When Your Art Is Obsolete: Iceland's Reigning Drag King On Lockdown Art

Updated: Feb 26

by HANS

"MY ART IS DEAD AND IT’S NOT EVEN A COOL ART FORM"
Photos: Oddný Svava Steinarsdóttir & HANS (2020)

CN: Suicide mention


Today, I ripped off a wig that took me 40 hours to make and gracelessly ran screaming into the Atlantic ocean. As the waves knocked out my Hókus Pókus contacts, I crawled sensually through kelp and mess while washing blood and frosting from under my nails—all to the tune of “KILL4ME” by Marilyn Manson. How’s that for fucking drama.


Pray to attention

Pray to plastic whores

Pls God, validation

Life is so ~fUcKiNg BoRiNg~


On the beach, four people stood in attendance: A director, a director of photography, a PA, and some random old dude who came across our set and decided to stay for the free show. In the past, a performance with a four-person crowd would be a resounding and (extremely) awkward failure. Today, it was invigorating. Shivering, clutching my (extremely) expensive ruined wig, I consumed the apotheosis of being experienced as wholly and as deeply as I did Marilyn Manson’s divorce—look at that reference back to the first paragraph—as a bullied mall-goth pre-teen.


Lap it up Hans, a voice growled in my head. Savour the eye of the camera as if you’ve already been exposed to Miss ‘Rona and are about to choke to death. This might be all you get.


(Tbh, I assume no one reading this magazine is familiar with the story of Manson’s divorce, but Dita Von Teese served him divorce papers on Valentine’s Day. How’s that for fucking drama.)


Photos: Oddný Svava Steinarsdóttir & HANS (2020)

MY ART IS DEAD AND IT’S NOT EVEN A COOL ART FORM


IT’S ONE FOR PEOPLE THAT WANT TO BE SOMEONE ELSE

BUT STILL WANT A PAT ON THE BACK


“I LOVE YOUR CUT CREASE CAN I HAVE A PICTURE THAT I WILL NEVER LOOK AT AGAIN?”


We all pretend that there are no empirical requirements to identifying as an artist. That’s GAT3K33P1NG, we tell ourselves, and as woke 2020 libtards (can we reclaim that word?), we don’t subscribe to any such pretension.


But—quietly, secretly, and with extreme self-satisfaction, I promise—all of us do judge those dreamy hopeless talkers at afterparties who tell you enthusiastically that they are up-and-coming musicians despite having made no music. They’re not, we tell ourselves as we nod along and pretend to act impressed, “musicians.” We know (and they do too, probs) that they haven’t done the work and thus don’t deserve the title of “artist”—just “consumers-who-want-to-be-consumed.”


So if I accept said criterium as I always have, can I, HANS—the current reigning Drag King of Iceland—even call myself a “drag performer” anymore? Since March, I’ve gotten into full drag maybe three times. For reference, in 2019, I averaged two times a week—a whopping 104 instances of HANS. But here I am, in 2020, with but a collection of wigs that never get worn and eyebrows that are slowly regrowing. Without a medium, can I really say I’m an artist?


*insert really good and relatable poem*

Related: Art versus Artist in RuPaul's Drag Race


Drag, fundamentally, requires a consumer. At its basis, it demands an audience, and traditionally, an in-person one. You get it front of people, do some shit, serve the crowd a fantasy, and they hopefully react with applause and money. You feel good, because you, as a drag performer, want validation but you’re so insecure that you couldn’t possibly imagine getting such attention without the accoutrements.


Perhaps that’s not fair, but drag, as my dear friend Gógó Starr put it, is, “broken art for broken people.”


And trust me, no one has more drive that people who feel they constantly need to prove themselves. Drag performers are jack-of-all-trades. We need to learn make-up, wig-making, crafting, styling, sewing, dancing, choreographing, singing, hosting, comedy, music editing, art direction, and general spectacle-making, and we need to know all of this well. Most of us dedicate our lives to this. Now it means nothing.


(I probably don’t need to emphasis the status of in-person audiences in 2020 right now, dear art-journal reader. I assume you’ve caught up.)


We are the last of an obsolete art form.


the shooters from Columbine

have fangirls on Tumblr

x-rated fanfiction

and furry fanart

welcome to the world, my child


So my friend, we have arrived at the precipice: Can drag be done alone? Without documentation? With reciprocation?


And if so—what would that even look like? Sitting alone in your room with glued-down eyebrows and white pomade, lip syncing along to a party banger interspersed with New York thinking David died on Celebrity Brother UK while trying to find enough room to do a split? That’s so fucking weird. Imagine if you had an aneurysm and that’s how the ambulance found you. Eeck.


So no, I don’t think it can.


As our money dries up along with the clown white, a worldwide community of big-hearted freaks now must re-form their art in a way that the majority really have no interest in. Drag, as we know it, is gone, but our desire to inhabit our characters has not. HANS cannot die. I need them.

Photos: Oddný Svava Steinarsdóttir & HANS (2020)

Willa Ford’s “I Wanna Be Bad” deserves more stage attention

dress in horrible polyester

no padding

orange eyeshadow

too much smiling



What are the practical solutions? Online shows are an idea, although making a good drag video is almost prohibitively time-consuming. I suppose you could go the Influencer route and try to get a lot of teenage-girl followers on Instagram to admire your Facetune. YouTube is another option if you’re particularly entertaining or good at make-up. Maybe TikTok? Is that banned yet?



I spent February reworking my aesthetic for #Hans2020. I imagined the new version to be a friendless mid-2000s LiveJournal-addict mixed with a bad-but-ambitious SoundCloud rapper who low key jams out to ICP on their black iPod nano while sexting girls they’ll never meet.


(Hear me out: ICP’s “Hall Of Illusions” is a fantastic song. Seriously. I know everyone reading this magazine won’t hear me out, but hey—I tried.)


But I don’t want social media to be the only place I exist. It’s not what I entered this medium to do. None of us did and I fucking hate it. If I wanted to be an Influencer, I would have pursued that. I know that people are dying and I’m complaining that I can’t dance onstage, but I don’t see a future where HANS will exist in the same capacity they did and that was my whole artistic life. That was what kept me whole. What tf do I do now?


So I suppose all I can ask you to do is please follow my Instagram account @unofficialhans and sub to my YouTube channel and hit the bell button for notifications. Maybe if you’re lucky, you can catch me on live fucking hanging myself to RuPaul.


Don’t worry, I’ll wear a mask.


Editor's note: This article was written and published prior to the allegations of abuse by Marilyn Manson being made public. HANS has since released a public statement on their Facebook in response.

The reigning Drag King of Iceland, HANS (@unofficialhans) is a multi-disciplinary drag artist, performer, poet, and musician that explores the ugly, the disgusting, the angry, and the powerful in the new millennium.


The Radical Art Review is a print and digital magazine where art and culture meet activism. We tackle the politics of popular culture and provide a platform to emerging, marginalised, and disenfranchised artists.

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