CUTS: A TRADITIONAL
SCULPTURE is a six month durational performance of disciplined body sculpting.
Cassils reinterprets Eleanor Antin’s 1972 Carving: A Traditional Sculpture, in which Antin crash diets for 45 days and documents her body daily through stark full-body photography. Cassils inverts Antin’s process, using their mastery of bodybuilding and nutrition to gain 23 pounds of muscle over 23 weeks.
In contrast to the feminine act of weight loss in Antin’s Carving, Cassils’s CUTS involves transformation into a traditionally masculine muscular form. Four grids of time lapse photographs of Cassils’s transformation are sorted by vantage point, offering a striking overview of the entire performance that draws out its conceptual clarity.
“The artist’s body is a sculptural index of disciplined practices. Cassils’s cuts are precise and technical, mobilizing intense physical labor and a frenzy of consumption bordering on the abject. This twist on “getting cut” queers the trans body by showcasing the cut of musculature as opposed to the cut of the surgeon’s knife.”
A two channel video installation contrasts the process that fueled CUTS with its material results. One channel features captivating yet revolting slow-motion images of Cassils swallowing raw eggs, eating meat with animalistic fervor, choking on supplements, and maxing out in near-orgasmic spasms of weightlifting exertion. The second is a time lapse video of the artists body, in which the 23 weeks of intensive bodybuilding are compressed into 23 seconds of muscular growth and physique sculpting.
“In Cuts: A Traditional Sculpture, the building of a body is not a triumphant act, but rather a process that is both temporary and risky. A body coheres to come apart, capacities are cultivated only to disintegrate.”
On the 160th day of Cuts: A Traditional Sculpture, Cassils collaborated with photographer and makeup artist Robin Black to create Advertisement: Homage to Benglis. In this photograph, Cassils stages an homage to Linda Benglis’s historic feminist artwork Advertisement (1974), in which Benglis poses with a double-ended phallus in an advertisement in Artforum. Cassils’s ripped, transmasculine physique substitutes for Benglis’s phallus. Rather than paying for advertising space, Cassils and Black disseminated these images of self-empowered trans representation to gay fashion and art publications, both print and digital. Placing Advertisement: Homage to Benglis within the context of LGBT-specific media signals a shift in American cultural landscape, while also highlighting the role of feminist artists like Benglis in bringing about those changes.