Wednesday, December 16, 2015

An Article from an Audience Member a Few Years Back

A few years ago, an author tried to sell this story but, shock of shocks, couldn't so she recently allowed me to post it on my blog – which is, of course, followed by mainstream news outlets and Woody Allen fans everywhere. (Not.)

People think I'm brave to deal with cancer. But cancer gives no one a choice. Every cancer sufferer is forced to be brave. 

As the person in question, I'd like to point out that I'm much braver to be the Human Body Project lady for the last 10 years. I mean, read the first paragraph.

I'd also like to connect a couple of dots. How women are supposed to look is a place of projection in a male-dominated culture, it is a way of devaluing the feminine and the necessity of dealing with vulnerability. This is at the heart of every problem we face: power and ego over love and cooperation.

Thanks to Thelma Fayle for sharing this article.

The Human Body Project
by Thelma Fayle

When she slowly steps in front of the audience, without even wearing shoes, Tasha Diamant reveals herself to be a plain-looking, naked woman with a couple of C-section scars and plenty of hair in places where the Prada girls have none. She has small sagging breasts and dimpled thighs and a pear-shaped, sturdy-looking body. 

The 49-year-old visual and performance artist seems slightly nervous in the way one might be before doing a high-dive off a cliff.  She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath and captures a dignified, but still tentative, composure. She explains to the three-dozen audience members of the Fringe Theatre Festival on an island off of the West Coast of Canada – how she came to create the Human Body Project.

“In so many facets of our lives, we forget how vulnerable we humans are,” Diamant says, “and this project reminds me.”  The mother/artist/educator explains that in spite of her discomfort, she is determined to give this unscripted 90-minute presentation at least once a year for the rest of her life. Unscripted, as she is determined to maintain an open heart and a healthy dialogue with the audience in her effort to use her body to create a visceral experience of shared vulnerability.

Before Diamant arrives on stage, a 5 ft tall cardboard cutout, depicting a naked Diamant from her first Human Body Project presentation six years ago, gives the audience a chance to stare at the life-size photo and to climatise themselves before being faced with an excruciatingly bare presence on stage.

The artist welcomes the audience to look closely at her body. She speaks quietly but with strength and walks up and down the center aisle of what was once a church and is now a venue for community presentations. “Please feel free to look at my body,” she coaches. 

Given permission, timid eyes that have been respectfully focused mostly on Diamant’s face, begin to peek below.  Diamant is everywoman – not remotely proportioned to any Barbie doll ideal.

When someone asks a question, she approaches them and warmly shakes hands.  She puts people at ease.  She helps the audience to become comfortable with a plain old, magnificent, aging body.

Her well-documented project shows her foray on stage during her full-bellied pregnancy – an experience that re-affirmed her need to talk about the collective vulnerability that our culture denies and hides in the shadows of life’s many little 21st Century femme fa├žades of hair-dye and implants and face-glitter and push-up bras and tattoos – just to name a few.

The more she talks the more refreshing it is to listen to her. She mourns what she sees as the “amputation of empathy and connectedness in our society”.

She talks about the impact of having children in her life. Motherhood was a powerful catalyst; only unlike many parents who quite naturally become focused on their own children to the exclusion of all else, Diamant was moved to have a larger discussion with the world through her art.

“How do you feel about your body?” an audience member asks.

“I just try not to go to that place of judgment,” she responds. The way she responds with hesitation reveals her tenuousness bordering on insecurity about her body and also her decision to direct herself away from that same insecurity that plagues almost all women who have been trained to self-hate by years of looking at magazine pictures of what women are supposed to look like but never do.

Watching Tasha Diamant’s 90-minute Fringe Festival presentation reminds me of a line in a movie called Kamataki, where a young man asks an old man if the elder thinks the woman in a magazine is beautiful. The wise elder man slowly looks at the picture and then at the young man and says:  ”I don’t know if she is beautiful”.

The Human Body Project offers its audience a chance to answer the same question as they examine a naked, intelligent and articulate 49-year-old woman.

"Is she beautiful?”

Absolutely. And unlike the Emperor who got fooled, this Empress knows she is naked and she wants you to look at her.

Diamant is a genuine, un-altered woman.

1 comment:

  1. I love these body-positive stories. As a man, I don't have the social pressures to confirm that women do, but as one with extensive peripheral neurofibromatosis, I am considerably "disfigured".

    I was really anxious about this until I got introduced to a nudist group. And all of a sudden the issues I had went away. Nobody cared about my lumps. It wasn't an issue because what mattered was me. The real me. No the vessel.