Review: ‘Narcissister Organ Player’ (Partly) Unveils an Artist

Review: ‘Narcissister Organ Player’ (Partly) Unveils an Artist


The Brooklyn performance artist Narcissister is known for wearing a mask — and sometimes even two, on the front and back of her head — despite often wearing little else. The combination of nudity and anonymity has a jarring effect. That cognitive dissonance, along with Narcissister’s grab bag of props, prosthetics and costumes, which she layers on as if she were a Russian doll, lends her dance pieces a sinister air.

Journalists have generally respected Narcissister’s desire to remain incognito, but her identity isn’t a Banksy-level secret. From watching “Narcissister Organ Player,” a documentary and performance film that she directed herself, for instance, it is easy to glean her real first and last names.

At the core of the movie are two paradoxes: How does an artist whose work relies at least partly on self-erasure direct a self-baring autobiography? And how does a performer who deals in the inexplicable go about making a documentary whose purpose, ostensibly, is to explain things?

The contradictory goals of the film seem fitting, given the nature of Narcissister’s art, and she reconciles them well. Narcissister, who never appears on camera without a mask, addresses viewers primarily in a singsong voice-over. When showing us photographs of her earlier years, she puts a finger over one of her eyes. The idea that her younger self is visible, but never completely, also speaks to her eclectic heritage as the daughter of an African-American physicist and a Jewish emigrant from Morocco.

Narcissister attributes her fixation on biological and sexual imagery — a 2013 profile in The New York Times cited a “reverse striptease” in which she pulled her clothes out of her orifices — to her mother, who suffered heart valve scarring as a result of rheumatic fever. (In one of the performances shown, Narcissister, dressed as a giant heart organ, bursts out of scenery that resembles a giant pair of breasts.) Her mother’s body was always very close to her consciousness, Narcisisster explains; therefore, she puts strives not to put physical limits on her own body.

The performance pieces volley between hypnotic and kitschy (there’s footage of her in 2011 on “America’s Got Talent”), and interest in them is a prerequisite for a movie that, by design, pushes the boundaries of T.M.I. (although the home movie footage is quite tender). All the same, Narcissister’s background in stagecraft, movement and rhythm serves her well as a filmmaker: Far from a conventional autobiography, “Narcissister Organ Player” always offers something to catch your eye or ear.



Source link

About The Author

Related posts

Leave a Reply