Campus News

Performance artist Cassils to discuss recent work

The artist at work. Image: Luke Gilford


Published April 21, 2015

Pop culture has the capacity to shape bodies through societal norms, advertising and gender distinction. But what if the body was approached as a sculptural mass unburdened by preconception? What if instead of molding tools, armature and wire, an artist turned instead to rigorous training, kinesiology and sports science to manipulate the body in ways that defy gender expectations?

This is the visual language of Cassils, an artist who performs transgendered, but from a perspective of a continually becoming body. “It’s a process-oriented way of being that works in space of indeterminacy, spasm and slipperiness,” says Cassils.

Cassils is the featured artist at the next Queer Art Lecture series at 7 p.m. April 23 at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, 341 Delaware Ave., Buffalo. The lecture is free and open to the public. Cassils also will hold a master class with UB graduates students from Art, English, Global Gender Studies and Media Study.

As part of the lecture, Cassils will discuss the process, historical context and inspiration that informs Cassils’ two most recent works: “Cuts: A Traditional Sculpture” and “Becoming an Image.” Cassils also plans to discuss a work in progress and for the first time share excerpts of the work to the public.

“Cuts” is a two-channel video installation and photographic series that depicts a body changing over time, four photos a day from four vantage points, compressing 23 weeks of training into 23 seconds. That channel and its time-lapsed photo essay are set against the second channel that captured select video moments of Cassils’ training regimen.

“Becoming an Image” is a performance unfolding in an environment illuminated only by occasional flash photography where Cassils uses skills as a boxer to mold a half-ton block of clay through an attack that alludes to the difficulty of personally maintaining the body and the violence often directed at transgendered people.

“I know of no artist whose work is so insistently bodily, yet capable of using their embodiment to dissolve every cardinal term that structures the meaning of flesh,” says Jonathan Katz, UB associate professor of art and the series curator. “Brilliant and bashing, Cassils is a force of nature — if nature is still worthy of belief.”

The event is co-sponsored by the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, the UB Department of Art, the Queer Studies Research Workshop, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, the Pride Center of WNY, Gay & Lesbian Youth Services and OUTLaw.