Fagdom is a queer party run by HAUSVRAU (Renan Carvalho), kurkicat (Ari Kurki) and Slambear (Björn Das). For Fabrikzeitung they meet to talk about the philosophy and ideas behind their label: reclaiming, reappropriation, migration within oneself. But is it even possible to party politically – and with good music? Go see for yourself.
Ari: Let’s dive right into it! I often get asked: why the name “Fagdom”?
Renan: It started as a joke between me and you Ari – «fagdom» as the «kingdom of fags» or the «essence of being a fag», which can also be redefined by everyone who feels like a fag.
A: Although, at least speaking for myself, I’m against any kind of essentialism –
R: And if you look at the word historically, faggots were the bundles of sticks that people would be obliged to carry for the fire they would be burnt in because they were not following the church. That’s why it’s such an intense insult to queer people. So to reclaim it and make it our kingdom, which relates to medieval times when those burnings happened, is the big joke about it. It’s very ironic, and we are taking power over it. I get asked a lot too because I have it tattooed on my chest, but it’s funny because people are very careful. I think it also creates this question in people’s heads which is a very interesting effect. What about you Björn?
Björn: I didn’t know that about the bundle of sticks, that adds an interesting layer. But I was asking myself about the name yesterday and I came up with a little something:
Once upon a time in the West
there was symbiotic harmony among subjects
they were merely subjected by nature
not by borders, privacy nor space.
This in turn turnt upside down
with the almighty savior from above
he circumscribed, narrow minded as he was
– though powerful indeed –
the duality of good & bad, heaven & hell,
man & woman.
It came to be how it largely still is today,
subjected to confessions of meat retreat.
It had to be how it sometimes is,
a bear-vrau-cat walked by,
in heels and chanted:
It smoked, it shook, it fogged and squeaked
and after values were toppled and shuffled
a subjectless subject woke up with the sunrise
– unsure about what had actually happened…
was it ok, revolutionary, can I remember?
whatsoever, it definitely wasn’t in vain!
FAGDOM it was, and off fell the shame.
For me reclaiming this means: Yes, I am a fag, and I’m proud of it. I have it on my chest. It’s a reclaiming of all the suffering and history that comes even much before me.
R: I’ve been called a fag my whole life in all different languages. And it didn’t matter that I’m a queer non-binary person because people would still call me just a fag, you know? Because for their beliefs, I’m just a man in women’s clothes. For me reclaiming this means: Yes, I am a fag, and I’m proud of it. I have it on my chest. It’s a reclaiming of all the suffering and history that comes even much before me.
A: You mentioned reappropriation and I think in this process also the shock value of «fag» as an insult translates into something else. It comes out as this expression of the overtly queer, the overly fabulously gay and not the kind of «I wear a suit and tie and go into the office everyday but I like to suck a dick when nobody’s watching». It’s the opposite of that. I think the fag, the fagdom, is exactly what the homophobe is afraid of. In that sense, it’s a source of power, the power that makes them afraid, you know? I feel like that also gives it a certain punch that comes out in our logo.
B: After all, I think it’s also important to remember that we have certain ideas and feelings attached to this word, but what happens at the party still becomes something else, it’s the substance.
A: Apart from our name, we also have a motto, «Queermigration», and initially that came from you Björn. Do you want to say a few words on that?
B: This may sound a bit nerdy, but what struck me was a class on Judith Butler’s Performative Assemblies, where we ended up asking ourselves if she meant that in the end we are all queer people, even though we might want to be or not. And then I realized that I have something in me that resonates very much with what Butler was writing about then. When it came to starting our party, that was certainly an influence, but also, going further to even take into account issues of migration, refugees, and borders because I feel like there is an intersectionality. It’s not an identity, for sure not. People who have a migration background where they had to flee, where they had to get away from something, they had to cut off their ties, their origins. Around the same time I also started working at the Asylorganisation Zürich (AOZ), where I got the sense that a lot of people actually felt not at home in themselves, with themselves, and I feel like Fagdom can be – it’s a challenge of course – a place to bring together these two parts of the queer and the heritageless and come together into something new. It is a migration within oneself but also outside and with the people around us. This is what it means to me.
R: For me, Queermigration is very much part of my daily life. I never get out the house without being queer or without being an immigrant, so it’s something that I try a lot of times to shy away from. Not so much the queerness, but being an immigrant and the intersection of both because this is a constant reminder that I’m not allowed here unless the country can profit off of me, unless I’m doing something for the place I’m in. And there’s a lot that I do with FAGDOM and other groups I’m connected to, in terms of social work and creating spaces for minority groups, but that doesn’t count legally to keep me here. So, to bring that to the forefront of the party and what Björn mentioned about the migration within ourselves, which is constant, ever-growing and ever changing, is a very interesting point for me to connect my legal, documented life with my identity.
A: Yeah, one sense of «migration» is certainly the idea of gender and sexuality as a journey rather than as a fixed point. As for the other sense of physically migrating in the world, I think one challenge for us has been that after putting this as our motto, we have to ask ourselves: «how can we meaningfully address those very real issues surrounding migration with a party?» We all see the political potential of parties but it is always a fine line because parties and rave culture can also have a depoliticizing side and be flipped around to be this pressure valve for the capitalist system: work yourself to death during the week because you can party and forget everything on the weekend.
B: Which we are definitely trying to resist also. We have exhibitions, we have interventions, we are definitely not one of those parties that always delivers the product as expected for those 25 bucks that are your ticket to get in, get drunk, get out.
I felt I had to decide between going to a queer and/or gay party with shitty music where I could hook up, or going to a party with music that interested me but was not queer. I always felt like, why can’t we have a queer party that is also musically interesting?
A: I also like the unpredictability that we have in the music you hear at FAGDOM. A big motivation for me to do a queer party in Zurich is that growing up here I felt I had to decide between going to a queer and/or gay party with shitty music where I could hook up, or going to a party with music that interested me but was not queer. I always felt like, why can’t we have a queer party that is also musically interesting? It was only after going to Berlin that I actually started learning about the history of club culture, and how it has been innovated from the start by BPOC and queer people. For me, queerness also translates into the music in the sense of sliding between categories, mutable identities, creative transitions.
R: I think that mostly we look for people that have the same approach to music as us which is not at all in terms of what kind of music but in terms of going beyond what’s ready. Going under the surface and mixing what you have in you, from your experiences, because I feel like all of us draw a lot on our experiences when it comes to music. What we also try to do by bringing in queer and/or migrant artists is to give them a platform due to them being part of a minority but we don’t ask them to do any kind of art talking about being queer or immigrant. We bring them in and ask them to show us who they are other than this label. I think this approach is mostly what we look for in the people that we bring as guests and what we aim to keep doing, and not to find this place of «okay, now I found my style and that’s where I am». We want to keep migrating. Bring an attitude of interest and curiosity to the turntables.
A: Or to the CDJs.
B: Or below the table.
Fagdom is a queer party run by HAUSVRAU (Renan Carvalho), kurkicat (Ari Kurki) and Slambear (Björn Das).