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


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Earth Day 2014 Vulnerability Vigil

Earth Day Human Body Project Vulnerability Vigil


Naked Earth by an anonymous Human Body Project participant/artist.
When: Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 5-6 pm

Where: Blanshard/Patricia Bay Hwy. between Finlayson and Tolmie across from Mayfair Mall, Victoria

What: In the Human Body Project, by showing up naked and unscripted, I share an experience of authenticity and vulnerability with audiences.

  • Once a month I hold a Vulnerability Vigil in a public space; anyone is welcome to join me.
  • In keeping with the Human Body Project ethos, I show up naked; people who join me can be as dressed as they want to be.
  • We hold a sign in front of us as a gesture of gentleness to those who may be affronted by public nudity.
  • The sign is one word chosen to evoke understanding of our mutual vulnerability.

Why: My husband recently wrote this about my work, which is as good an explanation as any. (There are a lot of explanations.)

"I think of those stories of individuals (native Americans, Africans, whatever) who, in the 18th or 19th century, who were abducted. I feel as though that happened to you - at some time, when you were too young to really remember what happened, you were taken out of your culture and, while you remember it and desperately want to return, you don't know how to get back home.
So you do the vigils as a way of sending out a signal to home, to see if any response comes back. Or, they're like a search for compassionate life in the universe, like the signals astronomers have broadcast, hoping that any life form that finds them might recognize them as originating from another intelligent form of life."

More: Here is a recent blog post entitled "What Doing a Vulnerability Vigil is Like"
http://www.humanbodyproject.org/2014/03/what-doing-vulnerability-vigil-is-like.html


Here is the link to the event on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/events/227007504163688/

Sunday, March 30, 2014

What Doing a Vulnerability Vigil is Like

March 28 Vulnerability Vigil by the Bay St. Bridge. Thank you to Pamela and Keith for participating.
What's it like for me to do a Vulnerability Vigil?

I just spent 7 hours cleaning my chaotic, over-cluttered, kid-shattered, cat-peed house and only making a dent. Do you think I fucking feel like writing a blog post about what it's like to do a Vulnerability Vigil?
(If you read COMPLAINT, haha, sure why not? My life is one big complaint. Resistance, disgust, pessimism, depression, rage, etc. I am stuck and complicit–that's gonna be next month's word–in a culture of invisible brutality and I often struggle to breathe. 
This excellent article about depression, class, and submission to a culture, Good For Nothing, covers many of the issues I also deal with. 
I especially relate to this: "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: '…isolated, cut off, surrounded by hostile space, you are suddenly without connections, without stability, with nothing to hold you upright or in place; a dizzying, sickening unreality takes possession of you; you are threatened by a complete loss of identity, a sense of utter fraudulence; you have no right to be here, now, inhabiting this body, dressed in this way [haha!]; you are a nothing, and ‘nothing’ is quite literally what you feel you are about to become.'" 
I try to limit my external complaints to art/activism but I get to enjoy them non-stop internally in my fried brain. I do the teaching and mother thing with occasional grace. The rest of the time I am in no way suited for polite company. Hence, I am basically a hermit.)
Allow me to continue complaining. I mean it's one thing to have the idea, oh, la di da, I know! I will write about what it's like to do a Vulnerability Vigil! Such a grand idea! While I'm at it, I'll apply for a Canada Council grant, BC Arts Council grant, write to Noam Chomsky, BrenĂ© Brown, and Russell Brand, and figure out how to publish something in an academic journal that doesn't make me vomit. Hey, I should also find an affordable venue in the liberal west coast city of Victoria where I live that will let me hold Human Body Project performances. I am so clever! And when I'm not teaching or prepping or marking, I'm gonna learn about search engine optimization, too! Ya! I'm pumped!

I mention my day of house cleaning so hot on the tail of my glamorous hour at Tyee Rd. and Bay St. and use language that is a tad sarcastic because, like the depressed writer of Good For Nothing, the article I've linked above, I believe my grotty house, stinker kids, and general level of immobility and irritability are 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.

