The disciple of a silenced, ghettoized community, Zackary Drucker, a young transgender artist/performer from Los Angeles, uses a range of creative devices that all strive towards the portrayal of bodily identity, her own and that of others, obsessively infusing visual media—photographs, videos and performance art—with acute, masochistic emotional compulsions. Conceiving, discovering, and manifesting herself as “a woman in the wrong world”, her work is rooted in cultivating and investigating under-recognized aspects of transgender history, locating herself in that history, and communicating her contemporary experience of gender and sexuality. Drawing from feminist and queer theoretical discourse, Drucker addresses sexual exploitation, transgender representation, and drag performance in order to explore relationships that facilitate queer/countercultural lineage. With self-awareness and agency, her work reinvents and redistributes relationships of spectacle-spectator, dominator-subjugated, and the domesticated-exoticized. She notes: “My work provides a place to construct myself. I revisit erased histories, perform and inhabit multiple roles and narratives, and document moments of, and in between, gender scripting a narrative that is inherently self- reflexive as it is constructed, deconstructed and experienced.
Sedate: Where are you from? Where are you now? And where are you going?
Zackary Drucker: I am from Syracuse, NY. That’s where I grew up and then I lived in Brooklyn for a few years after that. I’ve been in Los Angeles for the past ten years. I moved here to go to CalArts for my MFA and I am going into the future.
S:What did you study for your MFA?
ZD: I studied Photo Media as part of the Art Program. Photography was kind of where I started making art in high school and at CalArts I started to branch out into more video, performance, and installation.
S: What are you working on right now and what is the concept or message?
ZD:You know, I’ve worked in many different mediums and I think that the idea or the conceptual foundation usually dictates what medium or the form that it will take. I’ve been working on an AmazonTV show called Transparent for the past year and a half. I started working on that as a consultant when the pilot was being developed and when it became a series I was moved to Associate Producer and now with its second season I am co-Producer. Season Two is underway now. Another project in progress is the Flawless Sabrina Archive. Flawless Sabrina is my mentor, best friend, muse, and collaborator. She’s an elderly drag queen and I met her when I was 18 years old. Pretty recently we decided to start documenting her oral history. From there, we decided to create an archive around her life work. She’s had a really interesting trajectory and been connected to a lot of really influential people, such as William S. Burroughs, Truman Capote, Andy Warhol, Jackie Kennedy (haha)…Diane Arbus - a lot of unexpected connections and friendships. She ran drag contest that started in 1959 and ran up until 1969. She did them all over the place - it was sort of a touring show. She had this really national overview of what was happening in pre-Stonewall America, especially concerning gender nonconformity or gender subversion. We’re developing a book proposal and we’re currently working with an interested publisher. On top of that I am finishing an experimental short film that I made two summers ago, I’m working with the sound designer editing now. I am also shooting a new film a week from today (3/28) called Southern for Pussy that I wrote and will be performing with my mother. I always have a few pots on the stove, per se.
I shouldn’t mention it yet because its not for sure…but I’m writing this piece for an academic journal about feminism, and jewish identity. I’m coming out as a jew. I was raised jewish, and it’s funny I just realized somewhat recently that I’ve never included that in discussions around my work even though it is a really big part of my cultural identity and my heritage, so I’ve been trying to examine that a little bit more. I think the older we get the more distance we have from our point of origin. I think it’s an interesting thing to evaluate. I think that around transgender identity theres this omission of intersectionality which is so much a part of other discussions around identity but with trans people its so fresh that we haven’t gotten past the basics.
S: Where does this affinity for gender fluidity come from and where do you hope to take it?
ZD: My hope is to take it into the future so that the conversation changes, which it does, rapidly, all the time. The thing that’s so amazing about being a human is how transformable we are and how we transform as a collective force as well. I think “Why now?” is a good question. Trans people have always been around and there has always been representations of us in the media and pop culture - its just usually derisive. My earliest perceptions of trans people were television talk shows in the 1990s or in films like Silence of the Lambs or Psycho, hahah. I think it’s cool to be a part of a new wave of representation and I don’t treat it lightly. The gender binary is a very antiquated model that hasn’t been revised for some reason…at least not yet. I think that the natural progression of gender equality, of feminism…its like watching a black & white television rather than the full color 3D HD virtual reality that we’re sort of on the cusp of. Our bodies are really transformable right now in terms of the options that we have. I mean, the cosmetic surgery industry is the fastest growing economy worldwide. I think that we will exist in this very hybridized future where maybe our consciousness is sometimes in our bodies, but sometimes it’s in a virtual world. We’ll be left tied to our biology. I think trans people in a lot of ways represent this larger shift we are all experiencing culturally…mostly because it’s just more visible in our bodies.
S: Why are some people rather than other so quick to dismiss anything that doesn’t fit within the standard heteronormative gender binary?
I mean I think it threatens the status quo. I think that all of the power structures that are present within our society and our social order are also present in the art world. The best of 2014 in ARTFORUM didn’t even have one mention of the transgender community. There was no gender variance represented, the word transgender wasn’t even uttered, despite the fact that it was a landmark year for trans culture and there are more transgender people making art than ever before and I thought that omission was very vindictive of the conservatism and homogeneity in the art world. I wasn’t surprised, but definitely disappointed. I think that artists will have an expanded role in our future society.
S: What has been the most challenging aspect as an artist thus far?
ZD: Really just the postgrad hump. Getting out of institution can be a rough landing sometimes, and I don’t think theres any way to prepare for the harsh reality of being a working artist in an economy that doesn’t value art, especially ephemeral art forms like video or performance. Even photography is this tiny sliver of the art economy. The vast majority of work that’s circulating and sort of rarified is painting and some sculpture, I guess. But the people who are really benefitting from that bubble are very few and far between.
I think that the imperative of art making is that it represents what's coming next or what we can only see on the horizon. Art history is marked by people who are thinking outside of the parameters that they are given. That’s what separates an artist from being relevant today from being relevant forever.
S: What would you like to see change in todays youth and what are you doing to change that?
ZD: I think that the message given to the youth of today is a lot different than the message I was given, which was “you can be anything that you want and you can do anything that you can manifest.” That was also the message I was given from my family which was obviously helpful, but I think the message young people get today is that the numbers are stacked against them and that more than likely they are going to fail. I was talking to Flawless the other day about the Great Depression and FDR saying “there is nothing to fear but fear itself” and the idea that our president or none of our world leaders right would ever say that because there’s so much fear mongering happening now, but with that I think we do manifest our own reality. We certainly manifest our psychological reality and our internal reality and I think that all of those internal mechanisms affect how we treat each other. I think we are a part of a generation that will see more population growth than any other generation on earth. Who knows maybe we’ll colonize space and that’ll be a whole other story…then we’ll be everywhere hahah. But I do take being a role model very seriously especially for young trans people where it can feel like a really scary world to come into, trans people are much more likely to attempt or commit suicide, to be victims of violence, and I would really like to instill a sense of hope and possibility for generations to come.
Interview was orignally conducted for Issue 002 "Opaque" in print.