“NARCISSISTER ORGAN PLAYER”— Hybrid Documentary-Performance Film



Hybrid Documentary-Performance Film

Amos Lassen

 “Narcissister Organ Player” is a compelling, audacious and intimate self-portrait of an enigmatic and celebrated performance artist. This hybrid documentary-performance Film showcases  explorations of gender, racial identity and sexuality (three big items in the news today… and always). One of the contemporary art world’s most acclaimed mixed-media and performance artists is the masked and merkin-clad Narcissister,  the subject of this documentary. She designed and directed it as well.

The  film deconstructs Narcissister’s celebrated stage shows that bring together dance, elaborate costumes, pop music hits, unabashed eroticism and lots of humor.  She reveals  the influence of her origins, growing up in blonde-haired, blue-eyed Southern California as the child of a Sephardic Jewish mother and an African-American father. She is a former dancer whose shows amuse, shock, confound, and enchant as she explores the intimacies of her relationship with a mother whose influence and support were critical in shaping the artist that she is today.

She has something  to say about self-love and self-loathing in women’s lives and is thrilling, profound and an utterly moving experience. Narcissister (Born 1971 as Isabelle Rachel Lumpkin) is a performance artist known the world over for her strange, highly sexual and bold pieces. She has a deep love for her family, especially her mother. The film explores her experiences growing up and the paths of both her parents that lead to the life she’s lead and the effects it has on the work she’s done and will continue to do. We are never sure what she’s trying to say. I had not heard of Narcissister before watching this and I must say I am now a fan. Watching her was very much like watching my own life although I have no idea why.

We see raw emotion and complete introspection as we look at one families history and one woman’s complex, and difficult journey that brought her to the artist she is today. Our emotions come forward here and we realize that is something to be learned here.

In her film, Narcssister changes in and out of costumes, transforms shape, and turns into a dwarf, a doll, and even a heavy metal brother masturbating to porn through dance, music, burlesque, and all the while telling her own life story. She calls herself Narcissister to make the point, with “sister” that she’s part African American, and also as a joking commentary on her own self-involvement. The performances are very organically rooted in the body. For example, she pulls masks and other objects from her vagina and anus and part of her performance has her crawling out of giant models of those body parts, evoking birth and other bodily functions.

She talks about her issues with her body as a person of color and wanting to get past them and she uses valid artistic path. She is described as an attempt to demonstrate how her family history impacted her life, and propelled her to create the performance persona of Narcissister for her art.

The film is so full of that performance and artistry, we cqn forget that there is  a story being told. The result is an incomplete picture of the artist being sold as full revelation. While the effect is such that it did impart an appreciation for her performance art and how the artist relates to her own body, Narcissister both as filmmaker and artist, blurs the message for the sake of the details. She narrates the film in such a way that the story of her parents’ romance, breakup, and reconnection is totally engaging, and there are moments in her performances and narration that play well together to connect her choices in the art with her motivation for creating. Narcissister’s performance pieces are an outlet through which she allows herself to analyze her own life and person, but to an outsider  that revelation is obscured; her performances are provocative and involve heavy use of bodily imagery both in set decoration, along with use of her own body, orifices, and nudity.

The audience gets an idea of where this artist comes from, but not much of an idea of who the artist herself really is. By leaving that last wall between herself and the audience, we feel as if we have been on an aimless journey yet a journey that is completely enjoyable and entertaining.

Leave a Reply