After a mysterious ban, the account soldiers on with photos of naked people next to Bucky sculptures.
UPDATE: Several hours after this story was posted, Instagram suspended the new Buck Naked On Parade account, telling the account creator that it violated Instagram’s “Community Guidelines” against “sexually suggestive photos.” The account’s creator maintains that the photos are not sexual in nature, and intends to seek out other avenues. We have reached out for comment to Instagram and the Madison Area Sports Commission, which coordinated the Bucky On Parade project, and will update this story as we hear more.
The Bucky On Parade project unleashed 85 large, artist-decorated Bucky Badger sculptures upon public spaces around the Madison area in the spring of 2018, stirring up plenty of discussion about how we invest in public art and whether such projects are actually a good deal for the artists involved. But the most compelling response by far came from Buck_Naked_On_Parade, an anonymous Instagram account that depicted folks posing for masked guerrilla nudes with the sculptures wherever they happened to be placed, from school-spirit explosions like Sue Medaris’ “Retro Bucky” to subtler variations like Angelica Contreras‘ “Goodnight Bucky.” Clearly the people behind the account were having a blast, drawing interest from would-be models, and using the project in a way its backers across Madison’s business and civic and college-athletics elite did not intend.
Buck_Naked_On_Parade got away with it for a while, then presumably took a break for the winter. Then Instagram pulled the plug.
“Sometime in late July this year the account was suddenly gone,” says the account’s creator, who agreed to speak to Tone Madison for attribution but asked to remain anonymous. “No notifications, no warnings. The entire account was wiped. I tried logging in again and it said the account didn’t exist.”
Instagram never explained why it deleted the account, the creator says. Did it break some rule? It doesn’t really make sense, unless Instagram is enforcing its policies very selectively. All of Buck_Naked’s nude models covered up their genitals in the photos (or they were blurred), so it wasn’t really violating any of Instagram’s rules—at least no more so than your average thirst trap.
“I follow lots of accounts where there is regular nudity and they don’t get shut down, so it’s confusing,” the account creator says.
Was UW-Madison teaming up with Instagram to control the squeaky-clean image of our favorite rage-contorted varmint? Well, the fact that the Bucky statues were out on public streets, and that the project’s organizers clearly intended for people to take photos with the things and post them on social media, weakens any intellectual property argument for zapping the account. I have reached out to UW-Madison and UW Athletics officials to ask whether they had anything to do with it. UW-Madison spokesperson John Lucas responds that “University Communications/University Marketing didn’t lodge any complaint related to the account.” UW Athletics, through spokesperson Justin Doherty, also denies lodging any complaints with Instagram.
The Madison Area Sports Commission, part of the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau, spearheaded the Bucky On Parade project. Greater Madison CVB spokesperson Rob Gard says that the CVB has never lodged a complaint against the account, but is aware of it. “Bucky on Parade was a family-friendly project that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for people throughout Wisconsin whose lives are affected by cancer. We never envisioned the statues being interacted with as they are with this account,” Gard says, adding, rather ominously: “And we have great concerns about people interacting with the statues this way because, in part, as we discovered when we installed the statues, fiberglass splinters are really super painful and difficult to remove.”
Asked about these comments, the creator of Buck Naked On Parade said they appreciated the advice but said, “I have never had any model complain to me about any fiberglass splinters.”
Since Bucky On Parade’s initial run wrapped up last fall, many of the sculptures have either been moved around to other public locations, or have been moved to private locations by the sponsors who purchased them in the project’s fundraising efforts for a local cancer charity and the Madison Sports Commission. There are still plenty out there in accessible locations where a person might conceivably take their clothes off and snap a quick photo under cover of night, and earlier this fall, the Buck Naked account was born again, this time without underscores. Before Instagram nuked it again shortly after this story was first posted, the account re-posted photos from the first account’s run, and yes, they’re out there plotting new ones. The best fresh Buck Naked content included someone sitting their naked butt right on top of Barbara Vater’s “Class Act Bucky,” the tuxedo-clad one currently strutting it up in front of the Park Hotel on the Square.
“I’ve definitely had trepidation about reviving the account, but I like the fun of it,” the Buck Naked creator says. “I love going out at night doing something that most people wouldn’t be doing. Or doing something we’re not supposed to be doing. I like the idea that this project challenges the idea of public art and what it should look like or be. I don’t know that there is anything that gets people riled up like the sight of a naked body. It provokes a lot of strong emotion in people and I think that’s interesting. The folks that have ended up being models have been really great and it’s a bit of a bonding moment also.”
On top of that, the account does function as a playful, but pointed, critique of Bucky On Parade.
“The wholesomeness of the project really did bug me,” the creator adds. “That was at least part of the impulse to do [Buck Naked]. I mean, I’m glad they hired local artists, but we all know they didn’t get paid like they should’ve. That’s another story.”
The account is now figuring out what to do after yet another suspension from Instagram, and the account’s creator is trying to figure out a way forward.
The account creator hopes to showcase people with a range of body types and backgrounds.
“No one is trying to look perfect in these photos,” the creator says of the account’s frank and un-idealized approach to nudity. “They’re taken in a few short minutes, so there isn’t time to see what looks best.”