- Written, conceived, choreographed & performed by Monique Jenkinson
- Directed by Ellen Sebastian Chang
‘The socially-conscious aesthete has a lot to carry around – and she needs a good bag.’
A panel discussion between three handbags, a newspaper-clad 1930s chorine, the dark history of purple dye, and the dying art of handmade lace come together in Luxury Items.
Luxury Items celebrates beauty without apology. Playing between the intimacy and artifice of performance, the work juxtaposes formal dance and academic lecture, interactive video, puppetry, drag and historical re-enactment. It concerns itself with history, fashion, ephemerality, consumerism, and decadence, arguing that while our persistent desire for status might ruin us, our equally persistent desire for beauty – even through war, economic hardship and environmental uncertainty – sustains us.
“Drag performance artist and dancer Monique Jenkinson, a.k.a. Fauxnique, recently saw the weekend run of her new solo show Luxury Items at ODC Theater sell out in the bat of an eyelash. (See SFBG photographer Ariel Soto’s shots of that perfomance here.) So the current remounting at CounterPULSE comes highly anticipated. It doesn’t disappoint, and given the charisma and talent of its writer-choreographer-performer, not to mention the love lavished on her by adoring audiences, it’s hard to imagine how an intimate evening like this could. And considering its general execution and not least its ambition and scope — at once surprising and altogether apt — it’s well worth seeing at any stage in its ongoing development. At the same time, in the uneven arc of its dramatic line and somewhat choppy melding of themes, it remains a work-in-progress. But what a work! Beginning in glorious repose across a deluxe chaise longue, Luxury Items revels in haute couture fantasy. But it soon acknowledges essential truths about our obsession with opulence in general and haute couture in particular. One: it’s built around an ersatz encounter with luxury that comes courtesy of media and advertising (“obsession,” in other words, is first of all a perfume ad). And two: it’s tacitly premised on a political economy whose principal characteristic is the ruthless class-based exploitation of laboring bodies. If this makes drag sound like a drag, all the more reason to laud what Jenkinson is crafting here. It retains all requisite insouciance and wit even while deconstructing, in compellingly personal and historical terms, the “real” material bargain being made in every rarified, Chanel-clouded embrace of precious materialism..” – Robert Avila, “Keeping it Real, or Prêt-à-Porter”, SF Bay Guardian Feb 9 2010