“Cyclic: New Performance by Cassils, Ron Athey, and Arshia Haq in “Lung” of Biosphere 2

“Cyclic: New Performance by Cassils, Ron Athey, and Arshia Haq in “Lung” of Biosphere 2

December 1, 2018 2:30 PM - 4:00 PM

Cyclic: New Performance by Cassils, Ron Athey, and Arshia Haq in “Lung” of Biosphere 2
Saturday, December 1, 2:30pm at Biosphere 2
$20 admission, includes access to Biosphere 2 Grounds and Tour
$75 VIP ticket includes pre-show cocktails and invite to private dance party with the artists in the home of 2 original Biospherians
Buy tickets online: here

Cyclic is durational performance expressing sublime and profane modes of devotion. Through this new, collaborative work commissioned by MOCA Tucson, the artists present actions which highlight the value of lives often deemed disposable, or even incomprehensible. Triangulated within a circle, alternately illuminated and concealed, the artists work against light and dark, visibility and invisibility as they coil and trace sacred geometries. Using the preservative materials of wax, salt, and ice, each artist performs their death rites. Passing through cycles, the artists recite litanies assembled from Gnostic and Sufi texts as they simultaneously leave traces that are continuously re-inscribed and erased. Their efforts move towards an alchemical force of transmutation and possibility. Collectively, they will conjure apparitions to haunt oppressive forces.

Presented in the uniquely resonant “lung” of Biosphere 2, a site which simultaneously evokes utopian and dystopian possibilities, Ron Athey, Cassils and Arshia Haq will bring their creative forces and subjectivities together in this performance that continuously unfolds in a triptych of tableaux vivants. Together, they evoke iconography across age-old faiths which mirror the present-day powers that be. Their cyclical modes of performative exploration orbit possibility and its failure.


Listed by the Huffington Post as “one of ten transgender artists who are changing the landscape of contemporary art,” Cassils has achieved international recognition for a rigorous engagement with the body as a form of social sculpture. Featuring a series of bodies transformed by strict physical training regimens, Cassils’ artworks offer shared experiences for contemplating histories of violence, representation, struggle, and survival. Cassils juxtaposes the immediacy, urgency and ephemerality of live performance against constructed acts for camera. Bashing through binaries, Cassils’ transgender performances are not so much a crossing from one sex to another but rather a continual process of becoming, a form of embodiment that works in a space of indeterminacy, spasm, and slipperiness. Drawing on conceptualism, feminism, body art, and gay male aesthetics, Cassils forges a series of powerfully trained bodies for different performative purposes. It is with sweat, blood, and sinew that Cassils constructs a visual critique around ideologies and histories. Recent solo exhibitions include: Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts; School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston; Bemis Center, Omaha; MU Eindhoven, Netherlands; Trinty Square Video, Toronto; and Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York. Cassils’ work has also been featured as the key art for the blockbuster exhibition at the Deutsches Historisches Museum and the Schwules Museum; Berlin, Institute for Contemporary Art; The National Theatre, London; MUCA Roma, Mexico City; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions; Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Salt Lake City; ANTI Contemporary Performance Festival, Kuopio, Finland; Museo da Imagem e do Som, São Paulo, Brazil; and the Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo, San José, Costa Rica. Cassils is the recipient of a United States Artists Fellowship (2018), Guggenheim Fellowship (2016), and a Creative Capital Award (2015). They have also received the inaugural ANTI Festival International Prize for Live Art, Rema Hort Mann Visual Arts Fellowship, California Community Foundation Grant, MOTHA (Museum of Transgender Hirstory) award, and Visual Artist Fellowship from the Canada Council of the Arts. Cassils’ work has been featured in New York Times, Boston Globe, Artfourm, Wired, The Guardian, TDR, Performance Research, Art Journal, and Vogue Brazil and was the subject of the monograph Cassils published by MU Eindhoven in 2015.

Los Angeles-based artist Ron Athey has been working at the vanguard of performance art for 25 years. Self-taught, his work developed out of post-punk/pre-goth scenes, and begins with Premature Ejaculation (PE), an early 1980s collaboration with Rozz Williams. Their approach to performance art was informed by the club actions of Johanna Went and the formulation of Industrial Culture (the idea of psycho/neuro acoustics in sound performance). Athey’s work often experiments with performing in a trance state, not unlike the Pentecostal spirit states he attained in his childhood religious experiences. In the 1990s, Athey formed a company of performers and made Torture Trilogy, a series of works that addressed the AIDS pandemic directly through memorializing and philosophical reflection. This work is characterized by the physical intensity of 1970s body-art canon (e.g. COUM Transmission, Carolee Schneeman and the Viennese Actionists). These performances toured internationally. The trilogy’s final chapter, Deliverance, was an Arts Council England commission and premiered at the ICA London. In the 2000s, Athey developed genre-stretching theatrical works like Joyce and The Judas Cradle, and a series of major solo performances such as The Solar Anus (which draws its name and spirit from a Georges Bataille essay, and from the action photographs of Pierre Molinier), Sebastiane (which plays with martyrology), Self-Obliteration Solo and Incorruptible Flesh (a series of solo performance that reflect on Athey’s collaborations with the late Lawrence Steger). In his most recent work, Gifts of the Spirit, Athey returns to his Pentecostal roots and expands his practice into performance anchored not by the artist’s body, but in his spirit.

Arshia Fatima Haq works across various mediums including film, visual art, performance, and sound, and is currently exploring themes of embodiment and mysticism, particularly within the Islamic Sufi context. Her body of work stems from the complexities of inhabiting multiple personas: woman, Muslim, immigrant, citizen, insider, and outsider. She challenges and celebrates the socio-cultural and religious iconography she was raised with, and works with the kaleidoscopic varieties of aesthetic expression in the Muslim world that are marginalized both within conservative Islam and the Western imagination. Her work is conceptualized in feminist modes without reference to the Western feminist model. She is the founder of Discostan, a collaborative decolonial project working with cultural production from the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. Narrative threads include migration, celebration, warfare, nostalgia, homeland, and borders, often within realms of Islamic influence, through lenses of traditional forms and kaleidoscopic reinventions of pop culture. Haq’s work has been featured at the Broad Museum, Toronto International Film Festival, MOMA New York, Hammer Museum, LAX Art, UC Irvine’s Global Visions Program, Centre Georges Pompidou, and the Pacific Film Archive. Currently, she hosts and produces monthly radio shows on Dublab and NTS featuring contemporary, traditional, and nostalgic music from across the MENASA region, and she recently released an album of Sufi field recordings from Pakistan on the Sublime Frequencies label.


Biosphere 2 is one of the world’s most unique facilities dedicated to the research and understanding of global scientific issues. With its five biomes and Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO)—a large-scale controllable infrastructure consisting of three replicated artificial landscapes—Biosphere 2 is the
world’s largest earth science laboratory, providing the formerly missing link between Earth systems theory, experimentation and measurable outcomes. Biosphere 2 bridges traditional laboratory facilities and observational field research, providing opportunities for studies that can be done nowhere else on Earth.

The Biosphere 2 facility serves as a laboratory for controlled scientific studies, an arena for scientific discovery and discussion, and a far-reaching provider of public education. Its mission is to serve as a center for research, outreach, teaching and life-long learning about Earth, its living systems, and its place in the universe; to catalyze interdisciplinary thinking and understanding about Earth and its future; to be an adaptive tool for Earth education and outreach to industry, government, and the public; and to distill issues related to Earth systems planning and management for use by policymakers, students and the public.