City of Zug, 29.05.2024

Nude performance by a Lucerne artist will not take place

As part of the one-day "Niche" festival, an artist wanted to perform naked in public. This was not well received - by both the city and the parish.

There is fountain on the Burgbach school playground that is an almost 90 years old. Its shape is actually supposed to represent a calyx. But it doesn't take much imagination to see it as a shell. This is where Lucerne artist Naira Ramos wanted to appear naked. But she has encountered unexpected resistance.

The occasion is "Niche", a one-day performance festival taking place in Zug's old town on 8 June. One of the three curators of the festival, Ivan Röösli, explains: "We made a conscious decision to organise the festival outdoors. To create a moment of surprise for passers-by."

For the event, Naira Ramos planned an action in which she would perform naked and end up in the Burgbach fountain. She planned to stand on the "shell" of the fountain as a reference to the "Birth of Venus". In the famous painting by Sandro Botticelli, a woman stands naked in a shell and covers herself with her hand. Naira Ramos says: "I wanted to criticise the Western ideal of beauty. And the influence of the male gaze on the female body." Her performance would be under the name "Bitch Pose II". She would also mime female figures from other famous paintings.

The festival management applied to the city government for a licence for the performance. "To do everything correctly," says Ivan Röösli. But the decision took its time. The request was passed on: from the licensing office to the government council (Regierungsrat) and then to the education commission (Bildungskommission). In the end, it was rejected.

The city council does not find the location ideal
Dieter Müller
, Head of Communications for the City of Zug, explains the reasons for the decision. In principle, the Culture Department and the politically-composed Culture Commission support the project and the performance. "However, the city of Zug does not consider the Burgbach-Schulhausplatz location chosen by the artists to be ideal," writes Müller. Children play in the square, even outside school hours and on Saturdays and Sundays.

The artist Naira Ramos wanted to perform at the Burgbachbrunnen fountain         Photos: zvg (Leon Maria Plecity), Matthias Jurt
The Burgbach fountain is located in the centre of the school grounds          Picture: Matthias Jurt
Naked performances of any kind are not permitted in the Bauhütte             Stefan Kaiser
'The Birth of Venus' by Sandro Botticello                       Image: Wiki Commons


The city council offered to allow the performance to take place in the Burgbach moat area at 8 pm in the evening. But this counter-proposal was linked to conditions. Ivan Röösli said: "We would have had to put up posters within a radius of 150 metres warning people that a performance of this kind was taking place." He added: "The idea was probably that children and families would no longer be out and about at this time." But there is a problem: the festival ends at 5.30 pm.

The church doesn't want a nude performance in the Bauhütte
So the artist changed her plans. The performance was now to take place in the Zug Bauhütte in the afternoon, during the aperitif reception. But there was another obstacle. The Catholic parish of Zug is the landlord of the Bauhütte - and was not happy about the nudity.

Marilena Amato Mengis is the communications officer for the Zug parish. According to her, the Bauhütte is not rented out for commercial purposes - regardless of the type of event. For this reason alone, the event could not take place there. In addition: "It goes without saying that, with the churches as the organisers, the Bauhütte is the wrong place for a nude performance of any kind."

The festival management had to thereby confirm by signature that only an aperitif would take place in the Bauhütte. They thereby feel themselves affronted. "In the end, we had to fight for a very long time to obtain a solution. This has never happened to us before," says Ivan Röösli.

For the artist in particular, it was an emotional rollercoaster ride. "The concept was rejected by Zug City Council without giving me a concrete reason," she criticises. For her, it was unbelievable that the mere idea of a woman appearing briefly naked as a real being and subject at a performance festival caused such an outcry. "I mean, I wasn't even naked yet and everyone is already screaming," says the artist. At the same time, everyone is silent when women are depicted as sexualised objects. According to the artist, this is common in our society.

The artist covers herself with fig leaves
Nevertheless, curator Ivan Röösli is looking forward to the second edition of the festival to date. "We are grateful to the city of Zug for its support. We know that the city council has endeavoured to find alternatives," he says. What's more, the city of Zug is supporting the festival with CHF 10,000.

Lucerne artist Naira Ramos will not be performing at the festival. "If I were to adapt my performance, it would no longer be my art." Instead, she is working on a video, in which she addresses the challenges of obtaining a permit for her performance in the city of Zug. And plays with the censorship of her own body. She adds: "In the video, I will cover myself with fig leaves, just like it was done with sculptures 500 years ago." The video will be shown in the Seehof cinema during the festival.