Designed to be viewed and recorded on mobile phones, The Powers That Be further addresses the mediation of violence by calling into question the roles of witness and aggressor on the part of the spectator.
In this powerful performance, Cassils collaborates with fight choreographer Mark Steger to stage a brutal two-person fight. Illuminated by car headlights in the depths of a parking garage, Cassils is the sole figure, sparring with an invisible force. The stereos of the surrounding cars broadcast a multi-channel score of static noise and radio samples designed by Kadet Kuhne. By amplifying the sociopolitical conflicts at each performance location with sound, The Powers That Be explores the radical unrepresentability of certain forms of trauma and violence. Here the radio signal is a transmission of site-specific issues, both proximate and distant.
The Broad Museum, Los Angeles, 2016
In Los Angeles, Cassils and Kuhne simulated a local radio dial to illuminate oppressive and oppressed forces in contemporary US culture. Transmissions about #BlackLivesMatter, a woman’s right to choose, and violence against the LGBTQI community mixed with hacked sections of The Broad’s audio guides and random radio samples. This sonic backdrop informed and contextualized Cassils’ performance movement, highlighting the cyclical forces that govern and regulate the bodies of “others.”
(210 Kilometers), Kupio, Finland, 2015
As the recipient of the first ANTI International Prize for Live Art, Cassils was commissioned to create a site-specific performance for Kuopio, Finland, the host city for the ANTI Contemporary Art Festival. Kuopio is located 210 kilometers from the Russian border. Cassils’ performance addressed the proximity of the festival to a country where queer and trans lives are acutely vulnerable and under siege, lacking any protection under civil law. The sound design in this context marked the particularity of site through samples of local news clips, music, and talk radio from both sides of the Finnish/Russian border, highlighting the dire situation for LGBTQI people in Russia.
The six-channel video installation, further extends the theme of witness-as-participant in violence.
In 2015, Cassils staged a brutal fight with invisible opponents in a parking garage at the Broad museum. Audience members were allowed to document the event with their cells phones; their video footage provided the source material for the resulting six-channel video installation Powers That Be, (2015–2017). As an installation, Powers That Be reverses the terms of the original performance by putting the audience at the center of the attack, surrounded by the six screens of mobile uploads. The amount and intensity of information offered during Powers That Be is overwhelming, calling attention to the trend to document violence while failing to intervene.