Orlan: The Narrative
Text by Lóránd Hegyi, Joerg Bader, Eugenio Viola, Marcela Iacub, Donald Kuspit, Peggy Phelan.
Since 1990, French-born artist Orlan has done seven plastic surgery “performances” which have radically reconstructed her face. She last added futuristic-looking pads of skin to each temple--utilizing the process which ordinarily constructs heightened cheekbones. In a 1998 digital photography series called Self Hybridization, she montaged pictures of herself with images of Pre-Columbian, American Indian, African and “mutant” figures. Notorious for the kind of stunts that make good sound bites--on French television in 1993, she gave Madonna a reliquary containing a few grams of flesh that had been removed during surgery, to which Madonna replied, “It looks like caviar”--Orlan has been the subject of a host of critical writings in the fields of Feminism, Body art and Performance art. Orlan’s most definitive monograph to date, this volume contextualizes past works--which include not only performance, but painting, sculpture, photography and poetry--with the plastic surgery pieces for which she is best known. It is published following the artist’s first museum retrospective, which took place at the Museum of Modern Art in Sainte-Etienne, France, on the occasion of her sixtieth birthday, in 2007. Organized by Lóránd Hegyi, co-curator of the 2003 Venice Biennale, the retrospective brought Orlan’s entire oeuvre together for the first time; Hegyi also contributes an incisive essay to this monograph.