Mother/teacher/artist/activist Tasha Diamant embodies vulnerability by appearing naked and unscripted in performance and in public. Healing. Dissidence. Art.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Human Body Project at the 2014 Victoria and Vancouver Fringes

The Human Body Project at the 2014 Victoria and Vancouver Fringes

"the most relevant and powerful work at the fringe" • "naked, emotionally and literally" • "simply audacious"

Who?
Tasha Diamant, 52, is a mother, performer, and activist. She started the Human Body Project, an ongoing performance art project, in 2006. She is also a university professor, yoga instructor, and visual artist.

Human Body Project Vulnerability Vigils at the Victoria Fringe

What?
Human Body Project Vulnerability Vigils, as a form of street performance, will be part of the site-specific pieces at the Victoria Fringe this year.

For a Human Body Project Vulnerability Vigil, Tasha Diamant stands naked in public to share and create a space for vulnerability. She holds a large sign in a gesture of gentleness for those who are deeply affronted by public nudity.

It is a ritual or practice of "being the change," non-violent direct action, participatory democracy, etc.  People are always invited to join her and often do. 

Where and When? 
At the Victoria Fringe there will be five vigils.
Human Body Project Vulnerability Vigils • Aug 26-30, 5-6 pm

The vigils will be held near fringe venues in downtown Victoria.
August 26 Pandora and Quadra
August 27 Johnson and Quadra
August 28 Belleville and Blanshard
August 29 Broad between Pandora and Johnson
August 30 Pandora and Douglas

Locations may change due to unforeseen circumstances so check humanbodyproject.org for confirmation.

How?
People will be able to buy tickets to Human Body Project Vulnerability Vigils via ticketrocket.org but there won’t be actual ticket collection. To "buy a ticket at the door" people can contribute to a hat on the sidewalk. Tasha is inviting people to buy tickets to support the work.

People are also invited to watch or even take part in some participatory democracy. Taking part might mean holding a sign or just engaging in conversation with Tasha, other participants, or people on the street. 

Tasha is the only person committed to being naked. People who join her can be as (un)dressed as they choose. Signs will be provided.

May 2014 Vulnerability Vigil

More Background 
Tasha has been doing Vulnerability Vigils at least once a month since January 2012. 

Lately, she has been using the extinction symbol on her sign (@extinctsymbol), a symbol created to draw attention to the global extinction crisis. She will also bring the VULNERABLE sign and some other words.

VULNERABLE was the word on the sign for a long time. Then Tasha switched to different words that also evoke consideration of vulnerability (e.g., HOLY, COMPLIANT, PARADIGM).

Human Body Project Workshop at the Vancouver Fringe

What? As part of the Vancouver Fringe, Tasha is offering a free or by donation Human Body Project Workshop. Shortly after the workshop Tasha will hold a Vulnerability Vigil near fringe headquarters and is hoping that some participants will join her.

Description of the workshop: The gesture of showing up naked and unscripted is about creating a space to share and honour vulnerability. This is visceral, risky work. Co-create a felt experience of embodied connection beyond our culture’s destructive limitations.  Come with an intention to do no harm. Know there is room for imperfect communication. Participants share and (un)dress as they choose.

Where and When? 
Friday, September 12 • 1:30-3:30pm
Studio 1398
1398 Cartwright St on Granville Island
Vancouver
(+ Human Body Project Vulnerability Vigil • outside at same address, all welcome • 4:30-5:30pm)

How?
Just show up.

For more information contact: Tasha Diamant
tashadiamanthuman@gmail.com
Follow Tasha on twitter @HumanBodyProj
"Like" the Human Body Project Facebook page
"No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it." 
A. Einstein

Friday, July 18, 2014

Application to Speak at TEDx Victoria

This is for sure my third, if not my fourth, application to speak at TEDx Victoria.

I am prepared for further rejection but I can share my proposed talk on my blog (this includes writing from previous blog posts):


Einstein said: No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.

Audre Lorde said: The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house.

But industrialized culture has us humans more stuck in old systems of domination and destruction than ever. A simple way to put this is: civilization is destroying civilization.

I believe the main reason behind this stuckness is that, because of deeply ingrained cultural and neurobiological tendencies, we have created a world where the body has no place in the body politic except to reinforce old strategies of safety.

Since 2006 I have been showing up in performance naked and unscripted. An irony of the project is that this simple statement provokes enough of an emotional reaction that, if anyone is patient enough to notice, it handily demonstrates that even the suggestion of placing the body back into the body politic affects consciousness rather strikingly.

I share and create a space for vulnerability by showing up as authentically and vulnerably as I am able to in the moment. Another of the project’s great ironies is that I need to create a performance to arrange such a situation.

