ORLAN: La Récit

Musée d’Art Moderne di Saint-Etienne Métropole
curated by Lorand Hegyi, Eugenio Viola

From May 26 to August 26, 2007, the Musée d’Art Moderne de Saint-Etienne devotes to ORLAN the greatest retrospective ever organized on the artist’s work ; “ORLAN: Le Récit.” It is the opportunity to pay homage to the artist on the occasion of her sixtieth birthday, in her hometown of Saint-Etienne. For the vernissage on May 25 and to celebrate the thirtieth birthday of “Le Baiser de l’Artiste”, ORLAN will present a performance Hybrider et Recycler especially conceived for the exhibit in collaboration with Andrea Crews.

Since the mid-sixties, ORLAN has journeyed through the most important art movements of her time as an extraordinary protagonist. “Her work – unclassifiable – moves beyond the many “posts” and “isms” of art history, and her unique style has always been that of a complex, 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,” states Eugenio Viola, co-curator of the exhibit.

With a wide angle on the artist’s life and work, Le Récit builds a bridge between her past, summoned by the present of her research, and a future that promises to be long and fertile. Illustrating the various stages of ORLAN’s work, this retrospective beckons a rediscovery of the history of the artist’s body poetry, 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. A number of previously unseen works presented as part of the exhibit bear witness to an-depth review of the baroque metaphor in general, and of Bernini’s Saint Theresa in particular. This “hagiographic” declension of the “Art Corporel” (bodily 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 an 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-Hybridation series (Pre-Colombian, African and the more recent ones on Native Americans), ORLAN continues her digital journey through the infinite possibility of physical 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.

Finally, the Musée d’Art Moderne de Saint-Etienne Métropole presents Le Plan du Film, a work in progress, started in 2001 based on a concept by Jean-Luc Godard. The idea? To make a film “backwards,” as a destabilizing synthesis made up of autobiographical facts and fictional element.

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