This article was originally featured in ASBO MAGAZINE; Issue 11
Mild climate today. Watched a young man climb into a skip, build a woman, re-emerge as Lady of the House.
Shane is seventeen years old from way-out East London, some sort of drag artist. I caught him in the flesh outside Camberwell’s art uni. Check the entourage! These kids are quite the mishmash, straddling a creative lifestyle between school and the rave temptation. Draped in looks from the culture blender, gendered benderly but functional. Everyone is here to take a dive through the construction trash, treading carefully around the nailed wood underfoot.
Shards, planks and satisfaction; a raggedy flannel shirt, six compressed cans of self-hardening foam, several pieces of painted canvas and an appealing chunk of reinforced concrete. The yield is unsightly, but the bin bunnies assure me they’ll make good use of it. On better days (fashion student throw-out), this lot have found everything from textiles to power tools in skips such as these. We take our leave for smokes on the allotment, stories of the fabled ‘roach spliff’ are exchanged. Everyone heads home.
Princess Pathojen, @cultofshane. This Instagram is a wild place to spend your morning scroll. Shane serves creature on a bi-weekly basis, covered in waste and second-hand upholstery. Nuts and bolts and attitude, these momentary characters are garish but glamorous. This is totally drag, but Shane frequently escapes the femme-ish conventions of the craft. Dude dresses like a lady, dude adds elf ears, dude adds bicycle parts, rusty nails, butterfly wings AND BIG NOSES. We still ladylike?
“I feel like femininity is in quite a bit of my drag but it’s just out of habit more than anything else. If I’m out of drag, I don’t really feel that feminine. So when I am doing something like this, I like to really amp that up sometimes. The point of my looks is about where I find my things, which is exactly the same as when I’m not in drag. I think this is just a more feminine version of how I look when I’m not wearing like makeup and wigs and stuff.”
We stand in the homestead. Before me is a fresh presentation of the Trash Princess. Second-hand wig moulded around a Tesco bag, feather from the old woman next door. Roadside rosery. Homemade corset of salvaged hessian strips, structured with hot glue. Additional trimming from the Mother. Green scarf on one arm, one pound. Fake weasel tail from the bin. Skirt is a curtain, one pound. Baggy trousers also a quid. Shoes are regular Demonias fitted with stapled street carpet, but why?
“There’s a lot of reasons why I refuse to spend. I want to prove that it doesn’t cost a thing to make something incredible. It’s so much more environmentally friendly. Some well-known drag artists will buy brand new wigs, they’ll cost hundreds. And if they’re synthetic, then that’s plastic. If they’re buying new clothes, then that’s slave labour in different countries. I don’t want to buy into any of that. … I think it’s so boring when things are polished and don’t have little pieces of imperfection within them. When drag artists get really successful, they have someone doing their hair, they have someone doing their makeup, they have someone making their clothes, they have people driving them places, there’s nothing subversive about that.”
Chit-chat walkie talkie round the house. Shane lives with his grandparents, sweet as hell, love their trinkets. Each and every surface is coated top to bottom with immaculate, layered decoration. Everything is a collection. One wall has plates, one cabinet has five rows of fairies. Mugs, coasters and cups. Antiques, old school muted colours and a small Victorian horse. Princess Pathojen feels like the human manifestation of this place; a wig-wearing transmission dispatched to reclaim and repurpose all that was ever wasted, with a drive to share her cause for the wider world to see.
“When I don’t create drag for a while I get really quite depressed. So for instance, like right now, I was doing a shoot today and then on Friday, I have a performance. If I’m doing things I feel productive. It feels like my art is going to get me somewhere. But when I’m not doing something for a while, it just fills me with an existential dread. ‘Fuck, I’m never going to be anything.’ And if I don’t do something now then I’m never going to do it. So yeah, then I just need to work.”
It’s incredible to witness what Shane is becoming. This teenager, so persistent with his craft, has already been cemented in the memory of underground performance culture. Getting dragged up every week, simply because he must. All the while attending full time education, watch this space. If anyone’s gonna tear a hole through convention, it’s Princess Pathojen and her cohorts.
Words and images by Max Auberon
Thanks to Shane @cultofshane