I am 52. That means I was born in 1961. The 60s. In Calgary. I.e., I don't believe I ever saw a "hippie" until about 1979. I've written and spoken at length about my upbringing, disgust with my culture, etc. I will sum up the previous discussion by saying that growing up when and where I did totally fucked me up in the head. I feel like everything I learned, believed, and bought into was wrong and I doubt I'll ever get past it. (I try not to blame anyone. A culture is a culture. A person's nature is a person's nature. Sometimes the twain do not meet. Perhaps there is a bushman longing for granite countertops and 15-minute scheduling increments with whom I could trade places. Haha. That's kinda painful humour because, first of all, if I could, I would, but I can't. And there's that other little matter of how "my" people totally fucked "those" people.)

So doing a Vulnerability Vigil takes place, for me, in a context of complicated shame, anger, and fatigue. 

I have also discussed at length how I came to create the Human Body Project (intense feelings and urgency to create a new path for humanity in the wake of becoming a mother) and why I started doing Vulnerability Vigils (challenging to find audience for my work; outlet for my rage and grief; hope to create a movement). So, you know, that's why I do it. 

It's not about fucking "thriving" or "joy." 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 (in my own head it's possible that I might sometimes describe them as high maintenance and demanding). I am also severely challenged by the ADD 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 refer you to my previous blog post and my hope that humanity might one day realize that none of us has made it until all of us have).

Collapsing is, I think, my being's way of recharging. It sucks though, because it feels like sickness and depression and anything resembling normal functioning is very difficult.

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

That was my 28th vigil and I've done even more performances. My experience is they don't get easier.

I am a big fucking baby (and complainer) and I am afraid of conflict. Haha. As if I'm not COMPLIANT. 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 neighbours 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.

I have thought about addressing the sex-positive movement in a blog post (you know, after I'm done convincing Noam, BrenĂ© and Russell to join me in a vigil). Gist would be, glad that works for you. Doesn't work for me. (This article, Why "Sex-Positive" Feminism Is Negative For Methough the writer and I have had different experiences, says a lot about how I feel on the subject.) I'm not even naked-positive. 

So, I show up at a place. Fortunately, my husband usually comes with me. This last time Dave wasn't there but Keith Jenkins, a lovely man who really lives life as a peaceful being, came with me. He joined me holding the sign, as he has many times.

I find it difficult to speak to whomever I'm with until we get going. I am metaphorically shitting my pants 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 fucking cold. But my armpits are always sweaty.

The February vigil this year was particularly nasty (see photo). We couldn't 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 vagina. 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 seem to mostly use 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 it 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. (I have thought, for instance, about creating naked rape or murder victim scenes every month that people come upon.) But at the same time–
ASIDE: I have yelled at my kids now three or four times to leave me alone while writing this, plus been interrupted to get juice and granola and abandoned them to "brush" their own teeth–

I don't like the idea of getting in people's faces. It feels unkind. The sign is there to shield our 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. I've only had one aggro cop and he was a Sergeant at Arms at the legislature (here's the blog post and video). If cops come to talk to us, like this last time, I offer to put my underpants on. (I've been told by lawyer friends they can't arrest us if our 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. But I always feel the pressure of that whole authoritarian agents of the state thing. I stopped doing vigils on the legislature lawn, for instance. I'm scared of them.

I got braver this time though and as soon as the car stopped I took pictures of them. Including this great one below.


These kind policefolk held the sign while Keith wrapped his genitals in his belly-dancing shawl.
Her glove cracks me up.
The lady cop asked me to put my shirt on too but I said no. Once the genitalia were under control they left, which is different from the time 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 (see photo). Unnerving to invite so much weaponry. 

We got such a friendly reception from commuters at this last vigil. It was Friday rush hour, a new time, and I've never chosen that location. All kinds of people honked and waved. We usually get a lot of studied indifference or wtf faces.

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 or my butt is flabby or I feel embarrassment and shame. Big fucking deal. But that's what I'm working with. It's such a not big deal and the nub of what's killing us.

A Vulnerability Vigil is an experiential exercise in, among other things, holding paradox.

