The School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University (SMFA at Tufts) presents “Breaking News: Cassils,” an urgent and timely solo-exhibition of visceral video performances by contemporary artist Cassils. 

Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, 2016
Grossman Gallery and Anderson Auditorium
SMFA at Tufts, 230 Fenway in Boston.

Gallery hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm, and Wednesday, 10 am to 8 pm.
The gallery is closed Sundays and holidays.


About the Exhibition

“Breaking News: Cassils” emerged from a shared concern between Cassils, the artist and guest curator, Carol Stakenas, to respond to the current profusion of images of communities of color, LGBTQI people, and especially queer and trans people of color who have been met with violence. The media coverage of each tragedy seems to eclipse the previous event and the relentless expression of this hatred and fear only promises to continue against the backdrop of a super-charged 2016 election cycle in the United States.

The three works selected for this solo exhibition depict performances that resist easy categorizations on the basis of identity, and employ a striking range of tactics in response to this turbulent mediascape. Each project reveals a distinct set of social relations generated by the intersectional issues of race, class, sexual orientation and gender. The accompanying texts by performance studies scholar Julia Steinmetz locates Cassils’ works within a discursive framework that articulates the challenges and opportunities that can be found in this unstable territory.

A panel discussion on media depictions of violence and their psychological and physiological effects will be held Sept. 14 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Henry and Lois Foster Gallery (Gallery 158), at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA). The panel will feature Cassils; Mina Tsay-Vogel, professor of emerging media at Boston University; Lionel McPherson, professor of philosophy at Tufts University; and Paige Gunning, an outreach worker and advocate with the Violence and Recovery Program at Fenway Health. Admission at the MFA is free after 4 p.m. on Sept. 14.

 “Breaking News: Cassils” features three dynamic installations generated by Cassils' performances.  The exhibit includes:

"103 Shots"

The first exhibition screening of “103 Shots”, a short film created in response to the June 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting, the first public showing of “Inextinguishable Fire" since January's Sundance Film Festival, and the world premiere of “Powers That Be” as a multi-channel video installation.

“103 Shots” – In the aftermath of the attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, survivors recounted that they mistook popping sounds to be celebratory noise rather than deadly gunfire. Using this as a narrative element, this stark black and white video captures the physical and emotional responses of friends and lovers as they pop a balloon in the pressure of an embrace.

“Inextinguishable Fire”

“Inextinguishable Fire” – This large-scale projection film engages spectators with the construction of images of violence and war in the media.  Created as a performance for camera in Los Angeles, it appropriates the stunt techniques of a “full body burn” from Hollywood films.  Shot on digital video at 1000 frames per second, Cassils’ harrowing 14-second live burn is extended to 14 minutes of slow motion flame.

"Powers that Be"

“Powers that Be” – Illuminated by car headlights in the depths of a parking garage, Cassils is a sole, naked figure sparring with an invisible force. Stereos from surrounding cars broadcast a score of static noise and radio samples that amplify conflicting sociopolitical agendas in the United States.

An accompanying publication features essays on each work by performance studies scholar Julia Steinmetz.“Breaking News: Cassils” is part of the SMFA at Tufts’ Fall Invitational Series which brings an internationally known artists and critical thinkers to the school to display and discuss their work with the SMFA at Tufts community and the general public.


Cassils is a Los Angeles based visual artist who uses the human body as a raw material to disrupt the gender binary. Drawing on conceptualism, feminism, body art and gay male aesthetics, Cassils’ multidisciplinary practice engages performance, sound, sculpture, photography and video. Their work has been shown at The National Theater Studio (UK), Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Manifesta, and Art Basel Miami. Cassils is the recipient of a 2015 Creative Capital Award. They have also received the inaugural ANTI Festival International Prize for Live Art, MOTHA (Museum of Transgender History) award, and Visual Artist Fellowship from the Canada Council of the Arts. Cassils is represented by Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York.

Carol Stakenas is a curator and educator whose work is deliberately varied to align artists’ practices within timely contexts. She has worked with artists across disciplines and scholars to expand and deepen contemporary art discourse.  She has commissioned and produced multidisciplinary public projects in sites such as the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage, the top of Los Angeles City Hall and Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.  Stakenas is the Executive Director of No Longer Empty ( in New York. Previously, she served as the Executive Director of Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) and Deputy Director/Curator of Creative Time in New York. Most recently, she was curator of Exhibitions and Public Programs and was a faculty member in the graduate program at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Julia Steinmetz is a performance studies scholar, contemporary art writer, visual artist and performer based in New York City.  She co-founded the Los Angeles-based feminist art collective Toxic Titties. She researches and writes about transfeminism, contemporary feminist media art, and performance and technology. Her scholarly work has appeared in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, E-misférica, and Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory, in which she also co-edited the special issue Feminist Landscapes. Steinmetz is a visiting faculty member in the Performance and Performance Studies MFA Program at Pratt Institute.