From the strange looks of folks frequenting the 99 cent store featured in the opening scene of Narcissister’s performance video Burka Barbie, the artist’s attempt to merge with the all-American doll – complete with sparkly pink gown, plastic tits and purple lips - in fact makes her a bit of a “freak” to behold. Clutching her tacky Barbie beach bag, she struts through the aisles looking as plastic, brittle and consumable as the items lining the shelves. Fascinated by a mysterious doll, labeled in Arabic, the next scene catapults us into another world altogether, where life-size Burka Barbie dances right out of her box and performs loosely choreographed dips and spins with other burka sisters. Invoking dance as mystical experience, Burka Barbie twists, turns and gesticulates as she tries on the outfits and accessories she comes packaged with. Commodities like handbags, cigarettes, shades and stripper heels serve as dual signifiers, at once alluding to the implied freedoms of capitalism and Western women’s sexual liberty as well as its traps. Just like the controversially oppressive laws stating that Muslim women must cover up, Narcissister’s work suggests Western women’s sexual freedom might just be another “veil” of illusion. As an African-American female of mixed heritage including Jewish-Moroccan ancestry, Narcissister’s performance video Burka Barbie ultimately magnifies the shifting parameters - be they geographical, social or political - of feminist diasporic consciousness around the female body and its objectification. As with her characteristic mask, Burka Barbie highlights femininity as always and only performative, with concealment and disguise its chief modus operandi. In the climactic scene we see Narcissister emerge into her second to last persona, a lingerie bomber that explodes a prom-style dress out of her dynamite pack and puts it on. Bursting old paradigms that frame the female as the Dark Continent/Other and Muslim culture as “Axis of Evil,” Burka Barbie as fashion renegade explores the female body itself as a type of terrorism operating against global patriarchal authority.
-Katie Cercone, 2014