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Chez Deep backstage pre-performance in Glasgow, Scotland, where we performed at an after-party for Spencer Sweeney’s art opening at the Modern Institute, March 2014Alexis Penney

Post-drag collective Chez Deep present their manifesto

The subversive performance group are queering States of Independence today. Here's their five part philosophy

As part of our new summer US project States of Independence we've invited our favourite 30 American curators, magazines, creatives and institutions to takeover Dazed for a day. This week, State of Sex takes an all-encompassing look at sexuality, gender and all the flavours of the American rainbow.

Depending on who you ask, Chez Deep is avant-drag, post-drag, or simply "drag beyond 2000". Either way, the art collective has one of the most radical visions of art and gender in America right now. Check out all things sisterhood in their Dazed guest edit – here, they present their manifesto for art. 

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.” - Anais Nin

Desire. Surrender. Labour. Power. Sacrifice
A Manifesto in Five Parts


To desire is to move. The moment we begin imagining the ritual is the moment it begins. Our desire to be on stage is the desire to affect change, within one’s body - which is the earthly manifestation of one’s heart, mind, soul, relationships, energies - and within the bodies of the audience, and by extension the body of the earth. When we speak, She, or They, or It, listens, and talks back. The danger of desire is to expect. Desire is not want. Desire is need. And what we need, if we can be free of fear, we will receive, at least in this part of the world. We desire change, in the worlds and lives of others, so that they may know fulfillment of their deepest needs, their true life’s desire, as we do. Desire for a wider lens, a brighter light, drew us together. Five lights, desiring much, united under the desires of much more, we work in tandem.


We surrender in giving in to our needs, to the moment, on the stage that we create, on the pedestal on which we are placed. We surrender our individual egos to the greater power of the group, even as we remain separate, surrendering boundaries of one and other to become One, to come home, to truly move Deep within ourselves, to the emerging past and future processes of creation that have allowed us to exist on this stage, in this moment. We surrender our bodies to the greater motion of the forces of the Universe, open ourselves as portals of love to channel what simply must be, what is, what is becoming. It is a collective ritual and also a tool, a demonstration, a new form of science and scholarship, of education. We face and embrace the fear of becoming more than these bodies, tapping into forces beyond ourselves, to show how easy it is to live fearlessly, when fear is all you have to lose. We feel, deeply. We share our feeling. We let go. We dare to be weak, to be strong.


To see our desires enacted on earth is to labour. Our labour is prismatic, fracturing value systems of cognition, agency, and interface. Our labour is an unfolding process of communication as a family, beyond the media and economy of material existence. To maintain our relationships as a sisterhood is labour. Our interface is face-to-face, body to soul to screen to planet. It exists in practice, performance, documentation and creation, but also resides within conversation and energetic exchanges; in checking in. Our rehearsals are rituals for growth, in which we become tempered and anodized; strengthened and beautiful in our becomings. Our GroupMe thread is a litany, a liturgy. Every conversation, every communication, every time we share space, we are constructing the architecture of our collective home. Chez Deep refers not only to our collective, or its depth, or to our neighboring collective living spaces, but to the collective of spirit, body and energy that exists materially and immaterially in simultaneity. This is a new, but also very old form of architecture; our structures are social, political, aural, spatial; constructed by our decisions. Our labour is alchemy. It is sisterhood. 


Our power is capability, capacity and action; with the authority and agency of a chosen family who labours and surrenders fear and pain. Our power is in burning our very selves in offering, transformation by fire and passion. Our power is the power to hold an audience rapt; to know stares, glares, shudders, shivers. Our power is the power to change by mere presence, thought, intention. Our power transgresses control and resides in a slackening of grips; lives through the surrender of expectation to instinct. Our power is over or under no one or thing. Our power rises from within. Our power exists not within the act of changing lanes but in expanding our perceptions. The road of Life is a field, in which we all grow and harvest. The power we wield is given freely and collectively. As five we stand in a circle, often in opposition, not contradicting but holding ourselves in tension, letting power build through our voices and bodies and words and choices until it becomes something impossible to hold, something that can never be owned, something that must be given away. 


We sacrifice to thrive; to understand; to embrace mystery. We give without expectation of gain. We sacrifice our prejudices, our fears; our failures, our triumphs. On stage we sacrifice our talents and our love, give freely to finally let go, embracing finitude, finality; to spread beyond the bounds of our selves, our stage and even our dreams and spiral out into the beyond and seed life in the hearts and bodies of others; to empower. We sacrifice to a deity, a Goddess, who lives within us, as bountiful trees of life, and within those who need sustenance, but cannot provide. We sacrifice life to the All and the One; the Self who knows no Others; ourselves, from whom all comes, to whom all will come again. We give to clear space for the new. Our pasts, our present becomings, become the present for the audience, for those who see and witness. It is an exchange. A harvesting. We lose, to gain. We end, to begin again.