Tag Archives: discussion

Art Rage

February 23, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Editor’s note: Cassils is a gender non-conforming trans-masculine visual artist. Cassils uses plural gender-neutral pronouns (they, them, their) and asks that journalists do likewise when referring to them. This plurality reflects through language the position Cassils occupies as an artist. For more about gender non-conforming issues, go to: glad.org/reference/transgender 

Powerful art does not need to be explained, though for the uninitiated, sometimes it helps.

Canadian-born, Los Angeles-based multimedia artist Cassils thrives on the power of art. The artist (who prefers to be referred to in plural, gender-neutral pronouns) launched their latest exhibit, Cassils: The Phantom Revenant—now on display at the Bemis Center— Feb. 2 with a thrilling live performance called Becoming An Image.

Cassils’ performance involved the transgender, body-building artist attacking a 2,000-pound block of clay using only their body, in complete darkness, with the occasional flash of a camera that illuminated both artist and object, burning the images into viewers retinas.

It was a blend of performance, photography, and sculpture. “I use all parts of my body—my fists, my knees, my elbows,” Cassils says. “I beat this clay to the best of my ability, blind, until I’m basically compromising my ability to hit it properly.”

At the performance, the only sounds were those of Cassils’ labored breathing, as the artist kicked, punched, and even jumped on the earthy clay, accompanied by the click of the camera as the photographer blindly tried to capture the “full-blown attack.”

Becoming An Image was originally conceived of and executed for ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, the oldest existing LGBT organization in the United States, which also happens to house one of the largest repositories of LGBT materials in the world.

“I was asked to make a piece in relationship to the missing gender-queer and trans representation in that archive, because like many archives in museums, it’s filled with the work of, in this case, dead, gay white guys. So rather than making an artwork that spoke to the one or two subjectivities that perhaps matched this description in the archives, I decided to make a piece about the troubling mechanisms of what makes it into the historical canon and what doesn’t.”

Cassils’ Powers That Be installation—on display through April 29—presents a six-channel video that is a simulation of violence, a staged fight that could be taking place between two, three, four, or five people. But in this fight, Cassils plays the role of both victim and perpetrator. “If you have two people doing stage combat, it looks really realistic, but if you take one person out, and the other person’s doing it well, it really looks as if they’re fighting a ghost, or a force.”

Cassils says “Any work is about responding to the socio-political circumstances that we’re living in …  Art doesn’t change things like laws do, but it generates discussion.”

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Encounter.

Having “The Talk”

July 22, 2013 by

Q: My daughter is 11, and I haven’t talked to her about the “birds and the bees” yet. What cues should I look for to know when it’s okay to have the talk? And how do I approach her?

A: If initiating “the talk” makes you nervous, many resources are available to guide you.

A book series by Stan Jones, God’s Design for Sex: How and When to Talk to Your Kids About Sex, provides age-appropriate ways to teach kids about sex from a Christian perspective. If you don’t adhere to the Christian values, you can input your own values in your discussions. Passport2Purity, a weekend retreat approach to teaching pre-teens about sex, offers many supplemental materials. The Care and Keeping of You (age 8+) and The Care and Keeping of You 2 (age 10+) are great books about puberty and body changes, presented in a straightforward way that is easy to understand.

Some parents like to go through the book with their kids; others let their kids read them and then talk about it together afterward. Read through it first so you know what they’re reading and are sure you’re comfortable with the way things are being presented.

There isn’t a “magic age” for talking to your kids about sex, but there are some things to clue you in that your kids might be ready:

  • What are your kids and their friends talking about?
  • What lyrics are in the music they listen to?
  • Is there any interest in dating?
  • Do they pay closer attention to commercials for tampons, birth control, or condoms?

Curiosity is natural, and it’s better for you to address sex before they decide to go online to find out about it—even innocent internet searches open up a slew of inappropriate sites.

It is important to set aside some uninterrupted time for a longer discussion. Offer plenty of time for questions and be honest with your answers. Be aware of your own attitude, because guilt, shame, and embarrassment are not good emotions for your kids to associate with sex.

