January 20, 1974 |
|Occupation||performer, actress, sex-trade worker|
Nina Arsenault (born January 20, 1974) is a Canadian performance artist, freelance writer, and former sex trade worker who works in theatre, dance, video, photography and visual art. Her works have been called profoundly moving, absolutely unforgettable, brutally honest, a spiritual gift and as stunning as they are ruthless. The artworks, which are graphic as well as philosophical, illuminate uncomfortable truths about sex, gender, religion, and technology.
Arsenault grew up in a trailer park in Beamsville, Ontario. She has two master's degrees. At one point prior to her transition, Arsenault was an instructor at York University, where she taught acting.
She has said she realized that she was a trans woman in August 1996 and her transition was in full force around 1998. By 2007 she had undergone over $150,000 in surgery during her transition, financed through work in the sex trade.
Arsenault appeared in a one-act play written especially for her by Sky Gilbert in November 2007 entitled Ladylike. She also wrote her own one woman show called The Silicone Diaries, directed by Buddies in Bad Times Artistic Director Brendan Healy, which toured across Canada to sold out houses and critical praise.
She appeared also in The Jon Dore Television Show, appearing the episode "Manly Man". She stated the reason why she does not want to remove her current genitals:
I work as a dancer in a club that caters to men who like "transsexuals." They want us to have beautiful breasts, you know, to be sexy like females but they want that one thing to be different.
In 2010, she performed an autobiographical play entitled i was Barbie.
In 2012, she performed for 40 Days and 40 Nights as part of the inaugural SummerWorks Live Art series in Toronto. For this performance, she spent 40 days undergoing a spiritual experience and opened the last 11 days to the public. As part of this performance, she spent two hours a night whipping herself while riding an exercise bike. She has also performed For Every Time You Shattered Me I Made Myself Again, a six-hour performance in The Henry Moore Sculpture Room at The Art Gallery of Ontario where she appeared in a myriad of different personas live and onscreen, dressing, undressing and washing herself with a number of unspecified fluids in front of the audience.
In 2013, at London's performance space she lived inside an art gallery for six days for a work called Lillex. Here, with UK artist Poppy Jackson, Arsenault performed rituals which explored feminine mythology as well as virtuality, including a trance-like dance which would often continue for six hours at a time. During these dances she was repeatedly burned with cigarettes on her chest, neck, breasts and occasionally above the genitals, and appeared unaffected by pain.
Her photographic and video collaborations with artists like Bruce LaBruce, John Greyson, Jordan Tannahill, and Istvan Kantor have been shown across Canada and around the world via film and video festivals, academic and art journals and galleries including the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Pleasuredome, FADO and New York University.
Arsenault has been a frequent guest speaker at universities in Canada and The United States as well as intellectual conferences like Moses Znaimer's Ideacity. She has also worked as a social activist promoting the rights and dignity of transpeople with The Toronto Police Service, Mount Sinai Hospital, Women's College Hospital, The Sherbourne Health Centre, Supporting Our Youth, and The 519 Church Street Community Centre.
In 2013, Arsenault joined MAU, a New Zealand company of contemporary performance led by Lemi Ponifasio. Her first work with MAU is called The Crimson House and is scheduled for a world tour in 2014 and beyond. In the same year, she had a supporting role in Greyson's web series Murder in Passing.
Arsenault's life and work are the subject of the book Trans(per)forming Nina Arsenault - An Unreasonable Body of Work, edited by Judith Rudakoff, published in April 2012.
Arsenault says she dated alleged Canadian serial killer and cannibal Luka Magnotta around 2002. She says that Luka was obsessed with wanting to be famous, and that he made disturbing comments about injuring kittens when they dated. She has said that she believes that the murders Luka is alleged to have committed were done as a result of, and under the influence of, drugs.
- Nina Arsenault. "Tranny porn saved my life". Fab. Archived from the original on 2007-01-26. Retrieved 2007-06-17.
- Nina Arsenault. "I thank God & Hugh Hefner". Fab. Archived from the original on 2009-04-24. Retrieved 2007-06-17.
- "Nina's Unstoppable! desire to be herself". Toronto Star. 2007-06-14. Retrieved 2007-06-17.
- Chris Dupuis (2009-11-06). "Nina Arsenault: Like you've never seen her before". Xtra. Retrieved 2009-11-14.
- Column in fab magazine entitled: "A very shemale Xmas", stating her first tranny Christmas was in 1998
- Shinan Govani (2006-04-22). "My $150,000 body". National Post. Retrieved 2007-06-17.
- Shinan Govani (2006-01-31). "If she talks like a woman, but walks like a man...". National Post. Retrieved 2007-06-17.
- Gary Smith (2007-11-13). "Ladylike". Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved 2009-11-14.[dead link][dead link]
- Paul Gallant (2009-11-11). "Life in plastic". Eye Weekly. Retrieved 2009-11-14.
- The Jon Dore Television Show - INTV w/ Nina the Transsexual
- Jim Rankin (2010-06-11). "Sexy transsexual Nina Arsenault on life, art and her penis". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2010-06-12.
- Ouzounian, Richard (15 August 2012). "Nina Arsenault presents 40 Days and 40 Nights: Working Towards a Spiritual Experience". Toronto Star.
- "Film prof's 'whodunit' Murder in Passing captivates Toronto commuters". yFile, February 6, 2013.
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