Cassils spent a good chunk of this week trying to ensure that the 200-gallon tank of urine he was installing at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts didn’t leak through the floor and destroy all of the priceless art that currently might be stored in the gallery’s basement.
“Can you even imagine?” the transgender performance artist asked me when we sat down to chat about his second solo show at the New Your City gallery. The show, entitled Monumental, features a new work that he made by saving his urine for the last 200 days and collecting it in the tank.
The piece, PISSED, was created in response to President Donald Trump’s February decision to rescind President Obama’s directive that transgender students should be able to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity. PISSED will be unveiled at the gallery on Saturday night when, according to a press release for the show, Cassils will perform a related piece, Fountain, and thereby complete “the 200 day durational performance by linking their body to the minimalist structure.”
Cassils, a Canadian-born 2017 Guggenheim Fellow and 2015 Creative Capital Awardee currently living in Los Angeles, has made a career for himself by approaching and proposing theories and questions about the body, politics, gender, history, being transgender and other potentially incendiary topics through his performance-based art. Ahead of the debut of Monumental, he discussed the logistics of preserving so much urine for such a long period of time, his relationship to his body as a transgender artist, the divide between art and activism and more.
HuffPost: Did PISSED happen organically in response to Trump’s action in February or was it a piece you’d be conceptualizing in some way and Trump’s move ended up giving you the perfect opportunity to actualize what you’d been incubating?
Cassils: It’s something that I’ve been thinking about personally as someone who has to navigate bathrooms on a daily basis. This is just an experience that I’ve had. It was really [stemming from] following the Gavin Grimm case in depth and being really inspired by such a young person. Looking at someone who was just 14 years old and speaking his truth to a bunch of adults and students who were bullying him ― and of course he’s picked up by the ACLU because he’s articulate, well-versed, educated white trans man, and certainly, he isn’t necessarily the stand-in for most trans experiences; there was something…