Estranged is a new, mobile magazine project by local photographer Kaspars Bekeris and Matthias Boyer. You might know the work of Kaspars from his exhibition during last summer’s Pride, titled F*CK GENDER. Its intimate portraits of Reykjavík’s drag royalty have remained since suspended from the ceiling of Gaukurinn ever since.
As for Matthias, you’d be more likely to recognize him by his drag persona, Strell Ytzia, who has blossomed this year into one of Reykjavík’s most exciting new performers at both Drag-Súgur and House of Strike. Now they’re teaming up to combine the two things they do best into one: a multimedia project, focussed on a print magazine, about queens, queers, and quelling prejudice. They let us in on what the project is and what they’d like it to become.
We are family
“Like every best thing in our lives, it happened kind of as an accident,” Kaspars begins, when asked how the project came about. He himself was a newcomer to drag before he arrived in Iceland in 2016, but was quickly inducted into the scene. “The first drag show I saw was here. I was fully blown away by this kind welcome from the drag scene. From the very beginning I felt so welcome and I’d seen the potential to be a part of this family.”
But it wasn’t just the community itself that caught his attention. “The thing I was expecting before I went to the show was all of these extravagant looks – all the glitter and glamour and of course there was lot of that,” he says. “But the more I got to know the people, the more I was struck by the political dimension of drag, which for me as a journalist and as a documentary photographer, is so, so important.”
Although he only arrived in 2017, Matthias also got his start in drag here in Reykjavík. “I’d already wanted to try drag but I wasn’t sure if it was for me,” he explains. “So my first step into the drag world was Kaspar’s exhibition. He already knew so many people in the drag community.” With Matthias performing and Kaspar’s documenting, they were experiencing the drag world from inside and out. “So when I met Matthias, we realised that there are so many life stories here. There are so many experiences which could be told and must be told, for so many reasons, that we decided to do just that,” Kaspars says.
Drag has exploded in Reykjavík in the last few years, going from one annual competition to a full-blown arts scene within just a few years, with drag-related events now happening around Reykjavík on a weekly basis.
“The idea of the magazine is that we want to really document this moment in Iceland, which is such a great moment for drag,” Kaspars says. In addition to its growth, Matthias notes the flavour of Reykjavík’s drag community. “There are a few things that are a bit unique here. Compared with how the drag scene is internationally and especially in the United States, a female drag queen or a straight guy with a child doing drag or trans person doing drag is not a problem. These are the kinds of profiles that lead to this diversity that is unique in the drag scene here in Iceland.”
It’s because of this diversity of experience and identity that, while they want to document this personal moment for Reykjavík’s community, they also want to go a little deeper.
Form of resistance
They want to take an intersectional approach to the project. “By intersectional, we mean that there are so many different profiles in which you can see so many different forms of discrimination,” Matthias says. “What is interesting with drag is that this is an artistic form of expression and entertainment which, for so many people, is a form of resistance and a way to escape from the kinds of discrimination that they can experience. So with our magazine, we’re trying to explore as much as we can to highlight which kinds of issues they face and how they respond to it.”
So while the first issue centres on the experiences of the queens, kings, and queers of Reykjavík, the second issue will be coming out of Paris. Each issue going forward will focus on a different countercultural communities, and their intersections. “Our ambition is to provide more perspectives on how we can make society all together,” Matthias elaborates, “so talking about humans but also their environment and therefore animals as well. I think it would provide a new dynamic if we can include the vegan community.”
It’s this emphasis on countercultures and their connections that gives the magazine its named, Estranged. “It is my personal opinion,” Kaspars confides, “that everyone can meet some form of discrimination in their lives, and unfortunately some people stand in the intersection of discrimination and oppression. Although some are more fortunate than others, I think everyone can relate to this idea that we should know more about which things in society are not working and how we can change those.”
This theme has tinged the documentary work already done with the community. “What we see precisely in the interviews,” Matthias says, “is that this is from the experience of people who are estranged from this society. It can be in everyday social practices or it can even be in our imagination because there are so many biases that are in films and books and everything is participating in our imagination.”
By publishing the photos, interviews, drawings, and writing of the queer community, it’s meant to be a look inside as well as outside. “It’s meant to be personal for those who would read it as well,” Kaspars continues. “We don’t want to be sensational, reach the widest audience possible, or any of these other diseases of modern media. We just want this media which is thought provoking and creates some kind of involvement or result.”
They have a crowdfunding campaign running now to finance the publishing of the first issue and an upcoming drag show in support, starring Stell Ytzia, on June 7th. It’ll be their final performance here in Reykjavík. “Because this is a kind of immersion in the drag community for this issue, of course the format of what we’re doing will evolve according to which community we are in for each issue,” Matthias explains about the show.
And for the second, vegan-focused issue of Estranged? “It’ll be a cooking show!” Kaspars jokes. “These are the kinds of surprises that we are totally open to,” Matthias agrees.
Although they have high hopes, the project keeps close to its origins. “Our aim is to try to grasp as wide a spectrum of drag artists as possible,” Kaspars concludes. “We’ve tried to reach out to everyone and include them to create this feeling that we are all doing this together. For our community and for everyone.”
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