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  • Writer's pictureAshton Blyth

Human Measure

This weekend I went to the exhibition Cassils: Human Measure, the trans masculine artist's first UK solo show and 10-year survey curated by Bren O'Callaghan.

Cassils is a trans masculine visual artist from Canada, they use their body as a social sculpture to transcribe their themes, and are currently one of the biggest transgender artist's in the world. So their opinion on how the Trump legislation affected them as a person, as well as their artwork was a crucial viewpoint to include in my dissertation last year. Having decided they were too big of an artist to be able to score a one-on-one conversation with them, I was lucky enough that the University of Tennessee were featuring Cassils in their visiting artist programme. After attending the presentation via zoom, I emailed the head of sculpture and was invited to a discussion between Cassils and the MFA students on professional practice, and another with trans and non-binary students on being part of the LGBTQ+ community as an artist, and was able to get my questions in across the three opportunities. It was really surreal to talk to them, having looked up to them since first coming out as transgender five and a half years ago and trying to find artists who I could relate to, both as a person and within my practice.

Unfortunately I found out about this exhibition just a day too late and missed the opening night, and thus the debut performance of Human Measure. However, I was able to attend a curator's tour and hear some further knowledge on the included works. This exhibition came at a pivotal point in the UK, having been a recent review of the Gender Recognition Act that failed to legally recognise non-binary people, or remove the need for a doctor to medically diagnose someone with gender dysphoria in order to self-identify as your chosen gender.

The title Human Measure was chosen for both the piece of contemporary dance, and the overall exhibition, to recognise Cassils' constant of body-meets-material throughout their works - torso meets ice, fist collides with clay, breath expands glass - their body is the tool that carves the artworks.

"Cassils is an advocate for the power of personal agency when it can feel outside the reach of any individual to affect transformative change" - Bren O'Callaghan, Curator, HOME.

For this project, I would really like to speak to Cassils again, and having spoken to them a few times before and with contact details for Bren hopefully this can be made to happen - fingers crossed! As someone who identifies as trans masculine, rather than a transgender man, I'd be interested to see where their 'gender-journey' experiences differ from m own, in how they view them. The fact that Cassils is a body builder and personal trainer, and so has not had top surgery but has created what I would define as a masculine chest for himself - not a male chest - do their experiences of gender dysphoria with their body differ from mine, and how so? They are portrayed as someone who is extremely comfortable with their body, with their use of nudity throughout their work, and I'd be interested to know if that was always the case, even when feeling there was something amiss with their gender identity.


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