Las Palmas 2017 Carnival’s 20th Drag Queen competition caught fire, figuratively speaking, last week. If you didn’t catch the main spanish news through the last days of carnival in Las Palmas, you may be blissfully unaware of the heated exchanges that took place between the capital’s town hall, the president of Tenerife, the President of Gran Canaria, The Bishop of The Canary Islands, politicians of every flavour, tens of thousands of people on twitter and facebook, and various other internet backwaters, and the winner of this years 20th anniversary Carnival Drag Queen competition, which took place last Monday and has been climaxing ever since in calls both for Freedom of Art and protection for the sanctity of religion; as the onstage transgressions from one of the carnival’s most popular contests were played out again and again for commentary from every angle.
Spain’s main TV network TVE removed footage of the show from their website, as did TV Canaria before hurriedly republishing it on Tuesday. Las Palmas Carnival began trending worldwide across social networks, with comparisons ranging from Madonna to Leonardo da Vinci, with ecclesiastical knickers ever more in a twist over the provocation, and denunciations for the clear lack of respect that surely must have been intended.
The truth is this is a PR coup for Las Palmas Carnival. A storm in a teacup over long accepted norms within art, whereby the artist uses familiar and, for some, sacred imagery to evoke a clear reaction from the religious hierarchy, their adherents and the wider population; most of whom see no real issue, and even embrace the transgression as a welcome part of artistic expression.
All eyes now will turn to the Maspalomas Carnival Drag Show, later this week, to see just how provocative Gran Canaria can get during its signature annual carnival events…
Regardless of your opinion on such things, in a world where televised violence and intolerance are widespread, where fascist rhetoric is on the rise and a white supremacists´ puppet is in the white house, this up-beat drag show is the least of anyone´s worries.
Gran Canaria is happy to push these boundaries for the good of all.
From the perspective of this publication, it is little more than an amusing fracas over complete and useless whimsy. But then the boundary between the whimsical and the offensive has always been the domain of both art and religion.
In the words of another known Spanish provocateur…
“Art is never chaste. It ought to be forbidden to ignorant innocents, never allowed into contact with those not sufficiently prepared. Yes, art is dangerous. Where it is chaste, it is not art.”
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
An online petition has gained more than 20,000 signatures already in support of artistic right of expression… you can sign it here: https://www.change.org/p/soporte-a-la-drag-sethlas-la-aventura-continua-leer-abajo
You can watch the whole of last weeks competition show here…