Directed by Narcissister (USA, 2017, 92 min.). Digital. English and French with English subtitles.

One of the contemporary art world’s most acclaimed mixed-media and performance artists, the masked and merkin-clad Narcissister created this autobiographical documentary that showcases her spectacle-rich approach to explorations of gender, racial identity, and sexuality. Interweaving home movies and stories of her unique family history with footage of the visceral performances they inspired, Narcissister Organ Player is a cinematic journey into the mind and body of a sui generis creator. Co-presented with the Roxbury International Film Festival and the Boston Underground Film Festival.

Before the film, local artist Lani Asuncion will perform her piece BLOODLESS on the stage of the Remis Auditorium. Like Narcissister, Asuncion frequently explores her heritage and intersectional identity in her work. BLOODLESS is about what lead to the annexation of the nation of Hawai’i in 1893, when Queen Lili’uokalani stepped down from power to allow the American sugar planters under Sanford Ballard Dole  (currently known as Dole Food Company) backed by the U.S. military to establish a new provincial government with Dole as president. Asuncion’s father was born and raised on one of these implemented sugar plantations, a connection that has influenced her life and work.

Artist Statement

Read Lani Asuncion’s Full Statement

BLOODLESS is a performance about the annexation of the nation of Hawai’i in 1893, when Queen Lili’uokalani stepped down from power to allow the American sugar planters under Sanford Ballard Dole (currently known as Dole Food Company) to establish a new provincial government with Dole as president. The Coup d’état occurred with the foreknowledge of John L. Stevens, the U.S. minister to Hawaii, and 300 U.S. Marines from the U.S. cruiser Boston were called to Hawaii, allegedly to protect American lives.

In the performance the hibiscus plant is a proxy for the land of Hawai’i, the loss, the pain that Queen Lili’uokalani experience and the Colonial dominance from the Western powers that continue to affect the islands and those who live there. My father was born and raised on the pineapple plantation formally known as Kahuku Farms on O’ahu. As I uproot, dismantle, and beat the plant into my crotch; the plant is brutally torn apart and left bare and vulnerable.

This work was influenced by the diary entry of Queen “Lydia” Lili‘uokalani made to her people during the relinquishment of her power and the annexation of Hawai’i to the United States of America January 17, 1893. She wrote the following:

“Auwe! kuu aloha i kuu Aina hanau ame kuu lahui aloha. Ka iwi o kuu iwi ke koko o kuu koko. Aloha! Aloha! Aloha!”
“Alas! My love for my homeland and my beloved people. The bones of my bones the blood of my blood. Aloha! Aloha! Aloha!”

During the performance the song Aloha O’e is slowly deconstructed, each time it is repeated is gradually played out of tune. There is a jolting sense of something beautiful dying. This is one of the most famous songs associated with Hawai’i. The story of the origin of the song has several variations, and they all have in common that the song was inspired by a notable farewell embrace given by Colonel James Harbottle Boyd during a horseback trip taken by Princess Liliʻuokalani in 1878 to the Boyd ranch in Maunawili on the windward side of Oʻahu. I find similarities in her diary entry quote during the 1893 Coup. The song that came from love was later quoted through loss and pain, for her land and people.

—Lani Asuncion


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Sponsors

The Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Film Program at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is funded by the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation.