Film Review: ‘Narcissister Organ Player’

For a long time, performance artists cultivated the image, and maybe still do, of standing outside the system of conventional bourgeois values. (More often than not, that was the whole point.) But in the fascinating avant-garde home-movie documentary psychodrama “Narcissister Organ Player,” the performance artist who calls herself Narcissister comes off as both a liberated and mind-opening deconstructionist of our addictive/oppressive image culture and an unapologetic paragon of the middle class. She’s a provocateur who’s the first to acknowledge her own place in the system.

On stage, she’s a prankish gender outlaw whose work is at once witty, shocking, disturbing, and supremely expressive of her feminine mystique. She bares a great deal of her body, or shrouds it in prosthetic costumes that come off as more naked than her nudity. Yet she never reveals her face. She wears masks that look like dada store mannequins (she wears them even on the red carpet), and what’s eerie — almost scary — about the effect is not that the masks cover her humanity, but that the squinchy cold Barbie-doll features almost look like they have an identity of their own. The effect is akin to that of the old Devo mascot Boojie Boy or the Lady in the Radiator from “Eraserhead”: We know we’re looking at a person in a mask, but that person looks like they’re crying out to be someone real. Narcissister, who’s of mixed-race heritage (hence her stage name, a merging of “narcissist” and “sister”), refuses to reveal herself because she’s saying that even if she did, you wouldn’t see any more of who she is.