REMA HORT MANN FOUNDATION

Heather Cassils

I am an artist who uses the physical body as sculptural mass with which to rupture societal norms. Implementing rigorous physical training practices and queering my knowledge of kinesiology and sports science, I formally manipulate the body into shapes that deify expectations. Bashing through the binaries and the notion that in order to be officially transgendered you have to have surgery or take hormones, I performs trans not as something about a crossing from one sex to another, but rather as a continual becoming, a process oriented way of being that works in a space of indeterminacy, spasm and slipperiness. Forging a series powerfully trained bodies for different performantive and formal purposes, it is with sweat, blood and sinew that I construct a visual critique and discourse around physical and gender ideologies and histories. Drawing on conceptualism, feminism, body art, gay male aesthetics, and Hollywood cinema, I create a visual language that is at once emotionally striking and conceptually incisive.  

My most recent piece, Becoming an Image, works at the interstice of performance, sculpture and photography. It was originally conceived as a site-specific work for the ONE Archives in Los Angeles (the oldest active LGBTQ archive in the United States). For the performance I unleash an attack on a 2000 pound clay block. I deliver a series of kicks and blows in total darkness. The spectacle is only illuminated by the flash of a photographer, which burns the image into the viewers retina, raising questions of witnessing, documentation, memory and evidence.
In my most recent solo show at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts I displayed 12 photographs, taken by blinded photographers, which document previous performances from prior exhibitions in London, Montreal and Los Angeles. These images capture me sweating, grimacing and flying through the air, a primal force, scarred flesh pummeling blocks of earth. Accompanying the photographs are two sculptures from 2013: After, a mound of clay from a Becoming An Image performance that took place the shows opening night (this work is accompanied by a multi channeled sound piece of sharp breathes and wet punches recorded from the event) and the Rellisiance of the 20%, a violently elegant funerary work of torqued black concrete. The title of the later underscores a sickening statistic: In 2012 murders of trans men and women increased by 20 percent around the world.