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Drag Affair: Co Boding Drag For Mental Healing, Collaboration And Empathy With A Touch

Patruni Sastry

Drag Affair: Co Boding Drag for Mental Healing, Collaboration and Empathy with a Touch

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The idea of art was something that I developed as I started learning about practices around me. I always use 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 needed to be seen. The idea of what is beauty vs what is reality helped me question time and again. With my approach to drag where 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 unpredicted drag performer. Initially, I was questioned about my aesthetics but it took some time to educate people on the idea of Tranimal. However, the idea of creating art by myself was something that thrived me to keep the ball rolling.

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This pandemic has pushed all of us into the hardest time. With restrictions from having any human connections to getting locked in a house all alone these times were hard mentally for me to dissociate with my feelings. The idea of Human touch we couldn’t have had shown a great lack in making my art more and more squeezed. The human touch was indeed a hope for any artist to make art and this pandemic made it impossible to constantly create art without any physical interaction with others.

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As the pandemic was backrolling and as I see places things and spaces opening up and me meeting 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.

Drag is a collaborative art form, at one glace we see that drag is created by oneself, on the other hand, we see that drag involves more than one people to make a mark, may that be a fashion designer who makes your dresses, the wigs you get from and the photos you are 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, 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.

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It was this time when 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 and 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 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 where 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.

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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”  which means drag re-union which would bring the aesthetics of the human touch to the art. With social distancing being the norm, this performance kicked 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, 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 alter egos. The art was here to exchange and a touch of exchange was showcased with what I paint the canvas as.

I picked up the basic stockings and covered her face where 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 and she created a more beautified and dwelleth version of drag. the pile of trash we put on each other was to create more of a dis-formed ultra-fashion postmodern drag looks for both of us.

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This entire process was captured by Akhil  Komaravelli with pictures and stills to see how we shred the idea of social distancing and create 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 art another. the idea was to dive in and get an of body experience for art when you make your art on someone else and be a muse for their interpretation of art. The performance was therapeutic to see and feel the process of self surrendering to each other and create 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. the creation blurred the biological gender skin we were in and created a true neutral experience. this is what the 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 make it see a way to reconnect people with each other and 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

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