DAY SEVEN: We can’t breathe!

Performance Artist Maria Adela Diaz discusses her performance piece tackling psychological abuse of women during COVID 19.

'Crazy'" Image from Maria Adela Diaz Performance - We Can't Breathe

“Crazy”: Image from Maria Adela Diaz performance We Can’t Breathe. Photo by Frank Sunseri. Reproduced by permission

Maria Adela Diaz

Have you ever felt like you can’t breathe? Not because you ran a 5K marathon, but because you are tired of hearing what’s happening around the world? Or perhaps because your intimate partner’s insulting words are cutting your breath away and maintaining you in isolation from others?

This abusive and controlling behavior is used to gain power and control over you! Domestic violence affects women and men but happens mostly to women, regardless of their racial, ethnic, age or economic group. It happens all around the world, and if you are aware that you are suffering from it, have the course to denounce it! Tell your best friend, your parents or take it to court. We can’t keep accepting degradation from anyone. It is time for change.

“Illegal”: Image from Maria Adela Diaz performance We Can’t Breathe. Photo by Frank Sunseri. Reproduced by permission

Physical abuse is the most easily recognized form of abuse, but domestic violence is not only physical. Victims that suffer at the hands of their intimate partner can suffer violence by way of emotional, psychological and verbal abuse. In fact, these three types of abuse are often more damaging and difficult to heal from than physical abuse. These types of abuse can also include sexual abuse, financial, technological, legal abuse, threats of physical harm, destruction of property and abuse of loved animals at home.

During periods of health crisis such as COVID-19, the risks of domestic violence and exploitation against women and girls increases due to tension at home, and the uncertainty generated in families by the decrease of income, as well as coexistence for longer periods of time. Furthermore, women and girls who are survivors of violence face additional obstacles in fleeing risky situations or in accessing protection mechanisms and essential services that can save their lives, due to factors such as restrictions on movement or quarantine requirements. 

  • An incident of abuse happens more frequently than every 3 seconds around the world.
  • In the US, 1 of 3 women and 1 of 4 men have experienced some form of abuse by 
      an intimate partner.
  • Women with disabilities, undocumented migrants, and victims of trafficking are most at risk of domestic violence, which can start with verbal abuse and develop as far as murder.

A UN expert noted that, for many women, the emergency measures necessary to fight COVID-19 have increased their burden with respect to domestic work and the care of children, elderly relatives and sick relatives. This economic crisis has created additional barriers as well as an increased risk of sexual exploitation within the household. 


This is a video performance art piece that talks about the very starting point of domestic violence. It sheds light on the fact that domestic violence can start with a single word. Vulnerable women are often the receptors of this abuse, particularly as women have less resources to defend themselves due to an imbalanced economic system that allows men to be paid more and have more access to education. 

My motivation to create this performative video was that during COVID-19 women I know were getting attacked by their intimate partners during quarantine. I also have lived it myself and I wanted to shared a very common abuse that sometimes remains invisible. Women don’t denounce this type of psychological abuse and it becomes suffocating internally, damaging women’s self esteem and much more. My purpose is to inspire women who are trapped in this type situation and let them know there is a way to denounce this behavior and that is not okay to take this from anybody.

“Bitch” Image from Maria Adela Diaz performance We Can’t Breathe. Photo by Frank Sunseri. Reproduced by permission

This performance piece is an action of liberation for the artist and serves to liberate other women that have been emotionally or verbal abused. 

The artist sews insults that her and her friends have received during Covid-19, with the degrading words sewn onto rice paper with red thread, as an act of resilience and courage for all the women who can’t breathe!


Guatemalan native and international performance artist Maria Adela Diaz, has used her body and various media to explore the complex essence and sublimity of a woman’s nature. This video performance took place in the artist’s home in Los Angeles California where the artist works and lives. Maria’s work raises objections to patriarchal values, political deception, migration and discriminatory ideologies. Employing video and installation to seduce and provoke the observer within unexpected, every day contexts. Maria has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions in venues around the world. Maria currently resides in Los Angeles, where she works as an art director.

Her website can be found at

Photos and video were taken by Frank Sunseri. Reproduced by permission.

Author: uoegendered


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