‘Queendom’ Documents Queer Life in Russia Through a Performance Artist’s Eyes

Gena Marvin is a rare kind of modern-day performance artist. As part of her practice, the Russia native paints her face in striking black, white, and primary hues, then wraps herself up in voluminous outfits against surreal settings, often as an act of political protest. So it’s no wonder the queer artist’s work caught the attention of Michèle Lamy, one of fashion’s greatest eccentrics.

While scrolling Instagram, Lamy came across a video of Marvin walking on a treadmill in one of her outlandish outfits and signature sky-high heels. Lamy showed the video to Rick Owens, and the rest is history. Marvin has since become part of the French label’s collaborative family, having walked in the fall 2024 menswear show. Now, Lamy is the executive producer of Marvin’s documentary Queendom which premiered in New York City on June 14. Inside the tiny walls of Cinema Village in the West Village, fans of Marvin and Lamy—along with verified cinephiles—came together for the New York debut and a post-show Q&A.

Directed by Agniia Galdanova and produced by Igor Myakotin, the documentary follows Marvin’s journey in Russia, where it is illegal to be queer. The film alternates between visionary scenes of Marvin’s moving art and the real-life challenges she faces as a queer artist in the country. (In one scene, she wears a barbed wire costume in the streets of Moscow; in another, she dons a Russian flag made out of tape that later leads to her arrest.) Marvin goes from building a global following for her art on social media to getting expelled from cosmetology school in Moscow, experiencing the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war, returning home to her family’s rural home to harvest caviar, and finally, arriving in Paris. “The way it started, my relationship with the camera was lighthearted. As we were filming, it was getting heavier and heavier,” Marvin said during the Q&A. “I prefer not to have a camera around me all the time. But I appreciate it. It’s always very adventurous.”

Lamy has long worked in film, most recently producing the short Infinite, which was inspired by Lebanese-American writer Etel Adnan’s oeuvre. For Queendom, Lamy was most inspired by Marvin’s narrative and point of view. “It’s a documentary, but there is poetry, there is emotion in it,” Lamy told W after the screening, between puffs of cigarettes outside the NoHo piano bar The Nines. “This is what I like most—poems, linear stories, and strong will—and [Gena] showed you what she had to do. We were all crying at the end.”

Wearing a layered Rick Owns look with her signature chunky silver rings and trademark dark makeup, plus fingertips painted black (of course), Lamy expressed that she wants to continue to do even more in film. “There is a rhythm to it, like in fashion. In fashion, some evolve, some don’t. With a movie, you can put some permanence to your voice,” she added. The fashion plate also said she wants to keep pursuing work in film to document culture as it makes history in real-time. “My parents were in the resistance, and that’s why I was born to always try to be aware of what’s going on,” Lamy explained.

Queendom certainly presents a visually striking narrative and a slew of emotional surprises. The outfits elicited gasps, “slays,” and laughs from the crowd throughout the screening. Against all the odds Marvin faces in the documentary, the fashion as performance is breathtaking. Much like Lamy’s own aesthetic—which could also be considered performance art—both visionaries push the bounds of public dressing. “It’s a film, but of course there’s style,” Lamy said. “This is the way you express yourself—to recognize people.”

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