Glasgow-based artist Sorcha Clelland uses their alter ego SHREK 666 to push against the world’s simplistic understanding of gender.
You’re standing in the middle of Glasgow when you encounter an 8ft, red-eyed monster towering over you. Don’t fret, it’s not the apocalypse: it’s drag ogre SHREK 666, otherwise known as Sorcha Clelland. A typical SHREK 666 show might feature fake blood squirted onto the audience or a simulated blow job – all executed in an outfit that includes devilish horns, a gimp mask, or an oversized codpiece. Giving a middle finger to respectability politics every time they step on stage, SHREK 666 finds delight in disgust. But behind the performance persona you’ll find that Sorcha is surprisingly PG: warm, funny, and a bit of a queer-theory nerd.
Born in the Highlands, Sorcha studied at Glasgow School of Art, which is where they created their drag alter ego. Informed by Scottish masculinity, Sorcha uses a mash-up of latex, heavy make-up, and grisly prosthetics to put a satanic spin on DreamWorks’ cartoon ogre.
I’ve never seen drag that looks like this before – what are your inspirations?
Susan Stryker’s and Jack Halberstam’s writings on trans-ness and monstrosity are works I often return to. Then there’s power play, villains, demons, Catholicism, fetish, satanism, and my cat.
I’ve noticed you don’t stick to gendered divisions between drag “kings” and “queens”. Why is that?
A lot of the way drag is looked at or read has to do with services. It understands gender as a service that is predicated on its legibility to the outside. I’m trying to get away from the sense that we need to stay on the evaluative surfaces of bodies. To not say, “This body looks like that, therefore it is that,” and rather to ask, “What can this body do?” I’m hoping that the meaning of drag can be reshaped as our society becomes more progressive.
You’ve said before that you have been inspired by the original Shrek! book by William Steig, which draws on fairy tales. Your aesthetic also reminds me of folk tales.
Folk tales have held my attention for years. I think of them as the stories people told in the dark with little around them. I believe the old ones explore desire and also prejudice, and a lot could be said for studying them. These stories portray variance in any form as an articulation of evil. Difference is the Other, the monster, the queer, the evil freak. Shrek 666 will never succumb to normality, his embodiment is a form of retaliation.
Monstrosity is an important theme in your work. What does “the monster” represent for you?
I view the monster as abject in its physicality – no longer metaphor or nightmare, but a body against binary structures and social criteria of normality.
Interesting. So would you say you’re questioning what it means to be “human”?
Performance practices can be used as a means to disrupt bodily boundaries and resist definitions. I’m resisting the definition of human and chasing something else.
This is our Future issue – what do you hope the future looks like?
I would like to see a future where queer labour is valued and working-class artists like me are given the opportunities and funding to continue developing practices in a sustainable way.
Follow SHREK666 on Instagram.
6 May 2020