This solo physical performance is about the production and effort that goes into upholding a superficial image.
All aspects of production are present: lighting, special effects, choreography, sound, and highly trained and manicured body. The performance animates the frozen look of a film still. The effect is not theatrical, but cinematic. The audience has the experience of being on set, witnessing a “take”.
Cassils enhances this exploration by using scaffolding, special lighting equipment, crew, and a special effects make up artist. The central image is that of Tiresias, the blind prophet of Thebes famous for being transformed into a woman. This prophetic power is linked in mythology to his gender crossing — and was distrusted by people. Cassils performs Hard Times blind, wearing prosthetic mask that makes their eyes appear to have been removed from their sockets. They wear a frosted blond wig and the deep tan of a bodybuilding lady. Clad in a coral body thong, they teeter seven feet in the air on plank of slippery wood upheld by construction scaffolding.
For six minutes they perform a body building routine in slow motion. Cassils manipulates their body into the poses with a very controlled, methodical and deliberate slowness borrowed from buto dance. Holding such deep muscular contractions for extended periods causes an overload of the central nervous system – all their limbs convulse and shake uncontrollably. Culturally and politically, we are in a state of rotting from the inside out. Hard Times responds to the culture of consumption and denial with an image of a body that sputters and twitches with exertion to maintain its manicured surface.