After we were done, a stunning double rainbow en-semi-circled downtown Victoria as I drove in that direction and I decided to take it as a good sign.

Then Pamela and I went out for a bite. At home, I planned to have a hot bath but my kids kept me busy.











Monday, February 17, 2014

R. Brand, P.S. Hoffman, anxiety, pain, female nudity, processing the cultural shit: Vulnerability Vigil Feb 23

It's time for another monthly Vulnerability Vigil. This will be my 27th vigil.

When: Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014
1-2 pm
Where: Dallas Rd. waterfront trail (around Linden St.)
Victoria, BC 

I choose to share vulnerability by showing up naked and unscripted in performance and in public. A Vulnerability Vigil is a monthly ritual, a practice, my way of "being the change," a form of non-violent direct action and more. This links to a past description of a vigil.

Lately, I've read some great articles that help me explain what I do. If interested, read on.

Six Reasons Female Nudity Can Be Powerful by Soraya Chemaly in Salon helps me cover some of the bases. 

My work is meant to be experienced. It's not a one-message thing.

I use the word vulnerability because it expresses something universally human. But, obviously, in making an artistic choice to be naked in order to more deeply convey vulnerability, I am aware--both intellectually and viscerally in the moment--of my culture's often brutal understandings around the female body.

I also found these articles very moving for their matter-of-fact bravery and insight:  Surviving Anxiety, by Scott Stossell in The Atlantic, and Russell Brand writing in The Guardian about Philip Seymour Hoffman and the constant vigilance required to stay substance-free

I want to expand on the anxiety and addiction discussion and talk about pain. 

Debilitating and humiliating emotional pain is what brought me to the work of the Human Body Project.


PROCESS. November 2013 Vulnerability Vigil. Lots of police that day, including a hovering paddy wagon.

Two key points:
  • NOTHING in my culture (by culture I mean white people, modern urban culture, Western culture, global industrialized culture, European culture, American culture, Canadian culture, patriarchal culture, etc... take your pick) helped me understand what I now know about myself through decades of self-work, especially as I took it forward into a more public realm in the Human Body Project: I am a person who feels the pain of the collective (and there is, if you can even begin to fathom the MILLENNIA of ungrieved grief, a fuck of a lot of it).
  • We are born into a culture that is not accepting or loving. We don't look after each other. We do't look after ourselves. It's as simple as that. We continue to perpetuate this ignorant way of being human for many unfortunate reasons, but I think the most fundamental reason is that we accept and absorb this sad state of affairs before we are verbal.
The only difference between me and me not being a full-on addict or suicide (so far) is that I have been a student of my pain. I call it sitting in the shit and, in this, I consider myself an expert. I have come to understand my pain as something that has awakened me to the ridiculousness of the current human trance and something that will never go away. Fuck, yes, it still hurts. And the SHAME of being such a big fucking baby is worse. Not to mention the EMBARRASSMENT of being so bold as to expose myself. But there's part of me that knows the pain is REAL--not just for me but for EVERYONE--and should be honoured.

Despite my culture, tribe and training, I have been able, through strength/orneriness, sensitivity and, most certainly, privilege, to continue to have a connection to my soul's yearning for universal love. I am a none-of-us-has-made-it-until-all-of-us-have-made-it kind of person.

There is NO cultural construct around sensitivity and feeling the grief and pain of the collective. (I associate these concepts with heart and feminine energy but to simplify I'll stick with the term sensitivity.) In fact we pathologize sensitivity and, so often, the supersensitive shut down or die. I feel sad that Hoffman (and David Foster Wallace, Amy Winehouse, Cory Montieth, River Phoenix, Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Frida Kahlo, Vincent van Gogh, my best friend S., my cousin D. and so many others) seems to have had no context for his sensitivity.

I wholly and sincerely appreciate the courage of Brand and Stossell for processing publicly. That's also what I'm doing. But I think they may also be missing the deeper context. To discuss their issues so publicly is to take a stand against the cultural script. 

I get really irritated by the term "the human condition" when I think most people who use the term mean "the human condition in this culture." I'm going to say that the true human condition is that we are all born none-of-us-has-made-it-until-all-of-us-have-made-it kind of people, even little baby Hitler. 