Performances are voluntarily participatory and experiences vary. There are conversations and silences, tears and confusion. The gesture of showing up vulnerable and undefended allows many people to encounter a rare, non-dogma-related experience of a much deeper connection with humanity while in community with strangers.

My work can be seen as non-rhetorical cultural criticism/cultural realignment. One of my arguments/experiential offerings is that, at this time in human history, we must finally acknowledge that we are all intimately related.

So, yes, my work seriously disrupts notions of what is private and what is public. My work also echoes what many indigenous cultures already know and embody.

I believe that the only way forward for humanity lies in acknowledging and owning our shared vulnerability. We are at a place of urgency where, in my opinion, the privileged people of the world are called to expand beyond the concept of human rights into taking on human responsibilities.

In other words, my audience includes the TED audience and other privileged Westerners. We created the mess, we have the most power, and we have the most responsibility.

My project is called the Human Body Project and, while it intersects many disciplines and categories, can best be categorized as performance art and activism.

One key reason the work lies in the realm of art is because, although I am outspoken about many issues, my body and self as an artifact exist outside of ideology and political affiliation.

In January of 2012 I decided to push my work beyond performance venues. I committed to doing a Human Body Project Vulnerability Vigil at least once a month until I die.

For a Vulnerability Vigil I show up naked in the street for an hour at least once a month.

September 2014 Vulnerability Vigil in front of the VAG.
Because I understand that people on the street may be seriously affronted by public nudity, I always hold a large sign, which for many months was a really long word: VULNERABLE. Lately I’ve been holding a sign with the extinction symbol on it.

There are many reasons I decided to take the work out into the street:
  • As I said, the work intersects many disciplines and categories but, as you can imagine, there is almost no place for it. I can’t even begin to list the various rejections. Mostly it has existed in fringe theatre festivals, which are lottery-based. And, even if chosen in the lottery, it is expensive and difficult for me to get to any beyond Victoria and Vancouver
  • As an outlet for my own grief and rage
  • To stand in some solidarity with the world's most vulnerable
  • To continue to provoke a serious consideration of our own and our planet's vulnerability


So I also see the work on a continuum of non-violent direct action. We live in a democracy and, if nothing else, what I’m doing is peacefully disrupting status quo and practicing participatory democracy.

Doing what I do is WAY outside of the culture I was born into—privileged, upper middle class, female, white, Canadian born in the 1960s—and WAY outside my comfort zones.

So what's it like to do what I do?

I am a supersensitive person. Through years of dealing with my pain and shame, I have come to understand that I am like a conduit for the unfelt feelings of others. I am pretty much always dealing with resistance, disgust, pessimism, depression, rage, as well as physical symptoms. I feel stuck and complicit in a culture of mostly invisible brutality. I often struggle to breathe.
I especially relate to this piece by Mark Fisher, another activist, scholar and person who uses his grief in his work. He links depression to social conditions and says "Someone who moves out of the social sphere they are ‘supposed’ to occupy is always in danger of being overcome by feelings of vertigo, panic and horror… you have no right to be here, now, inhabiting this body… you are a nothing, and ‘nothing’ is quite literally what you feel you are about to become.”
My grotty house and stinker kids are also pertinent to the question. I am a 52-year-old mother of two precocious kids under 13. I am older than many of my youngest daughter's friends' grandmothers. Also, my kids are related to me. They are delightful and exhausting.

So doing the Human Body Project takes place, for me, in a context of complicated shame, anger, and fatigue. 


I mentioned earlier some of the background to this work. It's not about "thriving" or "joy." My work is often dismissed as a downer. Although I do often end up having fun and enjoying myself, which is a nice bonus.


Before a Vulnerability Vigil, I will often collapse, sometimes for days. I don't have a woman-cave in my house and I am challenged setting boundaries with my spirited children. I am also severely challenged by the attention-deficit-juggling modernity requires. And I'm also a pure and simple idiot at asking for what I need (partly because I'm not sure it even exists; I’m a none-of-us-has-made-it-until-all-of-us-has-made-it kind of a gal).


Collapsing is, I think, my being's way of recharging. It sucks though, because anything resembling normal functioning is very difficult.


Right before I show up to a Vulnerability Vigil, I feel like puking. 


I have done more than 30 vigils. My experience is they don't get easier.


I am afraid of conflict. Haha. I am always going against my training and epigenetic make-up that cause me to be compliant. I worry a little about arrest, but more about cops and what they represent. I don't want to be rude or disrespectful! I really don't. I am a born and trained conformist who can't find anything to conform to.

