VIDEO: Local Artist Bleeds To Illustrate Exploitation of Trans Community
The video featured in this article contains depictions of self harm/self mutilation. Though the piece was performed in a sterile, safe environment, it's possible the acts displayed in this video could trigger some viewers. The video is not intended for a younger audience, and viewer discretion is advised.
Casper Artist Gwyn Uttmark has given K2 Radio News permission to release the video of their ART 321 performance that illustrated the exploitation of trans people in the media. The 13-minute long performance started out as something that seemed much more innocuous. Tyler Cessor, the Executive Director of ART 321 began speaking to the audience, giving them a brief history of the way trans people have been treated in various forms of media.
He spoke about Forest Bess, an abstract artist who was also in the U.S. military. Cessor referenced Christine Jorgensen, the first person to be widely known for having sex reassignment surgery. He also spoke about Candy Darling, one of Andy Warhol's muses. Finally, he spoke about Laverne Cox, the trans woman who had a featured role in Orange Is The New Black.
While speaking about all of these people and the trials and tribulations that each of them went through, he would ask Uttmark, who was sprawled out on a table next to him, to cut their face with a scalpel. When they did, Cessor would take a paint brush and dip it in the blood that was trickling down Uttmark's cheek. Then, he would use the paintbrush to write down specific dates associated with the points he was discussing.
In essence, he used their blood to paint.
"I've been doing performance art for a number of years now," Uttmark said. "And it sounds really 'edgy,' but pain is the universal way to talk about experiences. In art that features more than one person, there's definitely an element of collaboration, but I do want to make clear that the script Tyler read was written by me, and all of that content originated with me."
In essence, the cis man was the bit player. His role didn't matter, because it's one we've seen a thousand times; the straight, white male lecturing the adoring crowd who nodded along with every word. Meanwhile, in the background was the trans person, silently cutting themselves to provide the ink for the story.
Uttmark wrote and performed this piece to demonstrate how trans people are victims not only of physical and emotional abuse, but also of commodification, objectification, and exploitation. Especially in the media. They wrote it so that people could understand that trans people aren't objects; they're not acts, they're not fodder, they're not stories (the irony of writing a story about this issue is not lost). They're just...people. They're not a 'They;' they are 'us.' And this performance sought to represent that.
Video of the performance in its entirety can be seen below.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please contact the National Suicide Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK
If you or someone you know is a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, visit the Trevor Project website or call the hotline at 1-866-488-7386.