CUTS: A Traditional Sculpture

Medium: Durational Performance, Photography, Video
Date: 2011-2013

A body of work inspired by Eleanor Antin’s Carving and Lynda Benglis’s Advertisement, in which Cassils uses bodybuilding techniques to gain 23 pounds of muscle in 23 weeks.

It began with a six month durational performance and generated video installations, photographs, watercolors, and a magazine.

This body of work is a reinterpretation of Eleanor Antin’s 1972 performance Carving: A Traditional Sculpture, in which Antin crash dieted for 45 days and documented her body daily with photographs from four vantage points. Cassils instead used a mastery of bodybuilding and nutrition to gain 23 pounds of muscle over 23 weeks. Unlike the feminine act of weight loss in Antin’s performance, Cassils’s performance involves a transformation into a traditionally masculine muscular form. Below are four grids of time lapse photographs of Cassils’s transformation sorted by vantage point, offering a striking overview of the entire performance that draws out its conceptual clarity. 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.

Time Lapse (Front). Photos By Cassils, 2011. (40 X 60), Time Lapse (Left). Photos By Cassils, 2011. (40 X 60), Time Lapse (Back). Photos By Cassils, 2011. (40 X 60), Time Lapse (Right). Photos By Cassils, 2011. (40 X 60).


Photo By Cassils and Robin Black, 2011. (30″ X 40″)

Cassils collaborated with photographer and makeup artist Robin Black to create Advertisement: Homage to Benglis, in which Cassils stages an homage to Linda Benglis’s Advertisement (1974). Rather than buy advertisement space in Artforum, the two artists capitalized on their connections in both on- and off-line gay fashion/art publications to disseminate these self-empowered images of trans representation. Substituting a ripped masculine physique for a double-ended phallus, they leaked the images without disclosing anything about their subject but including links to a blog about the project. Placing this image within these contexts signals the shifts in our cultural landscape, and highlights the role of artists like Benglis in bringing about those changes.

Photo By Cassils and Robin Black, 2011. (30″ X 40″)

“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.”

Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory
E. Hella Tsaconas


Lady Face // Man Body is a glossy magazine consisting of several “pin ups” taken during the photo shoot for Advertisment: Homage to Benglis.

You can view the magazine at You can purchase the full color magazine Lady Face // Man Body here.