How Drag Helped Me Get In Touch With My Inner Self And Heal

An artist shares his journey of how he turned the challenge of pandemic restrictions into an opportunity to explore his creativity.

An artist shares his journey of how he turned the challenge of pandemic into an opportunity to explore his creativity.

The idea of art was something that I developed as I started learning about practices around me. I always used to be amused with the oddity of things in life. With my training in Indian classical dance early on, I was taught to see the world through the lens of how it needs to be seen. The idea of what is beauty vs what is reality helped me question things time and again.

In my approach to drag, I come up as a suffocated art specimen trying to rip the beauty apart from what the world liked to see. I was always seen as an unpredictable drag performer. Initially, I was questioned about my aesthetics. But it took time to educate people on the idea of Tranimal. However, the idea of creating art by myself was something that helped me thrive and to keep the ball rolling.

Challenge of pandemic on art forms

The pandemic had pushed all of us into the hardest of times. Especially with restrictions from human connections and being locked in the house all alone. It was mentally challenging for me to dissociate from my feelings. The idea of the human touch we couldn’t have had showed a great lack in making my art more and more squeezed. The human touch was indeed a hope for any artist. This pandemic made it impossible to constantly create art without any physical interaction with others.

As the pandemic was back rolling, I saw places things and spaces opening up and I could meet people again. The idea opened up to make my art more accessible. But, I was always possessive of my art, my interpretations, my looks, my creation and my mind in action to create drag for the whole year. This overt art obsession could soon be seen in my work. This was high time to take a breather and reciprocate the idea of collaborations.

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Exploring what makes Drag work

Drag is a collaborative art form. At first glance, we see that drag is created by oneself. On the other hand, we see that drag involves more than one person to make a mark. It may the be a fashion designer who makes your dresses or wigs and the photos you get clicked by. The collaboration is what makes drag work. But, you could hardly see drag queens collaborate. Drag artists are so particular with their mug that they never want to be touched by someone’s else creativity on their body.

In India, however, this idea of obsession is predominantly less. That is because of its healthy and creative Drag community which opens up a plethora of avenues to collaborate. This was the tuck, which made me realise it’s high time to exchange this creativity with some who could bring more synergy.

It was this time that I had a chance to bump into a colleague and friend Xen. Xen is a creative being who has been following my trajectory of drag. She could time and again share energy to co-create an exchange of art. Being an AFAB person, I thought it would make a great difference in bringing two different gender bodies and create something for a collaboration. The idea of collaboration was to exchange energy of drag which is therapeutic with the flow to each other. Xen comes with the idea of structure, driven and mapped. Whereas, I come with a vision of dis-formed, unstructured and randomness of art. It was indeed this paradigm shift envision of art that helped us create this piece.

Collaborating to present the human touch

We both came up with an open-air performance piece at a walk-in café in Hyderabad, Café Paaka. With an open performance for a few walk-ins, we called the performance ‘Drag Affair”. It meant a drag re-union which would bring the aesthetics of the human touch to the art. With social distancing being the norm, this performance kicked off the idea of co-creating Drag on each other by the viscosity of Human touch.

We had a pile of trash, clothes, broken jewellery, dresses, decoration items, and, makeup materials in front of us. The idea was to become the muse for each other. We become the canvas for each other to create our replica of our alter egos. The art was here to exchange and a touch of the exchange was showcased with what I paint the canvas as.

I picked up the basic stockings and covered her face and she used golden paint to paint mine. I decked her up with some trashy wires and bulbs while she added more glitter and gold to the attire. As we went on with the performance, I deliberated to share the idea of dis-formed art with her look as she created a more beautified and dwelleth version of drag. The pile of trash we put on each other was to create more of dis-formed, ultra-fashion,  post modern drag looks for both of us.

Creating a surreal experience

This entire process was captured by Akhil  Komaravelli with pictures and stills to see how we shred the idea of social distancing and created cohesive art. In the entire process, we followed the covid norms by getting tested before and after the performance to ensure the co-art creation is not leading to any covid transmission.   The idea was to allow each other to open up our bodies which were locked for more than a year to experience the another’s art. The idea was to dive in and get an out of body experience of art when you make your art on someone else and be a muse for their interpretation of art.

The performance was therapeutic to watch and experience. The process of self surrendering to each other and creating trust to make art more dynamically.

When we finished the process of dressing up each other, we could see our art on each other’s bodies, creating more dynamic images of gender-less, gender-bend drag. This creation blurred the biological gender skin we were in and created a true neutral experience. This is what the real power of drag is! Drag can be an art form to teach empathy, sisterhood and also be therapeutic to address mental health and co-body existence.

The drag has opened new doors for me to see a way to reconnect people with each other , share energies, and build trust. This activity is a way where we can teach the world the idea of empathy and blur more boundaries that keep away all of us from one another.

Pictures by Akhil  Komaravelli

First published here.

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