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Art Essay Humanities Nonfiction Social Sciences Theory

Introduction: Trans-: Across/Beyond

By Nicholas Chare and Ika Willis, 2016

In 2012 at the ONE National Gay & Lesbian archives in Los Angeles, Cassils gave a first performance of the ongoing artwork Becoming an Image (a work that combines performance, photography and sculpture).1 In a dark room, Cassils repeatedly aggressed a 2000lb clay block, kicking and punching it. This sustained assault was recorded intermittently by flash photography. The photographer’s camera flash seared images of Cassils working over the clay into the retinas of those present. These transitory visions of the work in progress foregrounded its resistance to fixity, its studied elusiveness. Cassils has since exhibited some of the photographs taken that day. Subsequent to one performance at a solo show, Body of Work, held at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts in New York, Cassils showed the remains of the pummelled block as a sculpture, After. In an echo of Robert Morris’s Box with the Sound of its Own Making (1961), After was displayed accompanied by a sound installation piece, Ghost, a recording of the artist’s earlier violent attacks on the clay block. Ghost provided ‘sound-images’ of After’s production. Becoming an Image was originally intended to be site-specific, a one-off, but is now conceived of as a work in process, a becoming without envisioned end.

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