Copyright Axcel Heise
Orlan-operation- vue-an-interview-by-Creative-Mapping 3
Controversial French artist Orlan is perhaps most infamous for using her own body as a tool for a series of ‘performance-surgeries’ known as The Reincarnation of Saint-Orlan’
Being a narcissist isn’t easy when the question is not of loving your own image, but of recreating the self through deliberate acts of alienation.
– Orlan, L ‘Acte pour L’Art
Controversial French artist Orlan is perhaps most infamous for using her own body as a tool for a series of ‘performance-surgeries’ known as The Reincarnation of Saint-Orlan’. Her aim was to transform her own physical body, based on, and inspired by, classical beauty ideals from Western art; a chin like Botticelli’s Venus, the nose of Jean-Léon Gérôme’s Psyche, the lips of Boucher’s Europe, the eyes of Diana as painted by the Fontainebleau School and the forehead of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Orlan chose all these iconic figures for the stories connected with them.
Yet there is often tragedy in art, and from it comes enlightenment; it was 1978 and Orlan was hospitalized for emergency surgery. She took a video crew to film the operation and insisted on being conscious during surgery. She wasn’t in pain, finding what was happening to her body utterly compelling – and marked the birth of an artistic era for Orlan. And the word ‘birth’ is not used lightly – Orlan’s whole career has been a series of rebirths and reinventions that have challenged mainstream perceptions of both body and art. It could even be said she has changed the course of artistic history.
Creative Mapping caught up with Orlan in Paris recently when she was President of Diane Pernet’s hugely acclaimed ASVOFF 5 (A Shaded View On Fashion Film festival) – and she told us more about what drives and inspires her.