I worry about my children's friends' parents seeing me. I worry about my neighbors seeing me. I worry about meany-bums. I worry about people thinking I'm crazy. I feel crazy.

Then there's my body. Did I mention that I'm 52? I guess when I'm 60 I'll think I looked good. I started the Human Body Project eight years ago and that woman I was then, whom I thought was rather flabby and aged, now looks quite fetching. Let's just say the flab and agedness continue apace. Plus hairiness.


Then there's the whole being naked thing. I feel shame. Not because it makes any sense at all. It does not. Unless you count the millennia of training my people have sustained. So I do.


So, I show up at a place.

I find it difficult to speak to whomever I'm with until we get going. I am metaphorically evacuating my bowels and speech is difficult.

Getting undressed is tricky. I am conscious of not feeling sexy and my not perfectly sanitary underwear. I try to find a place to be discreet. I hate it when I forget a bag to put the clothes in. They get rained on a lot. 


It's always cold. But my armpits are always sweaty.


One winter vigil this year, for instance, was particularly nasty. The person who was with me and I were not able to last the full hour. During the time we were out there freezing, I started singing and dancing. I often do sing and dance a little bit but this time I was so cold I did it the whole time. I was jumping and squatting and full on doing my own version of a tribal dance. It felt good. 


I may not be naked positive but, like skinny dipping, being naked outside feels good on my skin. I like having air on my vulva. Even frigid air. We have affinities, of course, but I don't consider myself a nudist. I get where they're coming from though. Bare skin is freeing. 


We're undressed and trying to get in place and hold the sign in front of us awkwardly at first.


The sign is big and unwieldy, weirdly heavy. I have often used words that are eight or more letters. Honestly, I would just write FUCK every month because that would be easier and really sum it up for me, but I see how it might not be gentle. Holding the sign for an hour is difficult. My fingers get cramped and my arms and shoulders sag. 


I always think about the placement of the sign, where we will stand, how it will photograph or be seen. I am annoyed when it blows around or someone isn't holding it taut.

I am always annoyed, period, by the compromise of the sign. As an artist, I want people to be jarred out of complacency. But at the same time I don't like the idea of getting in people's faces. It feels unkind. The sign is there, as I mentioned, to shield my nudity because for many people public nudity is so affronting. It's a compromise and a gesture of gentleness and I keep making that decision because it feels right but it still annoys me.

Victoria cops are quite respectful. If cops come over and seem uncomfortable, I offer to put on my underpants. There is no cause for arrest if genitals are covered. 


They always say it's because kids might walk by (I'm behind a sign and in front of a hedge, but ok). I always feel bad for them. Mostly they don't look like they want to bother us.

I inadvertently scheduled a vigil at the Santa Claus parade launching area. We were there much earlier than the parade start time but, still, a paddy wagon, ghost car and several police dudes hung about the whole time. Unnerving to invite so much weaponry.

Vulnerability Vigils give me an opportunity, as a privileged person, to experience a broader understanding of my relationship citizen to state.

Some people think I'm brave and, by addressing and taking on my demons, I am. But I also find my demons so pathetic. So a cop takes my name. So my butt is flabby. So I feel embarrassment and shame. So what? Big deal.

But that's what I'm working with. It's such a not big deal and, I would argue, the nub of what's killing us.

In other words, those difficult emotions hold me back and, I would guess, hold many people back. But I am living at a time when my difficult emotions are hardly the point, especially when I have the opportunity to make a difference.

A Vulnerability Vigil is an experiential exercise in, among other things, containing paradox. To spell it out, my pain living in my culture leads me to actions outside of my culture that lead to different difficult feelings, including feelings of ostracism and futility. Challenging.

People ask me what my goal is.

“Being the change,” public education, inspiration… I suggest that my activism is a version of non-violent public ritual and action, a form of art.

Edward Burtynsky, the great photographer of landscapes transformed by industry, talks about how he positions his work: “If I say this a terrible thing we’re doing to the planet, then people will either agree or disagree. By not saying what you should see, that may allow them to see their world a little differently. It’s not a simple right or wrong. It needs a whole new way of thinking.”


I’m doing what I am able to create that new way.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Vulnerability Vigil: July 21, 2014, Wharf near Government, Victoria BC

Human Body Project Vulnerability Vigil
Monday, July 21, 2014
5-6 pm
Near the Homecoming statue on Wharf St. near Government St.
Victoria, BC
Tourists enjoying the June 2014 Vulnerability Vigil.
I'm holding the extinction symbol sign in the background. Photo by David Howell.
At least once a month I stand naked in public to be in some solidarity with the world's most vulnerable.

