Photography Exhibition Shows Off Drag Performers of South Korea
From left to right: Charli Nistella, Sura, and Azangman (Photographed by Moon Youngmin)
On one evening in April 2021, I was hosting an online drag show 💃💃💃 which was live streamed via Seoul Drag Parade's Instagram. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we didn't have an actual audience but our staff and close friends of performers were allowed in, following all the safety guidelines. And a friend of mine brought a photographer who was "interested in experiencing and photographing drag". As drag gets more and more attention in Korea, with the help of Netflix, RuPaul's Drag Race, Kim Chi, Soju, and the internet, I've seen a lot of these journalists and artists wanted to do something with drag, or even take advantage of drag, so my initial thought was "yeah whatever 🤷♂️". But he ended up taking drag quite seriously and passionately, becoming my friend, and having a solo exhibition just with the photos of drag performers in Korea that he took.
After the online show, he sent me a bunch of photos of me and my performers from the night, and I liked them. Especially the black and white ones. As much as all the colours that drag showcases are fun and eye-catching, it can be a cliché to highlight them in photos or other artworks that feature drag. And I think black and white photography sometimes can show the real emotions and stories that are often untold and hidden behind the colours. I told him I liked his black and white photos from the night, and we carried on a conversation, and we got to work together on a multiple projects.
Some behind-the-scenes photos. That's me posing in drag, and him photographing. His name is Moon Youngmin. He also goes by nickname 김무냥 (Kim Moonyang).
I asked him to do the photography for most of my single covers 💿 last year and this year, and he will be doing my next single cover 💿 as well. I introduced him to some of my friends who do drag, and he's done researched and reached out to almost all publicly-known drag artists who are based in Seoul, befriended and photographed them, and came up with solo exhibition 'Mainstream'. 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼
Posters above suggest that the exhibition ended, but it is on at a different venue at the moment and there will be an upgraded version of this exhibition very soon too, so keep reading, if you want to find out more about them! The first exhibition venue was Gallery AMiDi, located in Sinchon.
Here's (the translation) of what the exhibition pamphlet says:
What is drag?
Often people (in Korea) think of cross-dressing.
But does that interpretation do justice the art of drag?
Drag performers (I met) said drag is an art form which allows them to express their inner-self and all the other things inside themselves.
While the public (in Korea) look at them with prejudice and negativity, they are hoping for a bright future of drag and positive views on it.
Moon Youngmin photographed various drag artists who are active in the underground art/performance scene of Seoul. The exhibition is presented with interview videos which will help you understand what drag is.
I was invited as a guest to the opening reception of the exhibition, did a little bit of talking and performing. There's no subtitles or translation but you can see it in the videos below!
Selfies (Feat. The Photographer & Friends Who Are Also Artists That Came to the Opening Reception) 🤳🤳🤳
At the exhibition venue, you could purchase the book that had HD prints of all the exhibited work and some more, but (unfortunately and fortunately at the same time?) I was told it is now sold out.
The exhibition continues at a different venues in Seoul. Check the details for the current exhibition venue below.
Venue: The Closet (LGBTQ-friendly, Vegan-friendly, Pet-friendly)
Address: 25, Tojeong-ro 4-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Duration: August 2-August 30, 2021 (Mondays Off)
I visited The Closet to check out the exhibition once again on a Saturday (not in drag this time), and the venue was full of queer folks and pet owners enjoying the queer art exhibition and vegan food. 🌱🌿
At the end of August or September, the exhibition will move to a gallery and feature more drag-related art from other queer artists as well. I am excited for it and I will make a visit then too, for sure!
Below are some photos of the drag artists who modelled and participated in exhibition 'Mainstream' and their Social Media information. If you aren't able to go to these exhibitions physically, but would like to learn about Seoul's drag scene and its artists, you could check out their social media accounts and follow them. 💕💕
Saffron Reign: Instagram
Alison Martin: Instagram