Immediately upon arrival, however, when we are at our most vulnerable and sensitive, we must make an accommodation with power. 

We continue to do so, of course, throughout the rest of our lives. But I want to emphasize that our first accommodations to power are pre-verbal and pre-conceptual, in our bodies.

I'm also going to say many of us lose our ability to be none-of-us-has-made-it-until-all-of-us-have-made-it kind of people as infants. Because such a way of being requires trust and openness and it's just not safe enough. Our baby bodies know this. We still have a connection to it but it just feels like pain or mental illness because we have been living like this, closed down and unable to trust, with NO WORDS or CONCEPT for what we have lost, for millennia.

(In case it's difficult to imagine the idea of different human cultures, anthropologists have studied more than 450 cultures and only 20 or so have no socially constructed and accepted trance state, ours being one of them. I believe this is another way of explaining our culture's addiction problems but that's for another discussion. For a quick understanding of the existence of different cultural contexts, you could watch one of Wade Davis's TED talks or read one of his books, like The Wayfinders.) 

When people talk about colonization they forget how "we" were "colonized."

Which brings me back to female nudity and, more particularly, my own public nudity. Nothing has taught me more about power, domination, lack of safety (and the implied threats of violence, judgment and ostracism), disconnection, lack of community, lack of self love, disrespect for feminine energy, and the way those dots connect to climate change, oil dependence, legally and socially sanctioned capitalist greed, compartmentalization of responsibility, poverty, violence, etc. than standing in front of people naked with the intention to be vulnerable. As I said, it is experiential, beyond words. It accesses that pre-verbal/non-verbal place in our beings.

So Vulnerability Vigils are a practice, a ritual, a form of non-violent direct action and a way you too could encounter and begin to process your own and your culture's deepest deepest deepest shit. You don't even have to be naked but I suggest the experience works better if you are.

Ya, I get that it's crazy and futile to try and turn this Titanic of human consciousness around. But I have two things going for me: I know, in my whole being, that it's necessary. And I have the privilege, i.e. I am fed, housed, supported by a kind husband, educated, employed (more or less), living in a country where, although I do risk arrest, it's highly unlikely I'd be beaten, tortured or killed by the state or my fellow citizens, etc.

Those of you who also know it's necessary, in your none-of-us-has-made-it-until-all-of-us-have-made-it selves, and who also enjoy privilege, you're my target audience. I invite you to join me.

Link to the Facebook event for the Feb. 23 Vulnerability Vigil


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Day 2013 Vulnerability Vigil

I hold a Vulnerability Vigil once a month on the street.

It is a practice and a ritual, a form non-violent protest, a service to humanity, an outlet for my rage and grief, an act of decolonization, and a form of street performance...


I choose to work in the area of vulnerability. To do so I use my naked body and no script, in public and in performance. Because many people are deeply affronted by public nudity, I hold a sign as a gesture of gentleness, the word on which is meant to evoke deeper understanding of our mutual vulnerability.

Christmas Day 2013 Vulnerability Vigil
2-3 pm
Trans-Canada and McKenzie corner
Victoria


I invite all to join me and I am always grateful when people do. Those who join can be as dressed as they wish. I probably won't last the whole hour without clothes.

If you would like to coordinate a Christmas Day 2013 Vulnerability Vigil in your city, please email me at tashadiamanthuman@gmail.com.

The following month's Vulnerability Vigil will be the second anniversary vigil on January 1, 2014.

Link to the Facebook event https://www.facebook.com/events/553067461452421/





At the November 2013 vigil. Lots of police presence. PROCESS. An invitation to join me in the process of processing millennia of a domination paradigm.

Monday, November 11, 2013

FIX: Next Human Body Project Vulnerability Vigil on Nov. 23, 4-5 pm, Gov't and Belleville, Victoria

FIX (from the October 28 Vulnerability Vigil)
get a fix
need a fix
fixer
in the fix
fix don't feel
Mr. Fix-it
fix this...