We need to understand that's all of us. I'm a nobody's-made-it-until-all-of-us-have-made-it kind of gal. I believe it has to be a visceral learning. Words aren't enough.

For vigils, I hold a sign in a gesture of gentleness for those who are deeply affronted by public nudity.

A Vulnerability Vigil, for me, is a ritual or practice of "being the change." It's about creating space for vulnerability. It is non-rhetorical cultural criticism, street performance, non-violent direct action and more.

I'm always hoping people will join me here in Victoria or in coinciding vigils around the globe. People who join may be as (un)dressed as they choose.

Email tashadiamanthuman@gmail.com if you are interested in organizing a vigil where you live.


Here's a link to the event on Facebook

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Alberni Valley Fringe Festival: 2 shows (June 20 and 21)

The Human Body Project has been called the "most relevant and powerful work at the fringe."

Playing for two nights only, for the first time in Port Alberni, BC, at the Alberni Valley Fringe Festival.

Friday, June 20, and Saturday, June 21, 8:30-9:45 pm
Capitol Theatre
Port Alberni, BC.
Tickets $10 at the door

Alberni Valley Fringe 2014


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Challenging Dress Codes

I'm speaking at my daughter's school's parents' association meeting tonight. These are my talking points.

Background

I think we need to seriously challenge thinking around dress codes in school.

Two things in recent news: girls getting kicked out of school for clothing that is completely normal in clothing stores, on TV, what their mothers would wear, etc.

Main reason: their clothing is distracting, not only to the boys, but to male teachers.

The widely held idea that a girl must cover up to protect adult males shows how little adults realize about their own responsibilities.

Elliot Rodger killed 7 people and injured 13 at a California sorority house because he was upset that women were having sex but not with him.

These things are connected and I think we need to pay serious attention to the messages we send as adults, especially institutional messages.

I have two daughters and this is very important to me but I think it’s also very important for parents of boys.


Challenging Thinking Around Dress Codes

I have very strong feelings about adults in authority continuing to perpetuate a culture in which girls are taught:
  • Their bodies are shameful
  • They must somehow figure out how to fix sexual feelings for men and boys

 At the same time, we are teaching the boys:
  • They are not responsible for managing their own feelings
  • Sexy girl = available girl

Boys and girls being distracted by one another is normal and natural.  A lot of dress code enforcement is about dumping adult baggage on them:
  • The more developed a girl is, the more threatening her body is... to adults
  • Many of the children getting targeted by dress codes are developed girls
  • That young girl with breasts, she already has to deal with looks and judgment. Do we really have to add to that by calling her out and asking her to wear stuff she might not even own?

The idea that a girl must cover up to protect the boys is insulting to the boys (and can create false feelings of entitlement) and shaming to the girls. Especially when this is a time we should actually be teaching them about consent (I really like this young woman's video).


Ideas for Changing the Approach

I would like to suggest that the school consider guidelines, for boys and girls, based on gentleness, context, and how children need to dress to actively participate in their day.

Can they get through a day in a tank top and shorts? Yes.

Can they get through an active day in high heels and a short skirt or pants that are hanging below their bum? Not so much.

At my older daughter’s middle school, the language used is “distraction-free” and “business casual” (with a lot of specifics about length of shorts and bra straps). But the context is a school. These are children, not sex objects, not bank teller trainees.

Language
I would like to see teachers and administrators consider using these kinds of words:
  • No one should be allowed to make you feel ashamed of your clothing or your body
  • If an adult feels like you need to wear clothing that covers more of your body, they will talk to you and your parents about it
  • Sometimes traditional people feel like it's ok to ask people to dress more conservatively: chests and armpits covered, can't see underwear
  • Sometimes it can help, when we're in a place like a school where there are people of different ages and backgrounds, if people dress a little more conservatively

What’s available
It’s important to acknowledge that girls dress differently than boys and they are wearing normal clothes for sale at all stores that sell girls’ clothes.

Involve students
Shouldn’t students be involved in creating their school’s dress code document?

Using a dress code: be gentle and check in with your own feelings as an adult
In terms of how any type of dress code is used, I would strongly ask schools to consider a gentle rather than enforcement attitude.

If a teacher or staff member notices a student wearing clothing deemed inappropriate, these are ways to address that I suggest might be kinder and less shaming. The first thing to do is focus on why the adult has a problem with it.
  • If you are uncomfortable, can you consider owning your discomfort without putting that onto the child? (Is she a developed girl, for instance? Is she actually wearing normal clothes?)
  • Is it actually causing anyone else in the class a problem? If so, what exactly?Can it be addressed honestly, perhaps in private with each student, instead of laying the problem on the child?
  • If the student must be spoken to, contact the child's parent so that the child has an advocate

Most important: children should not called upon in public to change their clothing.


