ORLAN: workshop and talk
Phenomena of society and critical and artistic distance
Performance and visual arts
She shocked the world in the 1990s with the performance The Reincarnation of Saint ORLAN, a series of nine plastic surgeries that were broadcast via satellite to several museums and art galleries in Europe. ORLAN was inspired by Botticelli's Venus to change her chin, by the Mona Lisa to change her forehead and by François Boucher's Europa to change her lips, in addition to implanting horns on the sides of her forehead. A body constantly invaded and manipulated by the violence of heteronormative oppression, which wants to control it, and by biotechnologies, which want to model it in the light of aesthetic standards. Today, thirty years later, we have turned changing our bodies’ identity into a natural thing, but by using digital filters and other technological means that do not inscribe deep transformations on the flesh. During the surgeries, despite the anaesthesia, ORLAN remained conscious and mixed skulls, fruits, and vegetables on stage, read texts or made drawings using her fingers and her own blood: “I wanted to talk about how much women's bodies are mistreated. (...) I was too extreme, everyone thinks I'm a monster".
ORLAN is one of the most important French artists, author of the manifesto “Carnal Art”. She uses sculpture, photography, performance, video, 3D, video games, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics, as well as scientific and medical techniques, such as surgery and biotechnology, to question social phenomena of our time. The artist praises the freedom of the body and of herself, with works that constitute protests against social paradigms and beauty standards.
Invited by the BoCA, in her first workshop in Portugal, ORLAN proposes that each participant chooses an aspect of her work that they want to explore to develop an artistic proposal regarding a phenomenon of society. ORLAN questions the status of the body in society through all the social, cultural, traditional, political, and religious pressures that are inscribed on the flesh, the bodies, namely on women’s bodies. Over three days, each participant will therefore locate and develop their own artistic approach based on concepts identified in ORLAN's work.
Public talk with ORLAN moderated by Alexandre Calado.
Born in Saint-Étienne, France, in 1947, Mireille Suzanne Francette Porte adopted the pseudonym ORLAN in 1962. In 1964, the artist’s first performance piece, Action Or-lent: les marches au ralenti dite au sens interdit marked the beginning of a prolific, multidisciplinary career. Produced between 1974-1975, Strip-tease occasionnel à l’aide des draps du trousseau was one of ORLAN’s earliest photographic works. The provocative series, which saw the artist wrap herself in semen-stained sheets to take on the role of Sandro Botticelli’s Venus, was an example of two practices that would go on to become central to her work: subverting religious icons and rejecting the male gaze. These themes are perhaps never more evident than in her works of “carnal art”; surgical body modifications undergone and documented by the artist throughout the 1990s.
As a self-described feminist artist, ORLAN uses photography, sculpture, performance, and even bio-art to explore and reject the traditionally passive roles assigned to women in both art and society. The importance and poignancy of these works mean that they are currently held in the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum, in Los Angeles, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the M HKA – Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp, and are continually exhibited by museums and galleries around the world.
ORLAN was awarded some prizes and distinctions such as Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters (2013), medal of Chevalier de l'Ordre National du Mérite (2010), Female Excellence Award by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2017), 100 Heroines Award by The Royal Photographic Society (2018), special Woman of the Year Award, given by Prince Albert II of Monaco and she is appointed Professor Emeritus of the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome (2019), medal of the National Order of the Legion of Honour at the rank of Chevalier (2020).
In 2022, ORLAN is exhibiting her Manifeste ORLAN, Corps et Sculptures at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Les Abattoirs in Toulouse and she is also presenting Les femmes qui pleurent sont en colère at the Picasso Museum in Paris.