On August 25, The Baltic Drag King Collective will take up Kogo Gallery in Tartu 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.

We are happy to support the exhibition.

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