Houses.

    Gough holds up an elongated dark brown wooden face mask with his right hand. All we see of Gough, is his long shoulder length hair behind the masquerade mask and his upper body with strange charcoal symbols etched into his glowing skin. We see Gough’s eyes, glittering inquisitively through the holes in the false visage. The annoying audio of the double base returns once more to join Jacoby in a self reckoning declamation… “This body which is mine. This body which is not mine. The body which none the less is mine. This foreign body. My only native land. My habitation. This body to conquer again.” Gough tilts his body over to the left in acknowledgement. Fade.

    Scene IX The Primitive Act – Perversion. Pierre Klossowski, Sade mi prójimo.

    Gough holds a lighted candle to the right side of his middle body. The yellow glow ignites the primitive black body art symbols on his skin. Jacoby speaks…
    “The language of institutions has taken over this body, more particularly taken over what is functional in “my” body for the best preservation of the species.” Gough now stands naked before us, save for his long leather necklace with tooth pendant and silver wrist bangle. He unsheaths a short knife and begins stabbing again and again into the air in front of him. Jacoby speaks… “His language has assimilated the body that “I am” through this body to the point that “we” have been expropriated by institutions from the beginning.” Gough again moves the candle around his abdomen. The glimmer of light shines, making the symbols visable once more. Triangles, diamonds, lines and a snake-like tattoo in the centre of his chest. Jacoby speaks… “This body has only been restored to “me” corrected in certain ways—certain forces have been pruned away, others subjugated by language.” Gough protects himself with a shield, or rather it’s the silver foil dinner tray and lashes out with the knife in his left hand. First he slashes to his right, then again to his right, then from the height of his chin, a swipe to his left, then a cut and thrust to his right again and a lunge upwards as if to cut someone’s throat and down through their body, then an advance jab across the middle. Jacoby speaks… “I” then do not possess “my” body save in the name of institutions;” Gough holds the candle again to his body, defining the different body art symbols. What can they all possibly mean, we ask? An overwhelming presence, lost consciousness, peak experience or absentmindedness entirely from reality? Who knows? Gough would know, we assume! Jacoby speaks… “the language in “me” is just their overseer put in “me”.” Gough holds a primitive rattle in his right hand and shakes it up and down. We are entertained by short glimpses of Gough’s right then left shoulders, front then back views, sporadically dotted with lines and arrows and triangular shapes. Gough flexes his back muscles. Then, from behind, his hands on his head, his hair held up high underneath, someone else’s mysterious hand, an intruder, draws the lighted candle down over Gough’s right arm and into the centre of his back. Revealed, for the first time by the colour of the light, the symbol of a large cross or saltire supported by bolt upright lines on either side. It’s Scotland! or Pictland! as it was known then, in ancient times, or at the very least, a representation of our modern day home country fighting for it’s independence and freedom from England, we presume. Or perhaps a religious meaning lies behind the Cross of Stephen with the strength of the Pillars of Hercules by his side? Does Stephen Gough even believe in God, as is? Jacoby speaks… “Institutional language has taught “me” that this body in which “I am” was “mine.” The greatest crime that “I” can commit is not so much to take “his” body from the “other”; it is to break “my” body away from this, take “myself” instituted by language.” Gough, reinforced with a silver sword in his right hand, once more pushes forward with cut and thrust movements. First four strokes to his right then a stroke to his left then a stroke to his right then two stabs to his left then a slice to his right,. He rests for a moment then a stab to his left again and another slice to his right. He looks to his left. Jacoby speaks… “ What “I” gain by “myself” having a body, “I” immediately lose in reciprocal relations with the “other”, whose body does not belong to “me”.” Gough runs the lit candle down his abdomen bringing to light, three glorious diamonds. The centre diamond enclosing his navel. Are we being led to believe that these three diamonds then, are the symbols of our United Kingdom, Scotland, England and Wales? Fade.

    Scene X Guidance of Life. Schonpeahuer, Counsels and Maxims.

    Gough sits sideways on a stool, his body turned slightly towards us. We do not see his legs, only the upper part of his body. Head bowed, his left side radiant, he flicks through the pages of a book. Jacoby… “As our body is concealed by the clothes we wear, so our mind is veiled in lies. The veil is always there, and it is only through it that we can sometimes guess at what a man really thinks; just as from his clothes we arrive at the general shape of his body.” Gough closes the black book, examines the cover as he lifts it up to the light. Fade.

