AN ENCOUNTER WITH ORLAN

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ORLAN in front of Femme-girafe africaine Ndebelé souche nguni Zimbabwe et visage de femme Euro-parisienne, Self-Hybridation africane, 2000, Digital photograph, colour print, 155.5 x 124 cm  Saint Etienne, Musée d’Art Moderne de Saint-Etienne Métropole (photograph Cliff Shain, Standard Bank)

What a boon it was for contemporary art lovers to meet French born neo feminist artist ORLAN at the recent 20th Century Masters: The Human Figure exhibition, Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg, part of the French Season.

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ORLAN and Marion Dixon who conducted all the walkabouts for 20th Century Masters: The Human Figure (photograph Cliff Shain,Standard Bank)

 

ORLAN made a surprise visit to the gallery just prior to one of the Friday lunchtime public walkabouts.

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ORLAN and Cimier ancien de danse Ejaban Nigeria et visage Euro-Stéphanoise, Self Hybridisation, 2000, Digital photograph, colour print, 125 x 156 cm, Saint Etienne, Musée d’Art Moderne de Saint-Etienne Métropole (photograph Cliff Shain, Standard Bank)

There was a flutter of whispers, tentative glances and handshakes before ORLAN began her tour of the exhibition curated by Sylvie Ramond. Orlan spoke about the two works from her Self Hybridisation series on show and treated gallery goers to a first-hand insight into her approach to her art, controversially using her own body as a medium of expression.

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(photograph Cliff Shain,Standard Bank)

She uses her body transformations to turn the body inside out, to interrogate notions of beauty and identity – and to make public that which is usually hidden.

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(photograph Cliff Shain,Standard Bank)

ORLAN spoke about how we are all trapped in our own bodies, and that women of her generation felt voiceless, restricted and unable to express their own identity within a patriarchal society, culture and religion imposing inordinate limitations on women, their sexuality and bodies.

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(photograph Cliff Shain,Standard Bank)

ORLAN maintains that identity should be mutant and malleable and that one should be able choose and change identity, and not slavishly follow imposed norms.

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Kneeling at the feet of the ‘source’ ….  (photograph Cliff Shain, Standard Bank)

ORLAN has a compelling desire to question and confront the commoditisation of the female body, unattainable notions of beauty predicated by a plethora of visual media, television, cinema, advertising and a vacuous celebrity culture.

Prior to undertaking the self-hybridisation series, ORLAN underwent a series of filmed cosmetic surgical procedures – surgery for the first time becomes performance art – with her own body as spectacle.

And she lets us into the usually closed and private clinical theatre space, again taking the inside out, in operations in which all the participants are thematically dressed in designer clothes along the lines of a particular literary or philosophical concept.

ORLAN challenges canons of beauty in art historical terms through plastic surgery procedures and she has appropriated, for example, the chin of Botticelli’s Venus and the protrusions of the forehead of another icon of beauty, Mona Lisa, and features from other icons of beauty.

But ORLAN does not limit her artistic exploration of identity and conformity only to Western women’s enslavement to attaining notions of beauty, evidenced by the digital images of her Self-Hybridisation series, Cimier ancien de danse Ejaban Nigeria et visage Euro-Stéphanoise, Self Hybridisation, 2000, Digital photograph, colour print, 125 x 156 cm, Saint Etienne, Musée d’Art Moderne de Saint-Etienne Métropole (photograph Cliff Shain, Standard Bank)

Femme-girafe africaine Ndebelé souche nguni Zimbabwe et visage de femme Euro-parisienne, Self-Hybridation africane, 2000, Digital photograph, colour print, 155.5 x 124 cm  Saint Etienne, Musée d’Art Moderne de Saint-Etienne Métropole (photograph Cliff Shain, Standard Bank)

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About marvellousartmusings

Marvellous Art Musings interactively muses on a personal journey in the field of twentieth century and contemporary South African art, and showcases the vibrant South African art scene and more ... Marvellous Art provides art consulting, curating and writing services
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