Tag Archives: journalists

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.

Kamrin Baker

January 27, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The common trajectory for aspiring journalists is that you work at the school newspaper, get into college, work at that college paper, graduate, then take a lowly entry-level job somewhere and work your way up from there. Then, after years of amassing a portfolio, maybe, just maybe, you can get a gig at a place like The Huffington Post

But thanks to a quick reply to a call for contributors on The Huffington Post’s Twitter feed, Kamrin Baker, 18, pole-vaulted past all those traditional, dues-paying markers and landed a spot as a contributor for the popular news site…all while still working on the high school yearbook at Millard West, where she’s a senior. She co-edits the yearbook with Keegan Holmes (also a senior).

The first major news story Baker remembered was the September 11 terrorist attacks. She was a pre-schooler in 2001. In kindergarten, Baker said she wrote a picture book, and in third grade, she brought stories to her Georgia Wheeler Elementary class.

Kamrin-Baker-2Now sitting with her mother, Grace, at Stories Coffeehouse, Baker says she originally thought about being an English teacher.

“Then, I started realizing I was really impatient. And don’t love children. Or ignorance,” Baker says.

Baker has written blogs both serious (a call for schools to better handle mental health issues) and not (a eulogy to Parks and Recreation). Like many Huffington Post bloggers, she is an unpaid contributor. However, the freedom to write about the topics she wants, and the site’s flexibility with her busy schedule, were worthy trade-offs for her.

“I’m not super keen on the politics and the economy of The Huffington Post,” she says, “but I like what they’re doing.”

Stirring a strawberry Italian soda, Baker recalls one of her most popular posts, one about living with anxiety.

Though Baker and her mother went back-and-forth trying to figure out when her first panic attack occurred, Baker definitely remembered the first one that sent her to the school nurse. It was during an intro to behavioral sciences class. She was watching the movie Mockingbird Don’t Sing.

“I was watching it…and then I couldn’t breath. I thought I was just sick,” says Baker.

She went to her teacher, who quickly sent her to the nurse.

“I sat there for an hour, and I just shook,” she recalls. “I had no idea what was going on.”

Baker was diagnosed with panic disorder. She used her position at The Huffington Post to unveil her Joy is Genius campaign, which is an online resource on Tumblr for teenagers struggling with anxiety.

“I’m at a point where I don’t think it’s smart or cool to ignore it,” Baker explains.

In our post-newspaper media landscape, the mode you select is almost as important as the content. Like many savvy journalists, Baker quickly toggles between Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and, yes, even print.

“I usually use Pinterest for yearbook design and dog pictures. I’ll post more comedy-based things (on Twitter). I like Instagram because I can tell more of a story with it. The caption content is longer.”

Baker is currently weighing going to UNL or UNO to study journalism. She’s sure to find new role models in college, but for now, she explains, ”The two people that inspire me the most, and are not on the same spectrum whatsoever, are Diane Sawyer and  Taylor Swift.”

Visit huffingtonpost.com/kamrin-baker to read her work.

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