Thursday, July 26, 2012


Orlan as Understood by Isaac Stolzfuts

In December of 2004 Isaac wrote about Orlan, the famous French feminist artist . He looked at the artist's work from the 1990’s in which she created a number of makeovers posturing as “the reincarnation of St. Orlan” in which she changed her visage to represent various idealized historical sculptures and paintings of women by male artists. She performed these makeovers by having plastic surgery. Isaac wrote a number of entries about Orlan. This is but one of those. I personally find all this absolutely bizarre because "Googling" Orlan turns up a photograph of the "Orlan" spacesuit by NASA, the almost defunct (1% of US budget) USA space administration, the ultimate makeover of Orlan into a space person! Ye gad! :)


She is the courageous French artist, the ultimate reality makeover. Actually, she is the first makeover from which all the others derive. However, Orlan’s purpose has to do with negating all the misplaced values around which the reality makeover TV shows are built. Orlan is her own canvas, and her work is about actual feminine values of self worth, including historical reference to art works that portray the highest of values to which a woman might subscribe. Orlan speaks to us of misplaced moral values that are in truth prejudice disguised as value, false realities, and destructive relationships between self image, the soul, and the actual physical presence that contains the first two, the body. Additionally, Orlan’s work is about communication between the artist’s production concerning the experience of his / her body, and the viewer’s experience of his / her own body. She is creating perhaps the most complex body (pun intended) of work of the (post) Postmodern era.

So, Who is Orlan?

Orlan has purposefully obfuscated her own history, a possible comment about the contemporary cultural belief that truth is discovered through detailed knowledge about the personal lives of individuals. We do know, however that she is 57 years old, and that she was born in St. Etienne, France.

She moved to Paris, France in 1980. Presently, she is Professor of of Fine Arts at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Dijon... ...Influenced by Duchamp, she considers her body a “readymade” and refers to her own work as “Carnal Art.”*

Orlan states that she is feminist, that her “Carnal Art” is against pain, religion - she states specifically, the Christian religion - and convention, but for public debate, atheism, and freedom. Thus, her art is for physical presence, and fortunately, in our time of increasing fundamentalist control of society and state in all cultures, a voice that insists on reason based in physical presence as opposed to faith based oppositions.

Do I worry that her physical posturing makes any threat to my Liberal Christian positions. No, dear journal, I do not, because my faith is open to the physical presence of Christ’s body in the world. He lived, was a man, and I believe was heir to all that that entails. Do Orlan’s notions pose a threat to fundamentalist dogma? Yes, because dogma is based in human misconceptions and positions made hard as stone by people who are unable or refuse to open their minds in order to think through the conundrums that culture, politics, religion, and science place before them.

*image is in the public domain - from Wikipedia ( viewed 9:30 AM, EDT, Thursday, July 26, 2012.

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