Conclusion

As I said, I have very strong feelings about this. When I was a young woman I had severe eating issues. I continue to have body image issues (what woman does not?). I have had many instances of sexual harassment in my life and way too many women I know have been sexually assaulted.

Let's be really cognizant of how our messages to young people contribute to a world where people do not have health around these issues.


Government vs. Kids

"Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future."   Maria Montessori
I still have tears in my eyes brought on by the 8:45 am assembly today where a whole bunch of elementary school kids received recognition awards.

Their teachers spoke so lovingly and knowledgeably about what each kid brings as gifts for herself and his classmates. The kids were so proud to be acknowledged.

It was both a very special and fairly normal slice of life at my kid's school.

I am disgusted by the ongoing non-negotiations between the BC government and the teachers. Yes, there are two sides. But one side is on the front lines, caring for our kids. And, in the case of my own children's schools, doing so with a lot of grace and professionalism during a very tough time.

The other side has let communication break down. This should not be an adversarial situation. It's the government's job to facilitate the conversation. 

Instead, their ongoing approach is cynical and calculated. They use pretty much the only tool the teachers have (labour action) against them by making the teachers look greedy and/or disruptive. 

It's a classic case of cynical political machinations at the expense of kids. 

I want my children's teachers to be paid well. I want class sizes to be manageable. I want kids with disabilities looked after compassionately. I want public education to be a priority of my democratic nation.

I am sickened by the actions of the BC government. The BC government, run by a woman who sends her only child to private school, should actually care what happens to the children of BC.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Naked Bike Ride Vulnerability Vigil

Saturday, June 14, 2014
2:30-3:30 pm
Across from the British Columbia Provincial Legislature, Victoria, BC
On the corner of Belleville and Government

Human Body Project Vulnerability Vigils happen at least once a month. I stand naked somewhere public for an hour, holding a sign. 

In brief, I share my own vulnerability to create a space for vulnerability and to be in some solidarity with those who are most vulnerable. It's also about being the change I wish to see.

The World Naked Bike Ride happens once a year. Our movements have a lot of affinities.

I am not sure if anyone is planning on organizing a Naked Bike Ride in Victoria this year, but if so, how about riding by the vigil? The Vancouver 2014 Naked Bike Ride is on this day, btw. Update: Victoria World Naked Bike Ride will coincide with the vigil!

I'll be across from the BC Legislature at Belleville and Government, holding the extinction symbol sign.
2:30-3:30 pm
Anyone is welcome to join me, dressed or not.


Human Body Project Vulnerability Vigil, May 26, 2014. Tasha Diamant is holding a sign with the extinction symbol.

Here's how I explained what I'm doing to several US tourists who spoke to me last month:
Tourist: Why are you doing this? Is this a protest? 
Tasha: Well, I've been doing the Human Body Project for more than 8 years. I started doing performances where I showed up naked and unscripted to be as vulnerable as possible and to share that vulnerability.
Then I started doing this street work in January of 2012. I do it once a month for an hour. It's sort of a protest but more like a ritual of "being the change." I stand naked to be as vulnerable as possible, in solidarity with the world's most vulnerable and the vulnerable earth. 
This is the Extinction Symbol. Have you seen it before? 
Tourist: No, what is it? 
Tasha: It's a symbol that's meant to bring awareness to the fact that humans are creating a mass extinction. Like when the dinosaurs all died? Except when that happened it took tens of thousands of years. Humans will pretty much accomplish a mass extinction in about 700 years from, like, the time of the Industrial Revolution. Most life on earth will be extinct by 2400. So, in other words, all humans are vulnerable. 
Tourist: In other words, we're doomed. What's causing it? 
Tasha: Mostly global climate change, development and pollution. 
Tourist: I don't really see how standing naked with a sign will help. 
Tasha: Well, I believe that civilization equals domination equals ego. So humans don't understand vulnerability or how to be vulnerable. So I figure this is like a wake-up call but also like a way to kickstart evolution or change consciousness. Our brains need to change. But, hey, I feel pretty hopeless. I also do this as an outlet for my rage. I can't believe people walk around like everything is normal. This helps me not drink myself to death. I feel hopeless but I can still do something.
Human Body Project Vulnerability Vigil on World Naked Bike Ride Day, June 9, 2012.
Here's a link to the Facebook event
I'm always hoping people will join me here in Victoria or in coinciding vigils around the globe. Send a message to tashadiamanthuman@gmail.com if you're interested in organizing a vigil.