Shrek 666 is one of Glasgow’s most innovative queer artists. Using all his own latex, prosthetics, and stunts, he has been performing professionally as an ogre for years now and has recently taken up tattoo artistry, as well as film making and DJing. One thing that is immediately noticeable about Shrek’s art is its relation to medieval monstrosity. As if the marginalia of an illuminated manuscript walked right off the page, or rather invited us in, Shrek’s art is high-camp, high-quality and highly moving. Here, he walks us through his creative process, from his inspirations to his creations, and gives us a sneak peek of the never-ending stream of production he is embarking on.
For those who are unfamiliar, can you briefly tell us about yourself? How did you get into performance and why did you decide to make all your own prosthetics and costumes?
You can call me Dæmon or Sorcha Clelland or Shrek 666. I perform as an ogre, tattoo artist, creator of prosthetics and latex garments, filmmaker, and sometimes DJ. Performance brings a lot of this together and is a social space to share, it’s something I fell into and loved. I’m interested in the post-human possibilities of prosthetics and their relationship with trans masculinity: everything I make is for Shrek only, it’s not out there to buy – it doesn’t exist otherwise.
Your performances bring the medieval Hellmouth to life. What was the thought behind this? Do you feel you have a personal connection to monstrosity and the grotesque?
In the vast imagery depicting hell and grotesque, monstrosity is a commodity. Monstrous projections (fear, anxiety, discomfort, ugliness, isolation, anger) possess most, if not all, minds at some point and are feelings we can all connect with. Performing as the monster to a level of realness is a practice of exorcism.
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Your performances have incorporated many aspects of danger, from syringes to getting a tattoo done live, on-stage – does monstrosity connect to pain/torture in your creative process?
Transformability connects pain and torture for me. I have a complex relationship with pain. Sharing the experience of pain is always intimate. Pain is unquestionably human and universal, it provides perspective, is a part of the process, healing, and also punishment. Witnessing pain cannot fail to communicate compassion, empathy, or some form of emotion. Monstrosity is a human creation, a visualisation of our pain.
Monster theory, for those who are unaware, is the theory that society simultaneously projects societal fear and desire onto monstrous creatures, thereby dehumanising oppressed groups through depictions. Do the initial ideas behind your costumes have any historical basis or are they spontaneous?
There is always a reference point behind my ideas – visualising the narratives of 'monsters' from cultural folklore, novel fiction or tv and film, then projecting queer, anarchist, magick, or satanic theories and philosophies onto that from whatever my eyes and ears are absorbing is usually the process. I want to reference this theory without claiming a deliberate or unitary relation between monstrosity and transness or queerness, rather adding to an argument around the process of othering.
Does your idea of monstrosity shape the way you choose materials?
J Halberstam once said, “Technologies of monstrosity are always also technologies of sex.” I’m attracted to latex and leather because of their relation to flesh and fetish. When I use living organisms as materials, for example plants or flowers, their mortality connects to my performance in a softer way.
“I wouldn’t say hell is more connected to high camp than heaven, we think this because we’ve been fed queer villains on-screen. When evil is performed with an element of campness to a 'straight audience', it evokes fear or laughter and projects queerness as something to be scared of and mocked.”
Your performances are often light-hearted, incorporating camp elements such as pop music – do you feel that monstrosity or hellish features easily connect to high camp?
I wouldn’t say hell is more connected to high camp than heaven, we think this because we’ve been fed queer villains on-screen. When evil is performed with an element of campness to a 'straight audience', it evokes fear or laughter and projects queerness as something to be scared of and mocked. Camp is a part of my personality, even the name, Shrek 666 is a parody. Familiarity can bridge a subject or body which could be uncomfortable and makes it easier to engage with a wider audience.
Can you briefly tell us about your new tattoo designs? What prompted you to start designing tattoos?
Ever since the clubs shut, I’ve found myself with more time to draw. I learnt to tattoo when I was 15 and knew it was always something I’d get back into but now I know how I want them to look. I love the delicacy of the single needlepoint and gently treating the skin like paper for drawing or printmaking and making a tattoo with the appearance of something ancient.
One thing I love about your tattoo designs is their relation to medieval illuminations. Do you look at any historical art when designing your tattoos?
I’ve always loved religious imagery, it’s part of my upbringing. I draw from paintings and etchings like the Codex Gigas or artist Hieronymus Bosch, as well as any medieval scrolls and manuscript illustrations. I’ve been researching more into occult and Celtic symbolism recently, but I also take custom requests that fit the vibe.
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A lot of your tattoo designs feature knights in shining armour, what inspired you to illustrate images of chivalry?
Armour is a costume, and I’ve worn and made my own interpretations as Shrek 666. In the medieval era, chivalry was the celebrated form of masculinity and now chivalry is a set of cult-like rules for 'contemporary warriors'. I find that interesting, but mainly I’m just drawn to the imagery of weapons and armor.
You recently moved to Berlin and are continuing your practice as best you can under difficult circumstances there. Has the new environment changed your creative process at all?
I performed as part of the Peep Show at Salon Zur Wilden Renate, it was a unique and beautiful space to come back into performing, as was the experience working with a gorgeous ball python snake named Pussy Whispers. I don’t have as many resources here compared to my studio in Glasgow but it's a fresh start and it feels good. Plus, I’m able to tattoo here.
Your art is incomparably innovative and something I think more people should know about – are you working on anything new at the moment?
At the moment, I’m working on a group show with Love Unlimited Gallery for Glasgow International Festival, which has been rescheduled for April 2021. Then, I’m working on Ministry of Pound, which is a monthly show on Clyde Built Radio in Glasgow. Right now, we’re working on the early stages but we are hoping to create a queer sex/fetish magazine with artists, writers, sex workers, designers, and more. I’m also making my first latex collection for the launch of that. And, as always, I’m taking tattoo bookings. I’m very excited.
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