Dynasty Handbag: Titanic Depression

Please note: this performance contains flashing lights and/or strobing effects that may not be suitable for individuals with photosensitive epilepsy or other visual sensitivities. Seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis, with the exception of those with advance requests for ADA accommodations. If you have any questions or concerns regarding accessibility, please feel free to contact our Visitor Services team at info@pioneerworks.org.

Dynasty Handbag’s Titanic Depression—co-conceived with artist SUE-C—sends up James Cameron’s 1997 Hollywood hit, reimagining it as a hilariously bleak parable of human arrogance in today’s era of runaway, consumerism-driven climate change. Co-presented by New York Live Arts as part of its 2023 Live Arts festival Planet Justice, Titanic Depression is Dynasty Handbag’s first major institutional commission in nearly eight years.

More so a live multimedia event than solely performance, Titanic Depression combines animation, video, soundscapes and improvisation into a story about how a ship advertised as unsinkable strikes an iceberg on its maiden voyage and sinks; fitted with too few lifeboats, Titanic’s poor, third class passengers were largely left behind as the vessel’s wealthier occupants were rushed to safety. The disaster became a potent symbol of the haves versus the have nots.

Turned into numerous films—the most financially successful being Cameron’s—this well-worn narrative of class and gender inequality is, in the hands of Handbag’s outrageous physicality and unique improvisational skills, wildly digressed, veering from Hollywood’s obsession with disaster plots to our morbid fascination with death—namely, our own. She plays various characters in the film, such as “Rose,'' who sparks a torrid, interspecies romance with “Jack,” a mute octopus escaping the warming seas by stowing away on the ship disguised as a giant ladies hat. While the iceberg melts in balmy weather before the Titanic reaches it, the vessel goes down anyway in a tour de force of nonsensical, collective doom—a tragicomedy of our own making that no amount of metal straws or fastidiously-sorted recycling will fix. At a time of climate crisis on seemingly every front, “levity arises out of the sheer pressure cooker of the era we are collectively experiencing,” as the artist has noted. Taking on the role of a ship, Pioneer Works itself becomes a character in the show, nodding to the Queen Mary 2 that docks just down the street from the building and plies the same transatlantic route as the Titanic.

About the Artists

Jibz Cameron (Co-creator, Writer, Performer)

The peerlessly subversive, wacky, dark, and dystopian Dynasty Handbag—alter ego of performer, visual artist, actor, and writer Jibz Cameron—quite literally bites the hand that feeds her; she often parodies queer liberals and the institutions they support, as well as herself. Playing multiple characters who usually end up breaking down, slipping into alcoholism, or otherwise doing the wrong things, she “combats the terror of being alive," as she's previously written, by failing spectacularly. Cameron’s work as Dynasty Handbag has spanned over 20 years and has been presented at arts venues such as The New Museum of Contemporary Art, The Broad Museum, The Hammer Museum, REDCAT, BAM, and the Centre Pompidou, among others. She has been heralded by the New York Times as “the funniest and most pitch perfect performance seen in years” and “outrageously smart, grotesque and innovative” by The New Yorker. Cameron is a 2022 Guggenheim fellow, a 2021 United States Artist Award recipient and a 2020 Creative Capital Grant awardee. She produces and hosts Weirdo Night, a monthly comedy and performance event in Los Angeles and New York. Her film Weirdo Night is an official 2020 Sundance Film Festival selection.

Mariah Garnett (Visual Director)

Mariah Garnett’s films and installations deconstructs the conventional hierarchy between filmmaker and subject, a mode that has historically been the purview of directors who possess economic, racial and gender privilege. Garnett is a 2019 Guggenheim Fellow in Film/Video and holds an MFA from Calarts and a BA from Brown University. Recent solo exhibitions include Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Commonwealth + Council, a 10 year survey of her work at the LA Municipal Art Gallery, and Sundance Film Festival, 2021. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Art Forum, Bomb among others and has screened and exhibited internationally at The New Museum, Brooklyn Academy Of Music (BAM), REDCAT, Made in LA (Hammer Museum Biennial), The Metropolitan Arts Centre (Tate Belfast), CPH:DOX, Hot Docs, NY Film Festival, and BFI London. She is an Assistant Professor of Media at UC San Diego, and lives and works in Los Angeles.