Next Human Body Project Vulnerability Vigil is on Saturday, November 23, 4-5 pm, corner of Government and Belleville, downtown Victoria across from the BC Legislature.

The last one was on the sidewalk beside the fenced-off toxic land of a former gas station, which is right beside the faux-charming compound that is the Uptown Mall. 

Nothing like standing naked at rush hour beside an architectural/industrial caca to contemplate womanhood, community, disconnection, the state, etc.

Thanks to Dave,Charlie, and Pamela. Human Body Project Vulnerability Vigils take place monthly. 

Facebook event for November Vulnerability Vigil











Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Getting Concrete on the Concrete: Vulnerability Vigil, Monday, October 28, outside of Uptown Mall, 5 pm

July 2013 Human Body Project Vulnerability Vigil
If, as Adbusters magazine recently pointed out, "the evolution of Western civilization is one of creeping abstraction," then a naked human body is pretty darn concrete.
Please consider joining me or covering this month's Human Body Project Vulnerability Vigil in the media. Or consider holding a concurrent vigil in your city.
Or keep it in mind for next time. I hold Vulnerability Vigils at least once a month.

The Human Body Project is performance art and a practice of non-violent direct action. I choose to work in the area of vulnerability to effect change and expand consciousness.


For a Vulnerability Vigil, I show up naked holding a large sign. The sign is to provide a buffer of gentleness for those who are deeply affronted by public nudity. I choose the word on the sign to serve as an opening to think about our mutual vulnerability. 



People who join me can be as dressed as they want to be.

I am VERY grateful, as you can imagine, when people join me.

What: Monthly Human Body Project Vulnerability Vigil

When: Monday, October 28, 5-6 pm

Location: Corner of Saanich Rd. and Trans-Canada, on the sidewalk in front of the Uptown Mall, Victoria.


More about the Human Body Project:

To "be the change" I work in the area of vulnerability.

I show up naked and unscripted to share vulnerability with my audience.

I've been doing this in public and in performance for more than seven years.

I do the work because I believe humanity will not survive unless we choose love over power and ego and we cannot get to that place without viscerally dealing with our vulnerability.

I use my naked self and body to be in solidarity with those who are most vulnerable, such as children. Also to represent the vulnerability of us all at this crucial time when even those of us with privilege are facing the consequences of ongoing, systemic disrespect for the sacredness of life on this planet.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Vancouver Vulnerability Vigil on Friday, Sept 13, outside the VAG! Plus Fringe Continues

Human Body Project Vulnerability Vigil in Vancouver

Friday, September 13
Vancouver Art Gallery (outside)
750 Hornby St., Vancouver
4pm-~5pm

Join Robert McLaughlin, creator of the current hit Vancouver Fringe show Jack the Ripper, and I as we publicly stand in vulnerability. Naked. With only our sign as a gesture of gentleness to those who are greatly affronted by nudity.

Vulnerability Vigils are a form of non-violent direct action to bring attention to our mutual vulnerability. Also, to be in solidarity with those who are most vulnerable. 

I am committed to doing at least one Human Body Project Vulnerability Vigil per month.


This will be my first time doing a vigil outside of Victoria!


If you'd like to coordinate doing monthly vigils with me from your own city or town, please let me know.


As creator of the Human Body Project, I show up naked in my commitment to the ethos of vulnerability. People who join me can be as dressed or undressed as they choose.


Link to the Facebook event for the Vulnerability Vigil https://www.facebook.com/events/726989663993189/

Also, The Human Body Project continues at the Vancouver Fringe

"I dug it." Colin Thomas, Georgia Straight reviewer.
Venue 3, Studio 1398
3rd Floor
1398 Cartwright St.
Granville Island

Sun    Sept 8      6:10 pm
Mon   Sept 9      5 pm
Wed   Sept 11    7:45 pm
Sat     Sept 14    9:50 pm
Sun    Sept 15    4:50 pm

Tickets $10-$15 at the door or through vancouverfringe.com

Link to the Facebook event for The Human Body Project at the Vancouver Fringe https://www.facebook.com/events/1401929623352888/