Narcissister Looks Inward in a Hybrid Documentary/Performance/Animation Film

Narcissister’s Creative Capital project, Narcissister Organ Player, blends documentary, animation and performance to explore how the loss of the artist’s mother and her family history led to the creation of the masked persona. The project premieres at Sundance Film Festival (January 19-27).

We caught up with Narcissister as she prepared for the event.

Film still from Narcissister Organ Player

Alex Teplitzky: Organ Player is a piece that you have been working on since around 2013, and it seems like it’s developed a lot since then. Can you describe Narcissister Organ Player, and tell us about its evolution over the years?

Narcissister: Narcissister Organ Player is a hybrid documentary/performance film which explores how my complex family story, in particular my relationship with my mother, impacted me and compelled me to create the masked, erotic performance character, Narcissister.

It evolved from being a primarily performance film and art film into being more of a documentary film when I decided to use my own voice for the narration, add family photos, and most critically when my brother felt ready to unearth from deep storage and share with me home videos he had taken of my mom in the last phase of her life.

Alex: That sounds very powerful. So is this an origin story? Is it new territory for Narcissister? Why is it important to tell that story now?

Narcissister: Yes, this is the first overtly autobiographical project I have embarked on as Narcissister. The desire to tell this story emerged naturally out of my ongoing processing of the grief and bewilderment I have felt over my mom’s death.

Film still from Narcissister Organ Player

Alex: One of the exciting things about the Narcissister persona is how seamlessly it traverses through  “high” and “low”-brow art, and across mediums. Narcissister Organ Player is a perfect example of this—a performance, a documentary, an animated film. Working across genres and mediums is second nature for Narcissister, though you have expressed that is has been challenging for audiences and curators to follow the work broadly.
However, it seems like in the past few years, audiences are more willing to dismiss the “boundaries” that had kept genres from mixing, and it’s possible that the work’s premiere at Sundance is indicative of this. Have you noticed a shift around the perception and reception of your work?

Narcissister: It is super exciting to me that New Frontiers, in particular Shari Frilot, had the vision and just sheer guts to endorse a project such as mine. Although, yes, I do notice some new willingness to endorse boundary-confusing projects, I still encounter the desire to categorize into tidy boxes, not just in art, performance, and film, but we all do this with many things: people, with relationships, with situations we find ourselves in. I work on this myself.

Narcissister allows me to muck things up in a way that feels satisfying and radical, and yes, having this endorsement and platform of Sundance is thrilling!

Alex: You worked with Martha Colburn, another Creative Capital Awardee, on the animation portion of the film. Collaboration isn’t new for Narcissister, but animation might be. Can you talk about this collaboration?

Narcissister: I had known of Martha’s work and loved it. When she approached me at the Creative Capital Retreat offering to work with me on the film, I was so excited and immediately saw how perfectly her aesthetic would mix with mine, and that animation would indeed be an amazing addition to the film. I am so grateful to her for seeing this before I could.

Film still from Narcissister Organ Player

Alex: Speaking of the Creative Capital Retreat, Narcissister’s performances there have always been a highlight of my experience! Was the Retreat meaningful for your practice? How has working with Creative Capital as a whole been important for your career?

Narcissister: I have gained so much from Creative Capital—not just from the Retreat. I have learned so much about how to become more informed and more professional as an artist, and I have benefited on different levels just from the association with the organization.

Additionally, it’s just such an awesome community to be part of. And, yes, the retreat was the mother lode—wow. I was exposed to so many exciting projects, creators, and other influential people in the art and film worlds. For example, I met several festival programmers there, including Shari from Sundance, and without a doubt this eased the way towards presenting my film at the festival this year. I am totally honored to be a Creative Capital artist. Thank you!

Find out where to catch several screenings and performances of Narcissister Organ Player at Sundance Film Festival.