Artist Cassils Brings a bold Trans Justice Art Action Slated to Unfold on Trans Day of Visibility

Human Measure, White Sands, Film Still 02, 2023. Photo: Jasmine Albuquerque

Cassils, a performance artist renowned for probing the intersections of identity and visibility for the LGBTQI+ community, will cast a luminous spotlight on the National Mall in Washington D.C. this March 31st. In collaboration with The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and with over 100 trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming artists, Cassils presents "Etched in Light," a bold Trans Justice Art Action slated to unfold on Trans Day of Visibility.

The act will include vocal invocations and musical scoring by Blood Is Here (Carmina Escobar, Roco Córdova and Dorian Wood). This durational performance will result in the live creation of one of the world’s largest cyanotypes as a mediagenic spectacle to mark Trans Day of Visibility on the National Mall in Washington D.C. "Etched in Light" is part of the Human Measure series, involving dance, music, and performance art to unite the community for healing and empowerment. This performance will be documented for a feature film called "In Plain Sight."

The performance and piece is an act of resilience, resistance, and the unyielding power of visible presence. Cassils and their collaborators endeavor claim space through a cyanotype, a slow-reacting printing process that is light-sensitive, where silhouettes of their still bodies will create the world’s largest cyanotype banner. Through this durational performance, the National Mall is reframed not merely as a space of political discourse memorializing lie-ins, die-ins, history, and present efforts in transformation, but as a canvas for empowerment in the group’s voting power.

“By casting the silhouettes of our still bodies onto large canvas panels, etching ourselves in light, we will call upon the imagery and affective energies of lie-ins, die-ins, and the historic NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt to claim space for our trans and gender expansive selves, transforming the National Mall into a site of beauty and empowerment,” states Cassils.

“As an artist who problematizes and grapples with the formal and conceptual representations of trans identity, and as transgender people face discrimination and violence throughout society, I see exhibiting and performing my work as a crucial component to resisting growing transphobic ideology. This is a public act of support and celebration of the nearly 1.6 million transgender people living in the United States. Across my work I use fragmented or distilled evocations of bodies both to activate physical empathy and to circumvent the visual scrutiny that trans people endure. Not only do we exist, we create important artistic and cultural contributions, and we vote!”

In a climate rife with legislative assaults on transgender rights, the action emerges as a defiant act of a bold assertion of visibility in the face of erasure. As Cassils aptly notes, “this is more than just art; it is a public declaration of existence and a celebration of the creative contributions of transgender individuals.” Against the backdrop of discriminatory legislation, this piece challenges entrenched transphobic ideologies and affirming the dignity and worth of every trans and non-binary person.

To learn more and join “Etched In Light”, see here.

Human Measure, live performance HOME, Manchester, UK, 2021. Photo: Manuel Vason