The Neo Naturists were an important live art collective initiated in 1981 by Jennifer Binnie, Christine Binnie and Wilma Johnson. The group emerged as a part of London’s subculture that arose from the squatting community in the aftermath of Punk and the emergence of the New Romantic club scene and the advent of Thatcherism. During this time a creative energy developed in the UK that sat outside established institutional practices of the time, creating its own network of activities, events, economies and celebrities.
The Neo Naturists collaborated with a subversive cultural network that included significant figures such as Grayson Perry, BodyMap (Stevie Stewart & David Holah), Leigh Bowery, Michael Clark, Cerith Wyn Evans, Boy George, Derek Jarman, Andrew Logan, John Maybury & Peter Robinson (Marilyn).
Combining ideas of ancient rituals with contemporary life, The Neo Naturists performed wearing little more than body paint in nightclubs, galleries, festivals and unannounced site-specific public performances. Their celebration of a particular kind of anarchic innocence and deliberate primitivism provided a unique artistic voice within a cultural landscape that was otherwise dominated by a male perspective. Accordingly their work engages with a range of complex issues surrounding gender, representation and performance.
The retrospective at Studio Voltaire will focus on elements taken from their archive from 1980 –1992 and will include video footage of original performances, photographic documentation, costumes, paintings and ephemera from their performances. An integral aspect of the retrospective will be the re-staging of key performances.
The Neo Naturists have been neglected within contemporary discourse, yet the relevance and potential of their work and methods remains as sharply radical and transformative today as they were more than three decades ago.