Carnal Art: Orlan’s Refacing by C. Jill O’Bryan

By C. Jill O’Bryan

The French artist Orlan is notorious for performances in which her physique is surgically altered. In 9 such functionality surgical procedures, positive aspects from Greek goddesses painted through Botticelli, Gérard, Moreau, and an nameless institution of Fontainebleau artist, in addition to from da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, have been implanted into Orlan’s face. in the course of her surgical performances, audience witness a cloth tampering with the connection among the face and person id, the unique and the built, a historic critique of the organization of paintings with good looks and the feminine body.

Responding to Orlan’s definition of her functionality surgical procedures as “carnal art,” C. Jill O’Bryan considers how the artist’s ever-fluctuating reconstructions of her face query idealized attractiveness and feminine id, persuasively arguing that Orlan’s surgically reinvented face succeeds in either reinforcing and breaking up corporeal subjectivity and illustration. O’Bryan contextualizes Orlan’s operations in the centuries-long background of public dissections and surgical procedures, lavish anatomical illustrations created to attract the gaze into the opened anatomy, Artaud’s “Theater of Cruelty” within the early 20th century, and modern works and performances by way of Cindy Sherman, Hans Bellman, and Annie Sprinkle.
A compelling blurring of the road among feminist idea and paintings feedback, O’Bryan’s shut exam of Orlan’s functionality surgical procedures complicates and reconfigures the thought of identity—and its relation to the body—at the very boundary dividing paintings from identification.

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Additional resources for Carnal Art: Orlan’s Refacing

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It is important to remember that even though Orlan repeatedly references attributes of beauty associated with these five paintings, she insists that she is not literally appropriating any of them. Rather, she highlights these paintings in order to conceptually orient her reincarnation within the realms of Western art history, male-made idealized images of feminine beauty, and performances of artistic creation. La réincarnation de Sainte-Orlan is one of many performances in which Orlan places her body in the center of the piece, exposing it as material to be examined and manipulated.

Cronenberg has offered Orlan the chance to play herself should Figure 5. Orlan, Self-hybridation Africaine: Masque Mbangu moitié noir moitié blanc et visage de femme Euro-Stéphanoise avec bigoudis (African Self-Hybridation: Half-White, Half-Black Mbangu Mask with Face of Euro-Saint-Étienne Woman in Rollers) (2002). 56 m. Digital treatment: Jean-Michel Cambilhou. Copyright 2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. qxd 1/10/2005 10:18 AM Page 13 Orlan’s Body of Work — 13 “Painkillers” ever be realized as a film.

Qxd 1/10/2005 10:18 AM Page 25 Orlan’s Body of Work — 25 The transgressiveness of Schneemann’s work exploded into the art world. ”96 The essentialist feminists of the s challenged her work as a completely narcissistic gesture that debased the goddesses that she alluded to with the snake imagery. The antiessentialists criticized her work as essentialist—as defining woman’s body, and thus her identity, as erotic, vaginal, vulval. 97 But Schneemann, through performed representation, was revealing the boundlessness of feminine sexualized identity.

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