Drag Yourself Here
25.8.2023 — 21.10.2023
Curated by Mētra Saberova
25 August 18.00–23.00
16 September – coronation of the Baltic Drag King 2023
The event takes place at Genklubi in cooperation with the club’s Vikerruum queer nightlife series
As participants in the Kogo Gallery programme Queer It Up, the Baltic Drag King Collective invites you to drag yourself and your friends and neighbours to the gallery space to experience, via drag, a glimpse into queer nightlife, gender empowerment and politics. The Baltic Drag King Collective will proudly take up space in order to celebrate the extended queer community, who have made the collective decision to work together for a more joyous and inclusive society, both on and off the stage.
The exhibition, curated by Latvian artist Mētra Saberova, who is also the Collective’s co-founder and manager, consists of photographic material from the ongoing activities of the Baltic Drag King Collective, with individual contributions from its members. The display showcases the scope of their performances and their varied and distinct approaches to, and motivations for, dwelling in the world of drag, and examines the contested world of gender roles and their disruption.
Thanks to the sustained support of the Latvian photographers Krista Saberova and Edgars Tabaks, the gallery space will be displaying, in a viscerally transformed state, photographic documentation from the ongoing activities of the Baltic Drag King Collective. A super-sized coat, hovering in the gallery space and created in the true spirit of drag’s DIY aesthetic, invites onlookers to peer into distilled moments of action. The drag artists and their extended community – those involved in the drag world – contribute to the layers of fabric, and meanings, with their own individual messages, which are exhibited alongside the selection of photographs.
The Baltic Drag King Collective is a fluid community of drag performance artists from Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania that uses drag as a platform for deconstructing and reinventing gender, educating society, and bringing visibility to the LGBTQ+ community. They focus on the performance of masculinity and the representation of female, trans and non-binary identities. The Collective’s activities include producing drag shows, running workshops, and arranging lectures and discussions. They have networked and cooperated with other queer activists, artists, researchers and organisations from the Baltics, the UK, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Finland, Moldova and Ukraine. The Collective has produced drag shows at Riga Pride, Kaunas Pride and Vilnius Pride and has been holding an annual coronation of the Baltic Drag King since 2019.
Drag kings are not an uncommon sight at the local Vikerruum nights in Tartu or in Tallinn’s scene, and the Drag King Festivals and yearly crowning competitions have been significant contributors to the development of drag in Riga in Latvia. Baltic queer artivists have all benefited from collaboration with their peers in Kaunas and Vilnius in Lithuania too. All the same, you might not have heard of drag kings before, not being as famous as their drag queen counterparts.
The history of drag kings can be traced back to early vaudeville and the male impersonators of the 18th and 19th centuries, when women performed in ‘breeches roles’. Contemporary drag kings expand and build on the significance of having afab (assigned female at birth) performers in the spotlight, creating relatable and bizarre characters who can turn anything into drag – from the classic lip-sync to running for city mayor.
FUNDERS AND SUPPORTERS
The exhibition is supported by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia, the City of Tartu, the State Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia, Nordic Culture Point Mobility Funding Program and VV Foundation.
Special thanks to Lisett Kruusimäe and Laura Barbo!
Curator: Mētra Saberova
Artists and contributors: Mētra Saberova (Timmy), Krista Saberova, Edgars Tabaks, Ilze Vēze-Balode (Henry Oak), Mailo Štern, DJ Lévi, Marss The Person, Vincent Hemingay, Dawn (K!NK), Niko Rain (Bazilix), Vencheska Baltique and Vivianna Maria Stanislavska from Latvia; Hanna Kannelmäe (Eeben Früülep), Maxx Toxic, MajorDanger, Ms Elsa, Helgi Saldo and Wickler Wilde from Estonia; King A and Querelle from Lithuania
Exhibition programme curator: Šelda Puķīte
Production and public programme: Stella Mõttus
Administration: Liina Raus
Communication: Karin Kahre, Kristlyn Liier
Graphic design: Aleksandra Samulenkova
Documentation: Roman-Sten Tõnissoo (exhibition views), Luisa Greta Vilo (opening)
Translation and language editing: Refiner Translations
Mētra Saberova (b. 1991) is a Latvian queer feminist performance and moving-image artist. Mētra has used her own orchestrated experiences of medical tourism and bodily interventions to encourage discussions about the female body and its capabilities. Mētra gained her BA at the Art Academy of Latvia and completed her postgraduate studies at Central Saint Martins in London. Her focus is the scene in Riga, a natural rallying point for the young Latvian feminist artist and activist generation. As the co-founder and manager of the Baltic Drag King Collective (est. 2019) Mētra has succeeded in introducing, maintaining and expanding a whole artistic and nightlife industry in the Latvian and Baltic region with the help of drag performers who embrace and push forward gender expression through the performance of masculinity. The establishment of this expanded drag network has been an important milestone for both the queer community and mainstream society in their efforts to widen the reach of queer art and queer messaging, and to provide new and sustainable opportunities in the cultural sector for marginalised performers.