Chloe Alexandra Thompson (Technical Director / Sound Design) is a Cree, Canadian, interdisciplinary artist and sound designer. Thompson approaches sound as a mode of connection—embracing the kinesthetic agency of sound to compose abstract feats of spatialized audio recording and synthesis. Her work engages tactics of material minimalism to create site-specific installations that sculpt droning, maximalist experiences out of space and sound. Using audio programming software, computational processing, and acoustic instruments, Thompson’s work seeks to create connection by guiding audience participants through these augmented experiences. In January 2021, Cycling ‘74, announced Thompson as one of the first Max Certified Trainers. Her sound design has been featured in the works of artists across the fields of music, performance, TV and film. She is presently part of the Working Consortium in developing First Nations Performing Arts.

Sacha Yanow (Dramaturg) is a NYC/Lenapehoking based performance artist and actor. Their solo practice is rooted in theater, queer performance and radical jewish tradition, using humor and physicality to explore themes of gender, aging, loss and diaspora. Sacha's work has been presented by venues including MoMA PS1, Danspace Project, Joe's Pub, and the New Museum in NYC; PICA’s TBA Festival/Cooley Gallery at Reed College in Portland, OR; and Festival Theaterformen in Hanover, Germany. They have received residency support from Baryshnikov Arts Center, Denniston Hill, LIFT Festival UK, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Mass MoCA and Yaddo, among others. They served as Director of Art Matters Foundation for 12 years, and previously worked at The Kitchen as Director of Operations.

Amanda Verwey (Co-Writer/Producer) is a queer WGA writer living in Los Angeles, California. In 2016, Amanda co- wrote with performance artist Jibz Cameron the full-length one-women show Good Morning Evening Feelings, which premiered at The Kitchen, NYC and was later turned into a web series by JASH Productions (awarded Audience Choice Best Experimental Short Film, Outfest 2017). In 2017, Amanda co-wrote the short film Tooth and Nail with director Sara Shaw, which premiered at SXSW (awarded Audience Choice for Best Short Film, Fusion Film Festival 2018 and Best Narrative Short, Outfest 2018.) In 2019, her feature script 'Tooth & Nail', based on the short, won the Richard Vague Production Fund Grant from Tisch. In 2020, she sold a series to FX. Amanda is currently in development on a grindhouse feature with Endeavor Content and Flame Ventures. She is also developing a limited series based on the book The Secret Life of a Satanist, the only authorized biography of Anton LaVey.

amy von harrington (Animator) is a visual artist: collage, video, performance, thought experimentor, friend, polarity practitioner, constellation facilitator, works in accounting. Lives with dogs, in LA and the existential briar patch. Loves life. Has lots of questions.

Sue Slagle (SUE-C) is an award-winning artist, engineer and educator whose work in “real time cinema” presents a new, imaginative perspective on live performance. Her evolution as a new media artist began in late-90s San Francisco where she was an influential member of the electronic music scene, owning the experimental record label Orthlorng Musork, organizing audio-visual cultural events and teaching the first creative coding classes in Max Software. After finishing her masters degree in engineering at UC Berkeley she moved to Oakland where she became co-owner of the Ego Park gallery and helped launch the First Friday art walks. Sue is a Creative Capital awardee and MacDowell Fellow and has been covered in The Wire magazine, BoingBoing and the MIT Press book Programming Media. She has performed at the Library of Congress, REDCAT, Ars Electronica, MUTEK, SONAR, Ann Arbor Film Festival, NPR’s Tiny Desk and Transmediale, collaborating with musicians such as Morton Subotnick, Luc Ferrari, Laetitia Sonami, AGF, Paul DeMarinis, Wobbly, Ava Mendoza and Negativland.

Dynasty Handbag: Titanic Depression was commissioned by Pioneer Works and curated by David Everitt Howe. It is co-presented by New York Live Arts as part of Live Ideas 2023: Planet Justice. The performance is made possible with support from Creative Capital, The Guggenheim Foundation, Ballroom Marfa, Center for Performance Research, Chorus Foundation, and MacDowell.

The New York Live Arts 2023 Live Ideas festival, Planet Justice: Are you here for it*?, is co-curated with Slow Factory and explores the idea that climate justice is rooted in social justice, anti-colonialism, global collaboration, human rights, and the rights of nature to thrive.