Don’t be shocked if they ask a question out of the blue. Watch your reaction, and if it’s not a good time, just let her know it’s a good question but one that you want to talk about later. And keep in mind that girls will respond differently to the topic of sex and development.

My 7-year-old daughter just asked me last week what “sexy” means, thanks to a song lyric she heard. She didn’t need elaborate details—just an answer that satisfied her curiosity, and then she bounced out the door to go play with her friend. My 9-year-old daughter heard the question and was mortified. She needed a little more of an explanation but never would have asked.

Be relaxed and talk about sex like any other topic. If you’re uncomfortable, your kids will be, too. Take advantage of the little opportunities that present themselves because even if a statement or question from you doesn’t initiate a conversation, they will hear you. Sometimes, these situations are your kids’ way of “testing the waters” to see how you will react. They need to feel comfortable enough to approach you with questions, especially if you want them to learn your morals and values about sex.

In summary, act relaxed (even if you aren’t), and bring up the sex talk before it’s needed. You’ll both be glad you did.

Pecha Kucha

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Four nights a year, they gather in dark, hazy spaces just beyond the streetlamps.

Each participant is prepared with 20 projection slides each, showing images on a design topic of their choosing. They’ll take no more than 20 seconds to discuss each slide.

It’s called PechaKucha Night, this thing they do. It means “chit chat” in Japanese, and it’s not just happening in Omaha. It’s an evening of informal presentations that began in Tokyo in 2003 as a way for designers to concisely explain their most recent work. Now, more than 500 cities around the world host an evening of thinking and drinking for their local designers and other creative souls to share current projects.

Guests in Omaha pack places like Blue Sushi and The Slowdown to capacity in order to hear these sometimes witty, sometimes inspiring, sometimes awkward, but always highly individual presentations. Slides can be confusing, occasionally distasteful, and often beautiful.20130228_bs_8150_Web

Speakers can and do discuss the design of anything and everything, including fashion, architecture, pottery, video games, prosthetics, car overhauls, and Native American heritage. Over the past five years that Omaha has been an official PechaKucha city, 179 people have braved the intimidation of public speaking to add their voices to the quarterly event, with anywhere from eight to a dozen speakers a night.

And yes, there is some mark of pride in being an official PechaKucha city, recognized by the PechaKucha organization based in Tokyo. Omaha organizers are Tom Trenolone, founder of design alliance OMAha, Inc. (daOMA), and Brian Kelly, an assistant professor of architecture at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Trenolone had been looking for a way to get local talent to be part of a bigger, more international group. He credits Kelly with being the mastermind who’s kept PechaKucha going in Omaha.

“We were, I want to say, the 120th city to take it on,” Trenolone recalls. “We were sandwiched between Newcastle, England, and Oslo, Norway, on the site’s list.” He contacted Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham about introducing their Tokyo event to Omaha.

“The contract’s still just a handshake, really,” Trenolone says, referring to the relative informality of keeping Omaha listed on the PechaKucha website as a charter city. But Klein and Dytham were serious, he recalls, about making sure Omaha knew what PechaKucha had to include. “We had to explain why we wanted to put it on, and what we were trying to do. They wanted us to know we were overseers of the PechaKucha brand.”20130228_bs_8126_Web

There are just a few rules that the couple wanted to make certain every PechaKucha city observed: Events are held at least four times a year, and beer breaks are mandatory. Yes, Trenolone and Kelly have to make certain the event takes place somewhere with a liquor license to facilitate the goal of getting guests to move around and chat about what they’ve seen so far. “Get people to have conversation,” Trenolone says, gesturing at the people moving like restless sardines in a tin can at The Slowdown. “The density is what we want. It adds to the feel.”

As far as gaining speakers for the next round of presentations, “We solicit at the end of the night from other speakers,” Kelly says. Word of mouth is another common way to bring in new presenters. There’s rarely a theme to a PechaKucha; Trenolone and Kelly say they’re just looking for a good narrative from each speaker.

“It’s the most poorly advertised, yet best attended design event in Omaha,” Trenolone says, only bragging a little.

To hunt down the next PechaKucha, check out daOMA’s Facebook page or browse pechakucha.org/cities/omaha.