    Scene XI The Judgement of the Naked Souls. Plato, Gorgias.

    The brief, rather atmospheric aria of a woman’s voice fills the arena, conducted by a cursory piano tune. Gough stands before us, fully clothed. He looks down at his light grey jacket, pulls open the sides and slips it off from the right arm then the left. He examines, brings it together, squeezes and lays it on the table to his left. He undresses more. He takes off his hat, holds it before him, looks at it and places it on the jacket, on the table. He pushes back his long curly hair with both hands then stares worryingly into the camera. His big brown eyes are alarming! Jacoby speaks… “Zeus said: ‘I shall put a stop to this; the judgments are not well given,” Gough then unbuttons his royal blue shirt and takes it off revealing his white vest and leather pendant necklace. A bare-chested Gough holds up his arms above his head and proceeds to bite and lick his left bicep. Returning to the undressing, Gough lays his blue shirt on the table, looks at his pendant and takes off the necklace. Jacoby speaks… “because the persons who are judged have their clothes on, for they are alive; and there are many who, having evil souls, are apparelled in fair bodies, or encased in wealth or rank, and, when the day of judgment arrives, numerous witnesses come forward and testify on their behalf that they have lived righteously.” Gough stands naked before us. A close-up of his pelvic area is protected from our eyes by the black book he holds in his right hand. He holds the silver sword in his left, standing erect from the floor. We see the whole body now, but not the legs. Gough stands proud, looking to his left, still holding the sword and the black book covers his private area. A close-up is given of his left facing head and shoulders. His chest shining brightly but all around him, we see only blackness. Jacoby speaks… “The judges are awed by them, and they themselves too have their clothes on when judging; their eyes and ears and their whole bodies are interposed as a veil before their own souls.” Gough looks at his white vest, begins to strip it off and turns round as he pulls it over his head and lays it too, on the table to his right. Gough has his naked back to us. Jacoby speaks… “All this is a hindrance to them; there are the clothes of the judges and the clothes of the judged.–What is to be done?” Gough assumes the full frontal standing position, on a white stool.The sword, he holds as before, the black book, he holds in front of his pelvis as before. Gough yawns in a close-up of his seated upper body. We cut to his lower legs standing on the stool then back to his naked torso holding the sword and black book. A close view of his naked abdonmen and chest then back again to his stance with the black book and sword. Jacoby… “I will tell you:–In the first place, I will deprive men of the foreknowledge of death, which they possess at present: this power which they have Prometheus has already received my orders to take from them: in the second place, they shall be entirely stripped before they are judged, for they shall be judged when they are dead; and the judge too shall be naked, that is to say, dead,” Gough sits with bowed head listening. Standing once more , with his back to us, he bends over and removes his trousers. He wears no pants. Rather reluctantly, he casts his folded trousers onto the pile. Jacoby speaks for the last time in the scene… “he with his naked soul shall pierce into the other naked souls; and they shall die suddenly and be deprived of all their kindred, and leave their brave attire strewn upon the earth–conducted in this manner, the judgment will be just.” Gough moves his head inquisitively and stands for a few seconds as the quickening pace of a piano hurries him up, his fully naked body shines out like a shaft of gold when all around is dark. Gough moves in behind the table festooned by his discarded apparel and turns towards us. His modesty hidden by the pile. Gough examines the clothes, the blue shirt, the jacket, the vest. Before he can lift the hat, the haunting piano aria resumes. Gough lifts and inspects his panama hat from the clothes pile. He palms it, spins it upside down but then discards the old head gear. He takes the pendant, still attached to the necklace, holds the leather strand in both hands and pulls the adornment over his hair and onto his neck. The aria finishes and Gough stands in silence. Fade.

    Scene XII Questioning Poetic Justice. Gillian Paterson.

    That evil double base again with a grinding metalic noise fills the air. The heaving man’s chest that we saw in the beginning of the film returns. Quickly followed by Gough’s rippling back as it flexes it’s sinews and muscular tissues. A spinning projection of our subject’s buttocks come into our sphere of view. The grinding metalic noise alarms our senses as Gough begins his suspiciously womanly naked walk, once more. A rear view only of him, walking into the blackness of space.

