Who is Narcissister?
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?
Above all else, Los Angeles is a performer’s town. In addition to film, television, reality and theater stars, America’s second largest city now boasts a growing number of performance artists. Whether in galleries, nightclubs, street corners or living rooms, LA-based performance artists have been creating a stir in the City of Angels.
Now this decidedly avant-garde world is about to pried open. On August 11 Native Strategies was launched, a new publication wholly devoted to investigating this expanding genre in Los Angeles. Behind the journal is Jewish artist and emerging curator Brian Getnick.
“I started Native Strategies to fill a void,” said Getnick. “There’s this really organic and vibrant performance art scene that is unique to LA. Yet it lacks a critical element to help push it forward. I want Native Strategies to be that vehicle.”
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