From dusk to dawn, the artists engage in a ritual related to presence and transgender experience.
As contemporaries in art and queer kinship, Cassils and SJ Norman arrive to this action as trans people who came of age in the shadow of absence: a pre-internet generation, marked by the social rupture of the AIDS crisis and its concomitant currents of religious and medical violence. The pair’s shared experiences of disorientation form the work’s central interrogation.
As members of a generation of trans people who found no reflection of themselves in the culture at large, devoid of the vernaculars of identification, the artists begin with the question: How does one remain present in a body so shaped by absence? How does a body reclaim itself from the tides of history and the anxieties of an uncertain future? How might two trans bodies hold each other accountable to their present awareness? How might this tethering be understood as an act of love? a song of praise?
This international premiere of “Devotion” will employ a ritualized knife play to bring the artists back into the loving embrace of trans masculine brotherhood and connection with the present moment. Cassils and Norman will sit from sunset to sunrise in a meditative state, each of them holding a sharpened blade. Utilizing the Anapanasati technique, the pair commit to the simple task of witnessing their own and each other’s breathing bodies. The ebb and flow of each artist’s awareness is mapped on the surface of the skin in the form of small incisions- one artist marking the other any time their focus strays. Far from a punitive act, this ritualised consent to rupture and be ruptured can be understood as a gesture of reverence for all a body can hold, and all it must relinquish.
Throughout the performance Lou Drago will interpret creating a hybrid live/DJ soundscape.
CASSILS is a transgender artist who makes their own body the material and protagonist of their performances. Cassils’s art contemplates the history(s) of LGBTQI+ violence, representation, struggle and survival. For the artist, performance is a form of social sculpture: Drawing from the idea that bodies are formed in relation to forces of power and social expectations, Cassils work investigates historical contexts to examine the present moment. Cassils has had recent solo exhibitions at HOME Manchester, Station Museum of Contemporary Art, Perth Institute for Contemporary Arts, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, NYC; Institute for Contemporary Art, AU; Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts; School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston; Bemis Center, Omaha; MU Eindhoven, Netherlands.
SJ Norman is a cross-disciplinary artist and writer. He is a non-binary transmasculine person and a diasporic Koori of Wiradjuri descent, born on Gadigal land. Norman’s work centres the corporeal and the inter-corporeal: he inhabits and disrupts the prevailing vocabularies of performance as a queer/ed Indigenous body, addressing that body as both site and material. He utilises ephemeral, process-based and long-durational practices as a means of antagonising the prevailing economies of colonial spectatorship and capital value, as well as a means to excavate and elevate embodied knowledges.