By C. Jill O’Bryan
The French artist Orlan is notorious for performances within which her physique is surgically altered. In 9 such functionality surgical procedures, good points from Greek goddesses painted through Botticelli, Gérard, Moreau, and an nameless tuition 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 developed, a ancient critique of the organization of artwork with attractiveness 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 good looks 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 inspiration of identity—and its relation to the body—at the very boundary dividing paintings from id.
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Additional info for Carnal Art: Orlan’s Refacing
124 Several postconference discussions (both in and out of classes) focused on how intolerable her performance surgeries were, decadent and mad performances that not only were oﬀensive but also possibly took a step backward in the continuum of feminist political thinking. Although there seemed to be a consensus that her work challenged feminist ideologies, it was received with a profound ambivalence. Through the years I have watched this response reverberate through her audiences. Orlan expects this and excuses beforehand those who cannot watch her performances or tolerate her work.
Female beauty is at one and the same time the monstrous feminine. In the photograph Oﬃcial Portrait with Bride of Frankenstein Wig (), taken just after the third surgery,74 Orlan leans forward, resting her chin on one hand, which wears a black glove and large gold rings (Figure ). Her plump red lips and smooth, unscarred skin are radiant. Her wig, large, black, wavy, and piled on top of her head, is adorned with two stripes of white hair that emanate from her temples. She is strikingly beautiful in this theatrical portrait.
Orlan expects this and excuses beforehand those who cannot watch her performances or tolerate her work. The uneasiness exhibited by her feminist audience is most likely due to the fact that Orlan’s work does not overtly reinforce feminist ideologies by reproducing them in a didactic politicized form that cannot be misinterpreted. She has never communicated “safe” feminist aesthetics. Rather, Orlan’s aesthetics deconstructs feminine beauty through the use of her own body as sculptable material. Far from seeking beauty or promotional advertisement for cosmetic surgery, she utilizes medical technology to make herself unattractive.