NAKED AMBITION
Sussex Life|November 2020
In the 1980s, Christine and Jennifer Binnie partied with Boy George and Marilyn and bared all as performance art collective The Neo-Naturists. Now they are working together to gain the recognition they feel they deserve
Nione Meakin

Christine and Jennifer Binnie laugh a lot. Sometimes it’s a giggle, more often it’s a big, joyous hoot. It’s unusual – and refreshing – to meet artists that don’t take themselves 100 per cent seriously. But then they never were ones for fitting in. Even in the heady 1980s, when the sisters shared squats and partied with an unconventional crowd including Boy George and Marilyn, they were slight oddities, cavorting “naked and red-faced” as anarchic art collective the Neo-Naturists while their peers postured in hip London nightclubs.

“The performance artists we’d seen didn’t smile,” says Christine, of forming the group along with fellow artist Wilma Johnson. “They were very white with tiny bosoms and bobs. We’re not like that. And if being serious is performance art then we felt having a laugh must be performance art too.” art too.”

We’re squinting against the sun on the balcony of Eastbourne’s Towner gallery, where the sisters are about to open a new exhibition – works they have chosen from the archives paired with new work by themselves. Jennifer, the younger of the two, has decorated the gallery walls with bold, colour-saturated images inspired by “the Downs, the woods, and human and animal bodies” while Christine tells me about a traditional bent wood bender they have installed and filled with objects she has made – a nod to her long-term involvement in East Sussex Archeology and Museums Partnership, which has encouraged her to “weave ancient ideas and techniques into my work”. There will be no nudity, however. Now in their 60s, the sisters have less patience for shivering their way through a full body paint and besides, they know too many people locally. It would be awkward.

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