Saturday afternoon, I took the train from Astoria to Prince Street. Navigating East, through the brick wall to brick wall Soho throng, I crossed that little cement slab of park that bisects the Lower East Side to Rivington Street, past the haunted (still exotic) dereliction of the Rivington Street Synagogue. I was on my way to see “Narcissister IS YOU” at envoy enterprises, a very small gallery with a big name. The upstairs gallery space had an array of poster- size photos and a couple of “interactive” Barbie-like masks where you could place your face and gaze into the opposing mirror...then, voila! Narcissister is you! You could be a white girl cipher or you could cipher a person of color. When I arrived, the gallery was empty except for the owner and Narcissister herself, apparently taking care of some business. Narcissister is ever-masked and anonymous, but the photos of the woman in a half-Barbie eclipse of nose- to-forehead showed the same botoxed lips, clean strong jaw, and stem-like neck with just the merest hints of encroaching Necklaces of Venus. While Narcissister in the flesh was swathed and caped in billows of void black (she is quoted in the Times: “I’m actually a very private and shy person and Narcissister is separate from me”), her separated persona was frozen photos, different characterizations of train wreck femme. I’ll call one Salvation Army Narcissister standing the Stars n’Stripes. Another, Angela Davis Narcissister, a kind of unwoundable engine —a full face Barbie with packing tape stripped over her visage and massive gorgeous Afro. In her Angela Davis incarnation Narcissister emulates even the skeleton-rack shoulders, the scholarly shrug of AD. There were several times, actually, when the Barbie mask defied its blankness and exuded emotion like a character in a Noh play. There was Pink Talon Narcissister clutching and crushing her breasts. There was a powerfully ravaged wreck of a junkyard doll Narcissister on Chartreuse, and a Cartier Smash-face Narcissister formal in black diamonds.
The gallery had begun to fill up a bit, but I noticed that most of the downtown hipsters made short work of the pictures (too bad because they were fabulous with history and context and vision). Hipsters headed for the video dungeon below.
Somewhere in his book Hardboiled, Geoffrey O’Brien talks about the porn theaters in a Times Square that today is completely Disneyfied and tourist bright. But once upon a time, Time Square was a thick fog of tense iniquity. For real. O'Brien's point was about the communality of experience in those old porn theaters, where guys slunk down in their seats maybe with newspapers in For real. O'Brien's point was about the communality of experinece in those old their laps, and though they were solitary souls, they did share the same ether of porn theaters, where guys slunk down in their seats maybe with newspapers in desire before the proliferation of video, of isolation and privacy. To that point, their laps, and though they were solitary souls, they did share the same ether of Narcissister, in a gesture of nostalgia, has provided a deep leather sectional sort desire before the proliferation of video, of isolation and privacy. To that point, of ship for fools to sink in and gawk at her triptych of self-loving in full Barbie Narcissister, in a gesture of nostalgia, has provided a deep leather sectional sort mask drag. The center panel has Madame straight on, spread-eagled, filleted of ship for fools to sink in and gawk at her triptych of self-loving in full Barbie open in bed, camera mounted at the foot of. She’s wearing only the Barbie mask drag. The center panel has Madame straight on, spread-eagled, filleted open mask and a blouse her hand tucks under Napoleon-like, and she masturbates to in bed, camera mounted at the foot of. She’s wearing only the Barbie mask and variations of her theme shown on the other two wings of screen to a background a blouse her hand tucks under Napoleon-like, and she masturbates to variations drone of lost-in-the-airport-post-apocalypse mewling. She gambols over the of her theme shown on the other two wings of screen. And to a background toilet removing or inserting a tampon; is cased in tight white and slinking in drone of lost-in-the-airport-post-apocalypse mewling. She gambols over the front of a painting’s constructivist shard; gyrates bikinied and transmogrifies her litheness into a fat dwarf. She posese as Mr. or Mrs. Universe infront of Warhol’s Marilyn’s, exaggeratedly miming The Pout. There is Narcissister as on a rooftop; Narcissister pole dancing in a hardhat minus the pole; Narcissister Barbarella/Vegas/Folie Bergere showgirl provocatively prowling a staircase just not quite nude; Narcissister with yet another Narcissister replicant grooving on a rooftop; Narcissister pole dancing in a hardhat minus the pole; Narcissister spray-painting some vagina gigantica. Here is Narcissister sitting down to dinner or Narcissister as The Bearded Man. Dedicatedly and continuously masturbating in her visions in the center panel Narcissister perpetuates the unwoundable, unstoppable engine. As she lies further back in the pillows, her chin sinks down on her chest and again the flat mask becomes expressive in a dead-eye erotic trance.
There are kaleidoscope Naricssisters in a wig store, wig stands with different hair but faces all the same. Now, Narcissister in her own Barbie mask licks the same mask in hand. There is a Barbie face painstakingly dug out, resurrected from burial in the woods. And there are Chaplinesque cane- bobbing Narcissisters and Twin Muslim Narcissisters. There is Madame, alone, backing up and onto a man in bed. She turns slowly, carefully, so that the man’s face (the face is inviolate to Narcissister) is eclipsed as she clambers on. Facing the camera, Stay-On-Top Narcissister performs addictive, indiscriminate, and stale. The aging and ephemeral are denied and she is unable to struggle across her abyss to any Otherness because any Otherness is immediately templated and overlaid with a commercial replicant self. And in this, Narcissister is brilliant and hilarious, comic and terribly sad. There is a moment when her Barbie sits quietly in the woods in jeans leaning on a tree, and a moment standing ordinary in a blue sweater in an ordinary apartment when again the Barbie mask grows expressive — thoughtful and wistful — and Narcissister sits serenely and she is composed. Then the triptych phantasms resume, I guess. But I started feeling claustrophobic, tired and weary of it all. The thing about Self, any Self, is that it’s not all that interesting for all that long. I’d reached my limit. I imagined that maybe Narcissister reached hers, too.
When I left it was almost dark and I swung up the Bowery on my way to a party on the West Side. I’d come out of a dungeon and I still couldn’t see that well. There were shapes like huddles milling against a wall. They seemed to go on and to never end and I realized it was the Bowery Mission and that these were all the men waiting for their supper. Narcissister came to mind and I wondered what these men would think of her, and for a moment, just a moment, felt protective and afraid.