Art project displays the naked truth about human vulnerability

In recognition of the new year and to underscore the vulnerability of humans in a dangerous time, seven artists and demonstrators shed their clothes on a Saanich beach Sunday.

The seven — who ranged from buck naked to partially clothed — stood on the breakwater near Gyro Park at the Cadboro Bay beach. They posed with nothing on their bare skin except a letter of the alphabet written in black acrylic paint.

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Three more modest folk kept their clothes on and held a sign with a letter on it.

Together, the group stood shoulder to shoulder to spell the word VULNERABLE.

After posing to display that word, they rearranged themselves to spell REBEL, RAVE, BRAVE, LUV, REAL and finally BARE.

The Human Body Project is the brainchild of Tasha Diamant, a middle-age, middle-class Victoria mom, artist and college professor who wants to demonstrate to others that we are “extremely vulnerable on this planet.”

In an artistic way — naked and unscripted but not exhibitionistic — she is trying to “share the experience of that vulnerability,” she said.

Diamant has been doing protest-inspired art turned artistic protest for about five years indoors — appearing at the Fringe Festival, for example, to mixed reviews.

She had been hoping artistic protests would spring up in various places spontaneously, but since that hasn’t happened, she has prodded it along. Diamant organizes participation through social media, including Facebook and Twitter.

Although hesitant at first, Diamant figured there was no better day to move her form of protest outdoors, for the first time, than on New Year’s Day.

As a first step, she chose the beach, where her expectation was borne out that people would politely watch — or not.

“This is a safe place,” Diamant said.

She planned with the group Sunday to stage the next nude exhibit/protest in a more high-traffic pedestrian or vehicular area.

Passersby Meriah Drabkin, Abbey Piazza and Shayla Baumeler, all 16-year-old students who attend St. Michaels University School, didn’t know what to make of the artistic protest but said it looked cool.

Drabkin thought the nudity added another level of “Zen” to an already peaceful New Year’s morning as the sun shone over the water and snow-capped mountains, while waves lapped up onto the beach.

Participant Delia Smith, 38, who was topless and wore the letter “E” for the demonstration, said she participated because she feels passionately about current changes in the world.

“This project is very closely aligned with what the Occupy movement means for me, personally and globally,” Smith said. “Being brave and vulnerable in my humanity, and accepting myself as I am, is all part of the revolution and my revolution.”

Diamant said she’s a serious person and not comfortable with being nude in public, but she does it because she feels a sense of urgency to share her message: “The way we are living right now is exactly the recipe for destruction.”

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