'Libres y Lokas'
Finding the punk in Monterrey's wrestlers and queens
Ivete Lucas and Otis Ike shepherd me around their home, through a maze of masked wrestlers and sequined drag queens, campaign banners in Spanish, gay porn mags, pictures of Pope John Paul II. It's quite dizzying, then the bigger picture comes into focus. It's a shrine to Monterrey, Mexico.
"Libres y Lokas," their new multimedia installation at Domy Books, culled from images and interviews the filmmakers/photographers shot in Monterrey during two trips, seeks to connect the dots between different generations of transsexual performers and small-time wrestlers they met in the impoverished city, where Catholicism still rules. On one stage, performers wait for a chance to drive a piece of glass into another man's skull; on another, they find catharsis and identity through song – another type of bloodletting.
Lucas, who grew up in Monterrey, plays a clip of Adriana, onstage in a black gown and wig at Muxets, one of the few gay bars in town. Lip-syncing to a regional hit, she efficiently changes into men's slacks and a button-down shirt, hastily wipes off her makeup, and rips off her wig. On another screen, two libres grapple intimately on a dirty floor, as children and beer-swilling grandmas scream at them. It's all performance, and the dots are not so far away.
Austin Chronicle: You mentioned these performances felt like punk to you.
Otis Ike: Growing up with punk music, there was something very inspiring in that, which I've lost touch with and which we've both found again. The frustration of not being understood by society. People building their own arenas, making costumes, working shit jobs so they can buy masks and uniforms, then just cutting the shit out of each other, for no money, so grandmothers can yell curse words at them.
Ivete Lucas: A release of emotion, of true emotion. With the wrestlers, it's anger. With the trannies, it's years of failed relationships and sexual frustration.
AC: And it comes out via performance.
Ike: The drag queens were more at peace with their lives, in love with music and performing, in love with having their picture taken. The wrestlers definitely have a more problematic life. Still, there's this GG Allin craziness to the matches, which you don't find that often anymore. We were very into the performance. These are people with nothing, trying to find a way to express their frustration. In these tranny clubs, it's chaos. Then you've got clubs where wrestlers strip.
Lucas: They do it, and it's not filtered by the media there. It's raw. It's their own motivation. They have to do this, which was part of what drew us to them.
AC: How does religion figure in?
Lucas: The wrestlers pray to the Virgin before each match, and they have shrines in their houses. So do the drag queens, even though the church is against homosexuality. Adriana blesses the crowd before her performances, but there's a reason the clubs are so dark.
Ike: The wrestler really struggles, if he's Catholic, with going against what he believes. ... He'll wrestle once in an evening of matches, beat the shit out of someone for an hour, but the tranny, from 1am to 5am, will perform maybe eight times, and that's including change of makeup and character. With both, it's always just waiting for the call for the next gig.
AC: Back to punk rock.
Ike: Yeah, that feeling of, "When's it gonna happen?" Well, for the wrestlers. Mexico is about exploitation. The trannies have real peace. They're in this DIY scene. They have so much respect and love from the gay community and from women. There's a lot of machismo there, and women are often kind of tossed aside by their husbands. So they see the trannies as sensitive and effeminate, and they perform and love the same music. In a perfect world, they have a nice life.
"Libres y Lokas" runs Aug. 1-Sept. 3 at Domy Books, 913 E. Cesar Chavez. An opening reception on Saturday at 7pm will feature live transformations by local drag queens. For more information, visit www.domystore.com/austin.