Gender non-conforming trans visual artist Cassils uses their body as a platform for social protest.

feature by Steve Dow FEB 2019

The room in the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA) will be darkened. The audience will file in. They will hear the thumps and physical exertion of what turns out to be a strong, fit, lean person boxing with a 900-kilogram lump of clay. The subject will be illuminated only when the photographer Manuel Vason fires his camera flash at the transgender performer in motion.

Montreal-born, Los Angeles-based performance artist Cassils is bringing their bedrock work Becoming An Image (2013) to the Perth Festival, to open Alchemic (until April 14), a select survey exhibition at PICA of video installations, projections, photographs and sculpture documenting Cassils’s use of their body as a medium.

The live performance Becoming an Image in particular is “a work about making art, making imagery, and it’s also about pondering, in a really kind of visceral way, violence,” says Anne Loxley, a visual arts programming associate with the festival. Senior PICA curator Eugenio Viola, meanwhile, sees Italian-born Vason – a male photographer who ollaborates with numerous genderqueer artists – as a performer in Becoming an Image as well. Vason’s inclusion in this work is, in part, Cassils addressing art history’s preoccupation with the male gaze.

Cassils’ art draws attention to the construction of male and female separateness. Moreover, the artist believes that our bodies are “sculptures formed by society’s expectations”. Cassils’ art often points to consequences for failing to conform. The artist recently collected their own urine for 200 days for PISSED (2017) in protest at the US Supreme Court decision’s refusal to.. Subscribe to read this article in full


Prefer a hard copy? Visit our subscription page to purchase single printed back issues.

QAGOMA Metro Bendigo Art Gallery ACCA MelbourneArt Gallery of New South WalesMuseum of Brisbane