Le Récit

June 2006 - May 2007
MAMC - Musée d’art moderne et contemporain de Saint-Étienne Métropole, France


The most comprehensive retrospective ever conceived on ORLAN's work, organised on the occasion of her sixtieth birthday, in her hometown of Saint-Etienne.

Since the mid-sixties, ORLAN has journeyed through the most important art movements of her time as an extraordinary protagonist. Her unique style has always been that of a sophisticated, irreverent, ironic, blasphemous, iconoclastic artist, for whom the provocation of flesh, the reverse of the body, art and life, the play of identity, the constant oscillation between the real and the virtual, reach the heights of poetry.

With a wide angle on the artist’s life and work, Le Récit illustrates the various stages of ORLAN’s work, from the precious first plastic works of the early Sixties when she began exploring the concept of “body-sculpture,” to the works linked to the feminist movement, all the while passing through the artist’s reinterpretation of Judeo-Christian iconography. Many previously unseen works presented as part of the exhibit bear witness to an in-depth review of the baroque metaphor in general, and of Bernini’s Saint Theresa in particular. This “hagiographic” declension of the “Art Corporel” (Body Art) is symptomatic of ORLAN’s artistic journey.

The retrospective also touches upon surgical-operation-performances conceived as original and provocative answers to the crisis of performance. In the early Nineties, ORLAN transformed an operating room into an artist’s studio in which artwork was produced, thus inaugurating the mutating paradigm of contemporary art - a progressive return to “bodily” themes - in a direct relationship with new technologies and biotechnology. The appropriation of plastic surgery as a creative art form, both as subject and object of the performance in which the “oeuvre-action” integrates the artist’s body, marks the passage of bodily art into carnal art in ORLAN’s work.

In the Self-Hybridization series (Pre-Colombian, African and the more recent ones on Native Americans), ORLAN continues her digital journey through the infinite possibility of multiple identities. By using various canons of beauty and aesthetics from different times and places, the artist creates “living” totemic figures, almost tangible in their virtuality and fascinating in their disturbing appearance, and seductive in their artificial otherness.

For the vernissage and to celebrate the thirtieth birthday of her seminal performance Le Baiser de l’Artiste (The artist's Kiss, 1977), ORLAN presented a performance Hybrider et Recycler especially conceived for the exhibit in collaboration with Andrea Crews.