YBCA Questions Citizenship at “Transform”

Fauxnique, Black Panthers, and more at a festival that runs through Sept. 23.

In her work as her drag queen alter ego, Fauxnique, Monique Jenkinson explores gender along with artificiality and what’s real and what’s authentic.

So in Transform, a two-week festival of dancers, musicians and performance artists seeking to answer the question, “Why Citizenship?” at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Jenkinson will look at what we mean when talk about a “real American,” for example.

“There’s this kind of authenticated citizenship and trying to figure out who belongs or doesn’t based on arbitrary borders,” Jenkinson says. “Our current, atrocious president was making false claims about Obama, claiming he wasn’t a ‘real American.’ ”

For more than a year, YBCA has been talking about the question of citizenship. Now it’s more urgent than ever, says Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Chief of Program and Pedagogy.

Fauxnique (RJ Muna)

“We have a sexual predator and highly prejudicial person, not only as the head of the country, but a similarly vile person as Attorney General,” Joseph says. “As it relates to gender and race and sexuality, it’s not an exaggeration to say some groups are under attack with everything from the Muslim ban to [Secretary of Education] Betsy DeVos essentially making it easier for people accused of sexual assault.”

Joseph says YBCA is switching to doing a two-week arts festival in the fall and the spring — which includes a former leader of the Black Panther Party leading a discussion on citizenship, a dance about the school-to-prison pipeline, and a late-night dance party — to let people know what the organization is about.

“We have a point of view that involves thinking about art as a tool to generate culture,” he says. “We’re explicit about how it is we bring people together by limiting barriers to participation.”

Dance, music, and performance may feel almost frivolous for people caught up in current politics. Joseph thinks it’s important sometimes to get away from a barrage of news and be around other people.

“So much of our discussion happens online in kind of siloed ways, and with this we’re in a common space in a theater to negate the negative energy that surrounds us,” he says. “We want to engage the political moment in shared space as opposed to digital space where people say despicable and awful things you would never say in real life. We’re more likely to exercise restraint and diplomacy when we’re together in real life, so let’s be together in real life.”

Transform, Sept. 14–23, at YBCA Forum, 701 Mission St. Free-$60 for a festival package, 415-978-2787 or ybca.org

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