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  • 103 Shots
  • Cassils

Following the recent mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, I was struck by the testimony of one of the survivors, a man who said one of the reasons he did not react immediately to the gunshots was that he initially perceived them as the celebratory noises of “fireworks or balloons popping.” I took this narrative as the starting point for 103 Shots, a short film shot at San Francisco Pride with the help of over 200 volunteers. Filmed in Dolores Park, the footage presents stark black and white imagery of a series of pairs of couples and friends bursting a balloon between their bodies with the pressure of an embrace; the soundtrack, created by Cristy Michel, used foley recordings of balloons popping in a cement room. The film references the visual style of Gran Fury’s “Kissing Doesn’t Kill” campaign and the signature typography of Queer Nation. The faces of the film’s participants register affection, surprise, pain, discomfort, and laughter; each embrace is a minor enactment of the disorienting effect of violence in the space of intimacy. 103 embraces, 103 shots, one for each life lost or irreparably altered.

103 Shots was originally published at and can be viewed at [End Page 114]

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Figure 1.

Still from 103 Shots.

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Figure 2.

Still from 103 Shots.

[End Page 115]

Listed by the Huffington Post as “one of ten transgender artists who are changing the landscape of contemporary art,” Cassils has achieved international recognition for a rigorous engagement with the body as a form of social sculpture. Featuring a series of bodies transformed by strict physical training regimes, Cassils’ artworks offer shared experiences for contemplating histories of violence, representation, struggle, and survival, often juxtaposing the immediacy, urgency and ephemerality of live performance against constructed acts for camera in order to challenge the “documentarian truth factor” of images. Bashing through gendered binaries, Cassils performs transgender not as a crossing from one sex to another but rather as a continual process of becoming, a form of embodiment that works in a space of indeterminacy, spasm and slipperiness.

Recent solo exhibitions include School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; MU Eindhoven, the Netherlands; Trinty Square Video, Toronto; and Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York. Cassils’ work has also been featured at Institute for Contemporary Art and The National Theatre, London; MUCA Roma, Mexico City; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions; Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Salt Lake City; ANTI Contemporary Performance Festival, Kuopio, Finland; Museo da Imagem e do Som, São Paulo, Brazil; Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo, San José, Costa Rica; and Deutsches Historishes Museum, Berlin, Germany.

Cassils is the recipient of a 2015 Creative Capital Award. They also received the inaugural ANTI Festival International Prize for Live Art, Rema Hort Mann Visual Arts Fellowship, California Community Foundation Grant, MOTHA (Museum of Transgender Hirstory) Award, and a Visual Artist Fellowship from the Canada Council of the Arts. Cassils’ work has been featured in New York Times, Wired, The Guardian, TDR, Performance Research, Art Journal, and Vogue Brazil and is the subject of the monograph Cassils published by MU Eindhoven in 2015. [End Page 116]



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