The Transcendence book is now available for preorder on Kickstarter!

See page spreads and the project video on Kickstarter

“We are living in a moment with increased representation of transgender and gender-expansive people, but many of these representations focus solely on proof of existence or center around a narrative of transition. In Transcendence, Quirk takes us to another level, inviting us into a deeper experience filled with spirituality, history, and mythology.”  —  Jess T. Dugan (photographer of Look at me like you love me, To Survive on This Shore, and Every Breath We Drew)

with fire

Since the beginning of time, people of all genders have walked the earth, greeting beings and spirits alike. Born between worlds — male and female — gender-diverse people form identities settled in mystery and power. Some communities not only accept, but honor such people as sacred, granting roles such as healers, seers, oracles, and shamans. Other communities try to erase gender diversity and the associated presences, myths, and stories alike. 

Many of these traditions, legends, and identities are irretrievably lost, ravaged by oppression. The natural gender diversity prevalent through most of human history has been forcibly reduced to a perceived binary, reinforced by everyday language and customs. Gender-diverse people continue to resist, reclaim, revive, and restore remaining pieces of these stolen stories and identities. 

Given the once prevalent histories and myths in thousands of cultures around the world, I can only imagine that my ancestors too had stories connecting me and my people to the spirit world and our fellow in-between kin. Transcendence is an act of restoryation, telling new stories, myths, and legends, ones that walk the many paths beyond binaries: male and female, night and day, land and sea, earth and sky, life and death, self and other, self and earth. 

Written myths accompany some images: stories of creation, of rebirth, of journey. Images and stories alike create worlds with ambiguous or no gender amidst connections to earth, ancestors, and spirits. In the spirit of myths — not false stories, but ever-relevant ones — this series creates not just a body, but a figure of transcendence.

sacral spring

Cai Quirk’s brilliant vision of the future, Transcendence, is an instant classic. While absorbing their words and witnessing their alchemy, I had an overwhelming sense that generations of upcoming legends decades into the future would be holding this book in their hands. This first edition copy will prove a valuable investment; one day it will be a family heirloom.”  —  Zackary Drucker (producer of TV series ‘Transparent’)

hollow core

of water
through veins deep inside

Myth: Twilight

Before the sun was born, the world remained in twilight. Nothing separated day from night nor split the peoples of the earth as male and female. Each was free to be as they chose and love as their hearts desired. But this was not to continue forever.

Comets passed the earth now and again, but eventually one struck, diving deep into the earth. Together they created a star child. The day came when the star child emerged, blinding all in sight. Waves of fear, terror, and pain rippled through the nearby villages and the child was greatly saddened.

A nearby healer heard of this new being and journeyed to meet the star child. Unable to fly to meet the other star people, the child knew not even how to learn. The healer, with eyes shut tight, greeted the child and offered to help. Ancient stories spoke of star children learning to fly in far off lands. The healer began to teach this child in the deep woods to save the sight of the people from further harm. 

Weeks passed, and by what became day, the star child leapt from the tallest tree in the forest, flying for as long as possible before falling back to earth. Each evening the healer waited, eyes closed, arms open to catch the star child. Together they returned to the hollow of an old tree for restorative slumber. In time, the people’s vision returned but at a terrible price. The day brought harsh light and the twilight of the past now seemed like the deepest of darks; their eyes could not adjust. Fleeting twilight came only when the healer carried the child to the tree, wrapped in a blanket. Just as time was split into night and day, so too were the people divided by outward appearances.

Only the healer still lived in the twilight and saw each being as it chose but had to live each day with eyes shut tight. In time, the healer taught some people, those with open hearts, a semblance of their once true sight. Others will never know the changes until the star child learns to fly and joins the star kin far up in the sky; the time when all will be equal again, and humans will see each other for who they truly are.

each twilight

with every breath
sight unveiled
from ashes we rise
seeds sown
roots entwined
as one
through dawn

Exhibition images