This article is a historical analysis of two nineteenth-century aerialists: Lulu, a cross-gender performer who went on to become a prolific photographer, and Zazel, who is said to be the first performer shot from a cannon. Working with image-based posters, audience accounts, and a document by E. K. Stimson (ca. 1885) narrativizing Lulu's life up until the age of thirty, this article employs film theory as well as queer and transgender historiography to develop two interconnecting arguments: first, the aerial apparatus during the late nineteenth century is a critical tool for teaching audiences how to perceive a body, thereby facilitating the movement of a body into the grammar of a sex/gender system. Second, with these aerial apparatuses testing the boundaries of gravity, space, and time, the aerialist Lulu specifically tested the boundaries of a sex/gender system to create a spectacle of gender multiplicity rather than merely an exploitation of femininity. This article offers the notion that aerial arts stage the art of the precipice—the art of not quite falling, yet not quite flying—and concludes by suggesting that looking toward other performances of the precipice is useful for further work in queer and transgender historiography.

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