Cassils delivers an animated reflection on the imaginative power of visual art as a tool for social change.
In their speaking engagements Cassils projects a combination of strength and vulnerability, intersecting art with LGBTQI rights and anti racist practices. Imparting an empowering message about personal responsibility, Cassils lectures on art evoke empathy and its failures, moving audiences towards respect and appreciation of all individuals while advocating for positive change.
As a teacher Cassils is passionate about art and the possibilities for social change imparted through form, content, imagination and invention.
As a trans-masculine, gender nonconforming feminist artist Cassils understands what it means to be underrepresented. People from diverse backgrounds, whether it is their gender, sexuality, ethnicity, physical ability, or class, are often discouraged by a system that works against them. In order to motivate students Cassils steers them develop their own unique visual language by exposing them to contemporary artists working in the field, art history, political ideologies and philosophical paradigms, which in turn helps them develop critical thinking skills.
Social Sculpture, Stanford University, 2018
In Spring of 2018 Cassils taught a new iteration of their Social Sculpture class at Stanford University. Here they worked with students to make a collaboratively choreographed performance that reimaged the oeuvre of Yves Klein through a queer, socially conscious lens. SWEAT PAINTINGS manifested over the course of the spring quarter and drew on personal stories and the language of university legislation. This work dealt with issues of harassment, microaggressions, and personal boundaries on Stanford University’s campus. With the aid of Melissa Wyman’s background in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as self-defense training, the performance choreography combined katas and physical defense scenarios as they built dissonance with the serenity of the Klein’s Monotone Symphony. The social sculpture ended when the collective bodies left a sweat stain on a specially commissioned gymnastic mat the color of “International Yves Klein Blue.” The ephemeral sweat stained mark generated was reminiscent of Klein’s Anthropometries paintings.
Stanford University, The Body as Social Sculpture
Syracuse University, Sandra Kahn Alpert Visiting Artist Program, 2016
In 2016 Cassils taught Social Sculpture at the University of Syracuse, where students participate in the creation of Cassils’ Resilience of the 20%, a cast bronze sculpture from the Monument Project; as well as create their own work in response to texts, experiences, and prompts. Resilience of the 20% was exhibited as part of Cassils’ exhibition at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts and Cassils exposed students to the entire process of mounting and exhibiting an artwork. The #BecomingASculpture tumblr is a live document of the becoming of the ARI 300/600 Atelier: Cassils Fall 2016 Course at Syracuse University.
Artist in Residence, Art Gallery of York University, 2015
This is a successful example of how Cassils integrated their experience as a maker, performer and thinker manifested in a artist in residence position they took the AGYU (Art Gallery of York University) at York University, a campus with over 50,000 students in Toronto, Canada. They were brought by AGYU curator Suzan Carte to teach students how art can work as instrument of conscious raising on campus. Cassils designed a project that integrated students from the School of the Arts Media, Performance & Design, Professor Barbara Balfour’s printmaking class, Faculty of Environmental Studies Professor Anders Sandberg’s course, and York University’s School of Social Work.
The piece, Labour Intensive, demonstrated AGYU’s commitment to student engagement, and received OA AG (Ontario Association of Art Galleries) Public Program Award. The jury said it was impressed with its scope and reach and the ways in which the project was genuinely student-led, noting in its decision the following attributes: “Engagement of local community in a creative manner. Brought in interesting collaborators. Did not feel didactic. Site-specifically looking at the needs of the students. Good documentation that made it an understandable project.”