    Jacoby ends with a poem as Gough continues his feminine ramble,
    “Should I even strip off
    My deceit-proof clothing
    And go naked and eager
    As a blaze of supreme reason,
    I’d then reach the core-love
    Of my reason for living
    And I’d add to your pleasure
    The blaze of supreme reason.”

    The distressing, annoying alarm of the grinding down of the metal on metal, reminiscent of the rusty hinges on a gate, brings the philosophical poetic saintly saga to an end. The long horsehair bow of our friend the double base has it’s final say, as it plays us out in a prolonged nostalgic hum and we wonder if this really is the end. Gough fades now, sauntering into darkness like a modern day superhero, unperturbed, cool, calm and collected, oblivious seemingly, to all that has gone on before him and to all that he has left behind and who knows, whatever lies ahead… The credits do roll… the naked soul… by syd krochmalny… juan manuel volkov as stephen gough… narration roberto jacoby… art marina mariasch… camera daniela delgado viteri… music fernando manassero… body art nicolás domínguez nacif… production sarah wilson & alister black… (The musical hum finally says it’s last fond farewell to us calmly seated in the audience and slowly fades away. We all give a tumultuous round of applause!)

    The End.


    I showed part of The Naked Soul film to an erudite colleague of mine, named John Black. John then asked me what the film was about and he posed some fundamental questions to me. John takes over the conversation from here. “The academics and sociologists can philosophise all they like but when you get down to the heart of the matter… what does it really all prove? I’ll give you an example.” he said. “Jimmy Carr the comedian” he continued, “told an old joke the other day on television and it went something like this. Scientists have discovered the best way to make the most perfect toast in the world. The correct size, the best shape, the right colouring, in fact everything you could possibly want in really good toast. They have spent thousands of dollars perfecting their techniques and laboured many long hours fretting over it, just to get the damn thing right. And yet, at the end of the day… they still haven’t found a f*****g cure for cancer!” So, John Black’s little anecdote here, begs the question. In the film, The Naked Soul, has Syd Krochmalny found a cure for Stephen Gough? Well no, to be honest, not exactly, but he has supplied us with some surprisingly delicious pieces of toast to savour and rejoice over. The kind that leaves us hungry for more! Roll on La Segunda Parte – The Naked Trust and La Tercera Parte – The Naked Truth, all part of Syd Krochmalny’s new Naked Soul Trilogy. I can’t wait! Can you?


    It will be anyone’s guess on how Mr Stephen Peter Gough’s naked odyssey, adventure, trek or whatever anyone would like to call it, will end. Perhaps he will spend the rest of his fascinating life in a prison cell in solitary confinement, just like a certain Scottish sheriff had warned him once would happen, earlier last year. Perhaps he will compromise in the end and put on his clothes in public spaces and drift away into the wilderness of obscurity, as many of us would wish he should do. But whatever happens, it will be up to Mr Stephen Peter Gough and nobody on earth, will be gifted enough or capable enough or man enough, to turn him around. In the fine words of that classic philosopher, Mr John Stuart Mill from his book, “On Liberty”, “Considerations to aid another’s judgment, exhortations to strengthen his will, may be offered to him, even obtruded on him, by others; but he himself is the final judge. All errors which he is likely to commit against advice and warning, are far outweighed by the evil of allowing others to constrain him to what they deem his good.” That makes me wonder what John Stuart Mill might have to say, if he were alive today, to what the final solution for our “Naked Rambler” could possibly be? Perhaps… John Stuart Mill would say, “Let it be, Let it Be, Let it be!” The thing that makes Stephen Gough so fascinating to the world’s media in this day and age, is that here is a man, one single man like no other man, who is prepared to spend the rest of his life in prison for what he believes in. Regardless of what anyone else thinks of him or how trivial his quest may appear to be. And that my friends, is as simple and as good as it gets. George Cavanagh. June 1st 2013.

    *1 Footnote: In the Naked Soul film credits and also in the advertising flyer, the actor’s name playing the Naked Rambler Stephen Gough is given as “Juan Manuel Volkov”. In a subsequent article in The Scottish Sun newspaper and notice from the Naked Soul film creator himself, Syd Krochmalny, the actor’s name is given the correct spelling of, Juan Manuel Wolcoff.

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