”I consider that the body is political. That the private sphere is political. And that everything we do is political.” Meet ORLAN. A French artist who has been working with themes of the body, gender, and religion for decades.
“My name is spelled with capital letters because I don’t want to fit into the ranks,” ORLAN explains and continues: “What’s important to me is to say very important things for my time and to reflect upon social trends.” She works in various mediums, from exclusive marble from Carrara in Italy to 3D printing. There is no limitation in the material she uses to create her art. “I think that there’s a concept that acts as a backbone, and this concept is a questioning of the status of the body in society.” To ORLAN, especially the female body, has felt different pressures culturally, traditionally, politically, and religiously.
“As a woman, there is so much pressure on the body that it seemed essential to me to work on the body.” Using her body in performances, photographs, and videos throughout the years, ORLAN forces the viewer to see topical issues through her perception. In the work ‘ORLAN Gives Birth to Her Loved Self’ from 1964, the artist is seen giving birth to a mannequin: “There is a lot of pressure to have children and give birth which seems to me completely absurd nowadays because the Earth is overpopulated and over-polluted and we really should stop having children.”
In 1977, ORLAN created her perhaps most iconic performance and work, ‘The Kiss of the Artist’, in which guests could pay 5 francs to kiss the artist. “A real kiss, an artist’s kiss, not a childish kiss,” ORLAN emphasizes. Throughout her career as an artist, she has always tried to push the boundaries for women. “There was great hope at one point, and of course, I wasn’t the only one trying to make things change. But nowadays, I get the feeling that my life was of no use because everything is closing up again.” To ORLAN, religion has a lot to do with the oppression of women: “I think that religion should be forbidden because all religions are made by men for the men to perpetuate their patriarchy and their misogyny.”
The use of the body in her work has made ORLAN create her own term, ‘ carnal art,’ to distinguish herself from body art: “Body art always tended to go towards suffering. And I think that bodies suffered for thousands of years, and that’s enough. I refuse this very Christian vision of pain as an earthly purgatory.”
ORLAN (b. 1947) is an internationally recognized French artist. She is not tied to any one material, technology, or artistic practice. She uses sculpture, photography, performance, video, 3D, video games, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics. ORLAN is a significant figure of body art and ‘carnal art,’ a term she defined in her 1989 manifesto. ORLAN has participated in numerous biennales, including at the Venice Biennale seven times. Her work has been featured in several exhibitions all over the world, including shows such as Centre George Pompidou, Paris; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; LACMA, Los Angeles; MADRE Museum, Napoli; Fundación Joan Miró, Barcelona; Busan Museum, Busan, and many more.
ORLAN was interviewed by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen at Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen, Denmark, in August 2022 in connection to CHART Art Fair. ORLAN participated with a work made in collaboration with Museum of Nordic Digital Art – MoNDA.
Camera: Jakob Solbakken
Produced and edited by: Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2022
Louisiana Channel is supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet, C.L. Davids Fond og Samling, and Fritz Hansen.
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