Dynasty Handbag

Titanic Depression

Pioneer Works
May 20 & 21, 8:30 PM
Tickets start at $30
Co-presented offsite at Pioneer Works
Tickets available at Pioneer Works

World Premiere
Curated by David Everitt Howe

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.

Runtime: 60 minutes

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.