With the change of new alternative, Spaces of performance has been just stuck with the idea on screens and artist across the globe are trying to put in new ways to create and share art. With unlocking happening in phases, the idea of art has also developed from time to time. Being a drag artist, this pandemic was a revelation for me to showcase my art of drag and explore possibilities and a constant effort of creating art so much that it made me collaborated on a photo series called “VisssKanya ” and yes, it’s a mockery of the witch-hunting statements over women for ages now.
Manad Das an ace photographer and my dear friend reached out to me to do something like a photo performance with my art of drag. It was a similar time I started exploring the concept of Goth and gothic subculture. Yes “Goth” has been hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons in connection with SSR’s passing away and him staying in a gothic hotel in “Palazzo Magnani Feroni” Italy and Goth culture is always been tabooed and misplaced in India context and this wave of theories made it worse. Adding to that the witch shaming and usage of context for calling women who are processive and self-centred as witches is something more terrible, and references used in Movies like “BUBBUL”,” Pari” and “Ek the Dayan” made the idea of goth more like a magical culture than being just a lifestyle in India. As these were my thoughts, I thought to do some work in this section.
I with a friend of mine Sajiv Palasa came up with a concept of photo performance to represent Indian Goth and in that we wanted to see how drag fits in.in the west, drag Queens in the Goth style aren't to difficult to imagine. It's mainly a man doing goth, but with more femininity and exaggeration. Goth Queens mainly use the very old or new style of goth looks to use. The colours are mostly neutrals, consisting of blacks and whites, maybe even grey. Most Goth Queens usually do a white face with black eyeliner, eyeshadow, black everything. Their clothes are obviously in the blacks to, but it may vary depending on the look the choose. However, for me, I wanted to define the Indian approach of the Goth Drag.
Manab, Sajiv and I agreed to do a project and with safety and abiding by the new normality came together in my house to capture the photo performance. My references were the folk tales of Dayan, Witches and Chudails, cause its so easily used characterizations to label and then I choose the colours of Red and Black as the theme and moving the White out of the pallet. Sajiv was the other performer who chimed into being the masculine figure of goth and I being in drag was the feminine one. Manab’s vision was to make the photographs talk for themselves showing both the sense on interdependencies of the illusioned gender and the spooky esthetics of goth. The format was simple, we both will be posing nonstop interacting with our bodies while Manab clicks us, we used the available objects and the entire series needs to be shot in one go. As in a photoshoot there usually would be breaks and discussions, here we ensure to get all the story without a break to keep the essence of Photo Performance.
The performance was of a storyline of a feminine goth “Vissskanya” with revealing moustache and body hair seducing and embracing the lover and as they go through the idea how they abide the love when she choked the masculinity to death (showing win of feminist over patriarchy). It was an experience to see two bodies coming together and performing while exploring the male masculinity and transgressive of being transvestite simultaneously. The aesthetics and jeweller were picked up to bring silver to highlight. The shoot took around 2 hours.
This was a project which made me realize that the medium of drag art is not only restricted to the stage but can transcend beyond multiple avenues and how drag is interdisciplinary art of different forms. This series was a slapback of the idea of witch shaming women, and making the statement “Even Men are Witches, I am just one”. It also brings the idea of Indian Goth and helps us embrace the tiny little community of Goth culture with PRIDE.
Pictures by Manab Das