Lives in Los Angeles (US), lives in New York (US), born in Saint-Etienne (FR), lives in Paris (FR).
ORLAN (°1947) studied painting in the sixties and dived into the French art world with photographic Body Sculptures and performances that focused on her own body as a physical and mythical manifestation of the female.
ORLAN formulates strong gender positions and is keen to achieve precise and clear communication. Her artwork is literal and legible. At the same time, it connects with powerful ‘basic layers’ of human culture, such as myths, rites, body and instincts, which corresponds to what Freud called, in his attempt to categorise the unconscious, Verdichtung and Verschiebung.
ORLAN’s work questions the collective unconscious expectations of what the female body and the female mind should be. In recent years, she has been increasingly identified with her use of surgery, and the changes to her own body as an artistic medium, especially with the videos and the permanent physical results of her Surgery Performances (1986-1993).
Nevertheless, her place in recent art history was already assured by the series of MesuRAGE, performances she started in 1968. Mesurage means 'measuring', while rage can both refer to 'mad rage' and 'doing your best'. The frequent use of easels and pieces of cloth at the beginning of these actions is a clear reference to painting. And it is said that the bed linen fabric comes from ORLAN's trousseau – an equally clear reference to traditional models of femininity.
In the summer of 1980, ORLAN enacted a remarkable performance at the Place Saint-Lambert in the historic city centre of Liège. Over a stretch of four days ORLAN physically committed herself to the preservation of the square, under siege by an ill-considered urban development project. She witnesses the arrival of a bulldozer, the same machine used at the time to demolish the square, and allows it to move her body like rubble from one place to another. Her objective in having herself lowered into the bulldozer's blade is to physically embody a social issue. She looks at her gesture as a resistance at the margins, in a pose that alludes to the Statue of Liberty.
ORLAN uses her own body in these performances to act as a gauge for two types of objects: institutions and streets named after men. The setting of her performances are unique: they are performed without an audience, but rather with witnesses who describe them afterwards. Lying on the ground, ORLAN measures the length of the public space, to be documented after, but also notices the by-products, the dress itself that she is wearing to be washed out after, with rinse water mingled with dirt that in turn will also be stored. The signature of the witnesses becomes a different final form, and there are forms of memory, and other by-products, e.g., the ORLANcore, a measuring instrument measured to ORLAN's height, or life-size images of her accompanying the presentation of the documents.
Items View all
MesuRAGE du Centre George...
ORLAN, MesuRAGE du Centre George Pompidou Paris, 1976, 1976. Print, ink, paper.
MesuRAGE de la Neue Galer...
ORLAN, MesuRAGE de la Neue Galerie Aachen, 1978, 1978. Print, ink, paper.
Events View all
ORLAN - MesuRAGEs
05 October 2012 - 20 January 2013.
I gave my body to art. ORLAN is well known as the first artist to use her own body as a medium with which to make art. In 1980 there was the
The collection XXXIII – T...
07 June 2013 - 22 September 2013.
The character of a collection reflected the current priorities of the M HKA collection: the evaluation of Antwerp’s avant-garde tradition; th
28 April 2017 - 31 December 2021.
For the first time, the M HKA will be able to present a permanent collection exhibition with iconic masterpieces from Flemish and internation
EXTRA MUROS: Geel – Middl...
15 September 2018 - 04 November 2018.
Exhibition project Middle Gate II – The Story of Dymphna is a cooperation between M HKA, the Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp, and cultural
Ensembles View all
ORLAN is now famous for being the first female artist measuring spaces using her own body literally and physically as a scale. It is perhaps
Since the end of May 2002, the M HKA has strayed from the beaten track of museum catalogues. The M HKA does not consider a systematic thereof
ONDERZOEK / RECHERCHE / R...
Research, often limited to the empirical and scientific sphere, refers in fact to any gathering of data initiated by a question. This essenti
Individualism (with a reflection by Katja Petrowskaja) The individual stance, if relevant, is also a critical position towards the collec