The Arty Semite

Is it Art, or 'Avant-Porn'?

By Michael Kaminer

Who is Narcissister?

Tony Stamolis

It’s a simple question that’s impossible to answer, especially since the acclaimed 41-year-old performance artist never discloses her real name. In character, she obscures her identity further by performing in wigs and masks — and by covering herself in armor-like plastic body parts.

Trained at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Narcissister warps traditional dance, art, theater, fashion and identity politics into a funny-scary persona that confronts audiences with extreme images, like pulling Russian matryoshka dolls out of her private parts.

But there’s a fierce intelligence and thoughtful agenda behind Narcissister’s work. The Huffington Post described the Downtown star as “part Cindy Sherman, part Pinocchio”; The New York Times characterized her practice, admiringly, as “avant-porn.” Narcisisster’s first solo show, “Narcissister Is You,” is currently running at Envoy Enterprises gallery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. She spoke to The Arty Semite by email from Los Angeles, where she was rehearsing for a series of appearances.

Michael Kaminer: The New York Times used the word “weirdness” to describe your work. But you’re very matter-of-fact about your practice. Do audiences and media receive your performances in the way you intend?

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