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To make her body “a place of public debate”: this is the iconoclastic vocation that ORLAN gave herself nearly sixty years ago. Photographs, videos, sculptures, installations, performances, bodily metamorphoses, and virtual hybridizations… she has made a manifesto of her work and her life. 

A feminist and subversive manifesto as the retrospective (conceived with the artist) at the Musée des Abattoirs in Toulouse tells us.

Playing with the shadows drawn by the torsions of the members in her photographic series of the Bodies-sculpture (1964-1967), giving birth to an androgynous clone on a white sheet (ORLAN accouche d’elle-même, 1964), or taking the pose in Botticellian Venus or in Great Odalisque of Ingres (1977) in “living pictures”, revisiting the academic canons and the fetishist postures assigned to woman in the course of the history of the art; from the start, ORLAN made the “space of the body” (performed and photographed) her medium as material and instrument, and, at the same time, matter, subject, and object.


From 1964, at the age of seventeen, she realized performances in the street, slow-motion walks, in her native city of Saint-Etienne. First pioneer steps in the Body art… And it is in 1966 that she affirms, in a photograph full of humor with the value of manifesto, her desire of emancipation of the traditional art, circumscribed to the space in two dimensions of the painted canvas: Attempt to get out of the frame with uncovered face, where we see her, naked, extirpating herself from a rococo frame. Passing to the act, she does not hesitate to sell herself on the markets by small pieces (photographed) and to exhibit herself [dressed] of her own nudity (photographed), between 1976 and 1977. A point of no return and great scandal, it is in this same year, 1977, that she offers, on the steps of the temple of the commercial art (the FIAC), in a big, half-open drape of saint and baroque whore her Kiss of the artist for five francs (to slip in offering in her naked trunk of Madonna of fair): blasphemy which will make her celebrity. And which will be, from now on, her credo.

Morphing, fusion, self-hybridization…

A trans-media artist, playing with all transgressions, she will go so far as to deliver her flesh to the hands of surgeons in charge of remodeling her plastic according to the criteria of the ideal beauty incarnated by the goddesses of Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci, during a series of surgical operations-performances theatricalized (broadcasted live). Supreme profanation that this “Art Charnel” making of the body, “stitched” and “sutured”, “a modified ready-made”, a “self-creation”… A process of “disfiguration and refiguration” intended to thwart “the mask of the Innate” and to capture the flow of the possible identities, multiple… that the artist – sporting, since her last operation-performance (dated 1993) of the protruding temples – will pursue, in particular, in digitized self-portraits, Self-Hybridations, merging scarifications, tattoos, masks, and deformations… with her own reconfigured face.

Robot or skinned in 3D, the avatars of ORLAN are numerous. A work in progress now delivered to genetic manipulations and biotechnologies, to artificial intelligence and augmented reality, all dedicated to transhumanism…

Exhibition Manifeste ORLAN. Bodies and sculptures

Until August 28th

Les Abattoirs – FRAC Occitanie Toulouse –

See also

Exhibition Women Warriors Women in combat

With, in particular, Corinne Borgnet, Céline Cléron, Rachel Labadie, Olga Kisseleva, Myriam Méchita, Brigitte Ziegler, Aïda Patricia Schweizer… and ORLAN 

Until May 7

Topography of art – rue de Thorigny, Paris, III –

Autobiography of Orlan Strip-tease, all about my life, all about my art, published by Gallimard, June 2021

 Stéphanie Dulout