Iceland’s drag artists are in the spotlight of a new magazine that aims to showcase the stories and souls of sidelined communities around the world.
The brainchild of photographer and journalist Kaspars Bekeris, and artist and activist Matthias Boyer, “estranged #1”: Photo Album on an Icelandic Drag Family is a bold project that aims to widen perspectives on more than just gender.
“This magazine is our attempt to create a media that offers a place for mindful conversations on art and politics. An attempt to inspire everyone to develop new ideas and take action,” says Kaspars, something Matthias agrees with.
“We are raising awareness on class struggle, ableism, body shaming, ageism, and racism. Those are the discriminations that force us to have new perspectives of how we make society together.”
Iceland’s diverse drag community, with artists across all of these spectrums, is an example of a culture that faces these struggles. The contrast between an ‘estranged’ lifestyle and extravagant on stage persona, however, spoke to Kaspars.
“The last year and a half I’ve been in Iceland, I have been making a documentary portrait photography project of drag artists. What emerged in front of the camera was the incredible diversity of life stories in this young yet talented local community. When I started the project I underestimated the political potential of drag. Almost for every member of the community that we interviewed it is a journey of self-acceptance and a form of resistance.”
“When I started … I underestimated the political potential of drag.”
To Matthias, who performs as Strell Ytzia, drag certainly is a form of resistance. He believes artists can bring divided communities together and be a force towards justice and he found Iceland’s drag scene had qualities that reflected this ideology, in the attitude of its culture.
“We see much more of an inclination towards cooperation than competition. At every level, from finding a song or a concept for a performance, to the organization of the show, there is no rivalry.
This is why “estranged #1’’ is intended to be our participation towards the historical movement of LGBTQIA+ liberation. Because even after deconstructing gender inequality and homophobic attitudes as well as Iceland has, we are making putting a spotlight on what there is to improve before being free from essentialist categorizations of individuals.”
In spite of being an intentionally challenging and political magazine in a media climate that Kaspars describes as “clickbait driven and sensationalist”, he is eager to assure that the zine is not, pardon the pun, a drag.
“The political aspect of “estranged” is essential to us, but at the same time we want to celebrate the artistic and aesthetic side of drag; this is the reason why such a big emphasis in the zine is on documentary photography and queer art. In a way, we hope that we will be able to maintain this timeless, fierce and empowering feeling you get when you attend a drag show.”
“estranged #1: Photo Album on a Drag Family”, however, cannot come to be without support. As Matthias says: “The art of drag, for some wrong reasons, is not the occupation which brings a fortune.”The pair, however, are using all they have to make it happen.“We have been working on this project for more than a year, and most of the interviews and photography artworks are ready. Now we face the final stage of the project – to design the magazine and print it,” says Kaspars and adds that currently their crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo is running. “Those who are interested in the project and our ideas can participate in our journey, and support “estranged’’ and the Icelandic drag community.”
To further help pull the project up on its feet, Matthias has roped together local talent for a drag show this week. “I am preparing with exciting new performers of both Drag-Súgur and House of Strike, Hans and Queen Jackie Moon, for the 7th of June at Gaukurinn! The Strell Ytzia Blossom: A Utopian Drag Show will be the culmination of the campaign.”
“I am preparing with exciting new performers … for the 7th of June at Gaukurinn! The Strell Ytzia Blossom: A Utopian Drag Show will be the culmination of the campaign.”
After “estranged #1”, Kaspars and Matthias are looking worldwide for future marginalised subcultures to explore.
“From this summer, we will live in Paris, so we are open to the opportunities that will be in our way,” says Matthias “Being an intersectional zine on counter culture, the vegan community may be a really inspiring and significant way to raise awareness, not only about a discrimination but the exploitation of sentient beings.
All we aim is to be a platform directly providing visibility to the “others’’ in society.”
Find more about the project here.