Medium: Sculpture, Performance
Date: 2017

A 1,900-Pound Sculpture Pushed Through the Streets of Omaha, in Tribute to Its LGBTQ History.

A 1,900-Pound Sculpture Pushed Through the Streets of Omaha, in Tribute to Its LGBTQ History. The performance took place in Omaha where members of the local LGBTQI+ community joined in pushing the one-ton monument to local sites of trauma, resilience, and survival, including a prison where LGBT youth of color are incarcerated.

The world premiere of Monument Push was performed at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts on April 29, 2017.

Often deemed “flyover country” by “blue” coastal states and located in the heart of “red” America, the Bemis Center and Cassils worked in partnership with members of the LGBTQI+ community, allies and advocates to choose sites that sought to explore spaces of trauma, violence, celebration, resistance, and resilience.

One site was the largest prison in the Midwest, was chosen by Dominique Morgan, a local activist and acclaimed singer and songwriter, deeply entrenched in advocacy for community and youth. He chose this site because LGBT youth of color are particularly at risk for arrest and detention. Another chosen site marked the first pride parade in 1985, where both marchers and viewers were so ashamed to be associated with the event that they preserved their anonymity by wearing paper shopping bags over their heads.

The collective body and bodies present during the performance express the role of personal realities and regional context within larger cultural narratives and communal experiences—making space for unseen or obliterated histories of marginalized communities. Working with a film crew I created a vivid document of the four hour arduous process. Cassils also capture interviews with community collaborators, and will create a sound design by miking the physical exertion of the participants and the recordings from the sculpture itself, which rung like a giant gong as it lumbered over the uneven pavement.

“As I took my turn helping to push the 1,900-pound mass, I struggled not only against its weight, but to somehow gain purchase, to fit my own hand into the jagged imprints of that violence. It was a brief test of my own endurance and a profound experience of empathy.”

Karen Emenhiser-Harris

The Resilience of the 20%

This bronze & concrete sculpture is cast from the bashed clay remnant of Cassils’ previous performance Becoming An Image, acts as a monument to the resilience of queer communities. The title underscores a sickening statistic: in 2012, murders of trans people increased by 20 percent worldwide.


“No one morphology could be offered as exemplary for all transgender lives. Cassils wrestled with the need to document and the problems of evidence, arriving at a work that refused to image the human form but evoked it as an object of work, transformation, and purpose. As an abstract monument, The Resilience of the 20% draws on transgender experience and politics while also standing as an allegory of self-determination and resolve.”

– David Getsy