Sofia Queer Forum 2020: Bulgarian Drag History

05.01.2021 - 02.02.2021


curated by Yasen Zgurovski and Boryana Rossa

With the participation of: Elsa Parini, Miss Boni, Julieta Intergalactica, Ursula, Jennifer Benediction, Enigma Chadel, Keshisheva,Voin de Voin, Ivo Dimchev, Yasen Zgurovski, Daniela Kostova, Lubri, Boryana Rossa, Kalin Serapionov, Christian Chalukov, Mihail Vuchkov, Mariela Gemisheva, Vaskressia Viharova, Ani Vaseva, Leonid Yovchev, Boris Kostadinov, Gloria Filipova, Galina Bezlova, Lea Mancheva

 

This year the forum will be dedicated to the history of the drag performance in Bulgaria with a focus on the 1990s and aims to create a widely accessible information database that will provoke a conversation between generations of drag performers and those who are inspired by them, by including the centres of drag performance across the country. The project is simultaneous at Structura Gallery and online at http://dragbg.sofiaqueerforum.org.

Typical of the unisex and techno aesthetics of the 1990s, this drag cultural scene is widespread as a commercial trend in fashion and music and defines the profile of the new and youthful of those years worldwide. What is specific for the Bulgarian scene is that despite the subcultural nature of the drag scene, it is widely accepted and, unlike elsewhere, is not typical only for queer circles. “Spartacus” in Sofia and Varna, “Caligula” in Plovdiv, “Oscar Wilde” and “Alexander” in Varna are not just “gay bars”: they are frequented by heterosexual people, and the community of club goers is further created by the choice of the face control at the entrance, who assesses whether one’s appearance suits the queer and drag atmosphere inside, without necessarily referring to the sexuality of each of the visitors. The extravagant and often exaggerated incarnations of the opposite sex are highly valued and included. Due to this inclusion, the scene is highly inspiring for generations of artists and cultural figures who began their careers in the 1990s, and marks the beginning of artistic expression and a way of life bearing its influence to this very day.

The online archive and the exhibition will feature documentary photos and videos of drag queens who participated in the program of legendary club scenes such as Spartacus (Sofia), Oscar Wilde and Alexander (Varna) and Caligula (Plovdiv). The materials will be accompanied by a series of interviews with the queens, as well as with theatre directors and artists, who show the extremely strong influence of this club environment on theatre, music, television, fashion and lifestyle publishing from the 90s. The forum will also trace the connection of this phenomenon with its newer manifestations in this scene such as “Queer Carousel”, “House of Diva Station” and “House of Benediction”.

During the Sofia Queer Forum, the drag performance will be situated in a historical context. The topic of cross-dressing has always been relevant and is present in many different layers of Bulgarian culture for centuries. Examples are the folk traditions of men crossdressing as women and women as men from the time of the Thracians, unique to our country and almost unrepresented in our neighbouring cultures. These traditions continue to be widely represented in Bulgarian folklore and religious rites during Babinden (Grandma’s Day), the “sovoynitsa” ritual and the Kukers’ festivities. Such rituals and their comparative consideration of today reflect not only the plasticity of human sexuality, but also the polyvalence of gender roles in society.

 

This edition of SQF is supported by the Publics Program of the National Culture Fund.