Kama La Mackerel’s ‘RACE’ IS A DRAG! was an ongoing series of performance- and art installation-projects running from July to September 2012 in Montréal, Québec.
Drawing on the embodied, emotional and communal experience of (queer) persons of color living in Montréal, Kama La Mackerel’s performance series sought to disrupt the predominantly white and heterosexist gaze that permeates and surveils Montréal’s public spaces. Drawing on four months of research where La Mackerel recorded the actions and reactions of commuters in Montréal’s public transportation with regards to queer and racialized bodies, La Mackerel lashes out a fierce tongue: “WHAT YOU LOOKING AT?!”
“In Montréal,” they say, “race does not exist: only language exists… And then, we’re colorblind.” ‘RACE’ IS A DRAG! delineated the limits of Québec nationalism in showing that language is only very literally skin-deep.
Faced with daily micro-aggressions, coming to terms with furtive gazes and curious looks that spit foreignness onto the non-white body, La Mackerel explored the thin line between fascination and disgust with regards to an, albeit francophone, darker shade of skin. ‘RACE’ IS A DRAG! thus threw a hint of darkness onto the contradicting tension that characterizes race dynamics in Montréal, i.e. race as invisible (we’re colorblind) and race as too-visible (yet we stare).
Combining conventional drag performances (complete with lip sync, dance, song, vogue etc.) with a grotesque androgynous aesthetics, La Mackerel performed the colored body in the ways that it is seen, treated, masqueraded, hidden, covered, uncovered, twisted, in order to engage with the dominating organization of public spaces. This queer and anti-racist reclamation of the cityscapes aimed to decolonize the racist and sexist gaze, to get the eye to look differently, to open the retina behind which hide visible and invisible prejudices.
By asking, “WHAT YOU LOOKING AT?!” Kama La Mackerel aimed at gender-bending and at gender-fucking, but also at race-bending and race-fucking, for in a city like Montréal, isn’t race just a drag?!