Transactivation: Revealing Queer Histories in the Archive

Thursday, March 1, 2012
6:00pm - 9:00pm
ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries
909 West Adams Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90007

In conjunction with the exhibition Cruising the Archive: Queer Art and Culture in Los Angeles, 1945-1980, artists Heather CassilsZackary DruckerWu Tsang and Chris Vargas will present a series of live performances and video projects inspired by the collections at ONE Archives. These artists explore trans content in their multidisciplinary work and are interested in a discussion about LGBTQ archives and the “Ts” and “Qs” often missing from historical records. The performance will be followed by a discussion moderated by Dean Spade, assistant professor at the Seattle University School of Law.


Transactivation Image flyer



Heather Cassils
Becoming An Image, 2012
Performance including 1500 pounds of clay

Becoming An Image, a brand new performance, will take place in a completely light free environment. The only elements in the space will be the audience, a photographer, the performer (myself) and a block of clay weighing 1500 pounds (around the same height as me). Throughout the performance, in the darkness, I will use my skills as a boxer/fighter to unleashing a full-blown attack where I literally beat the form. (I have been training in mixed MMA and self-defense for the past three weeks in preparation for this piece). A “sculpting” process will result on account of my blows. For the duration of this performance I will be blind, as will the audience, as will the photographer. The only light source emitted will come from the flash mounted on the photographer’s camera. This burst of temporary light will allow the live audience to see only suspended moments of the performance, much like a “live” photograph, burning this image into their retina. The performance will last as long as I am physically able to fight. The act of photographing is the only way in which the performance is made visible.
I imagine the resulting images will some times capture my movement and sometimes will not. The lens will fill with the fog of my breath; will be speckled with droplets of sweat and dirt as it captures the flying debris.

Special thanks to Eric Charles, Dean Hayasaka, Karen Lofgren, Todd Reynolds, Geneva Skeen, and Kim Zumpfe.


Zackary Drucker
Bring Your Own Body, 2012
Text, voice, and digital projection

Weaving autobiographical text and photographs from the archive of Intersex pioneer Lynn Edward Harris, I will insert my own unfiltered commentary on Harris’ brilliant and mostly unseen contributions to culture, while addressing the intersections and parallels of my own experience as a “gender con-artist.”

Special thanks to Natasha Lagano, ALL of the volunteers and archivists at ONE, and to Lynn Edward Harris: continue to exist.


Wu Tsang
Full Body Quotation film (AKA FHWPALT3 For how we perceived a life (take 3)), 2012
Video, 9 minutes

Full Body Quotation is an austere interpretation of drag culture and revelry as it has been caught on camera by films and news media of past decades. In the tradition of realness, Tsang maintains a studied and irreverent relationship to the source material, calling into question the authenticity of narrative, self-presentation, and intention.


Chris Vargas
ONE for all…, 2012
Video, 7 minutes

ONE for all… is about the tempestuous end of the partnership between eccentric, transgender philanthropist Reed Erickson and the seminal homophile organization ONE. The story focuses on the Milbank Estate, a historic Los Angeles mansion at the center of the conflict, and on the expansive but unrealized dreams that Erickson had for the future of queer activism.

Special thanks to Greg Youman.



Heather Cassils is a body builder who uses her exaggerated physique to intervene in various contexts in order to interrogate systems of power, control and gender. Often employing many of the same strategies used by Fluxus and guerrilla theatre, her method is multidisciplinary and crosses a spectrum of performance, film, video and photography. She is also a founding member of the Los Angeles–based performance group Toxic Titties.

Zackary Drucker is a Los Angeles–based artist who is interested in obliterating language obstacles, pulverizing identity disorders and revealing dark subconscious layers of outsider agency. Drucker disarms audiences using live performance, film, video and photography.

Wu Tsang is a Los Angeles–based visual artist and performer whose projects have been presented at X-Initative (New York), Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros (Mexico City), Oberhausen (Germany), REDCAT (Los Angeles) and the California Biennial 2010. In 2008, his short film The Shape of a Right Statement was included in Artforum’s “Best of the Year (Film).” Tsang is the director of Wildness, his first feature documentary.

Chris Vargas is a video maker based in Oakland. With collaborator Greg Youmans he creates the sitcom series Falling in Love . . . with Chris and Greg, and with Eric Stanley he is the co-director of the movie Homotopia and the feature-length sequel Criminal Queers.

Dean Spade is an assistant professor at the Seattle University School of Law. He is the founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP), a collective that provides free legal services to low-income people and people of color who are trans, intersex and/or gender non-conforming and works to build trans resistance rooted in racial and economic justice. His book, Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of Law, was published by South End Press in December 2011.



Presented by Visions and Voices: The USC Arts & Humanities Initiative. Organized by Onya Hogan-Finlay, David Frantz and Mia Locks in conjunction with Cruising the Archive: Queer Art and Culture in Los Angeles, 1945-1980. Co-sponsored by LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions).
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Image: Photograph from Heather Cassils’ Becoming An Image, 2012. Courtesy of the artist