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ORLAN ((1947 - ))

L'origine de la guerre, 1989 (2012 edition)

Catalogue essay by Blanche Llewellyn

“Happy birthday, dear Serge. Here is the genesis of war, a contemplation I hope will draw parallels to the genesis of the world, showcasing two facets of humanity. With all my friendship and an artist’s kiss. (Signed and dated: January 21, 20001222222).”

This dedication features on the reverse side of Orlan’s photograph, “L’origine de la guerre” (No 95 of 120, from the 2012 edition of the print, first conceived in 1989).

ORLAN created “L’Origine de la guerre” in response to Gustave Courbet’s painting, “l’Origine du monde,” (Musee D’Orsay, 1866). Courbet’s famous painting depicts in close-up and from a low angle the vulva and torso of a nude woman with her thighs spread apart. Having cut the original, larger canvas of a full-length nude, Courbet framed his work in such a way that nothing – feet, hands, arms, shoulders, neck, or head – is visible above the breasts (partially covered by a sheet). His model, and by implication woman, is thereby reduced to her sex.

Instead of portraying female anatomy, Orlan presents a photograph featuring the male sex framed by a facsimile of the original frame used on Courbet’s celebrated painting. In so doing, ORLAN offers a powerful critique of the imposed societal constructs that confine women’s bodies within the male gaze. ORLAN’s striking artwork can also be read as a comment on masculinity as a catalyst for universal violence, and more widely presents a radical position on the “battle” of the sexes.  ORLAN’s intention is to challenge the societal norms surrounding the female body. Her success is self-evident; viewers typically express discomfort (and sometimes disgust) when confronted by her image; Courbet’s image, by contrast, more usually elicits a reaction of wry amusement.

In an interview for TV5 Monde, Orlan stated that this work symbolises “the other side of humanity, the other side of art,” thereby firmly advocating for a feminist perspective. “I sought to explore the implications of what would happen to a man, had we subjected him to the same alterations as we did with the female figure – the severing of head, arms, and legs – leaving only the torso and sex intact.”

A version of this photograph, from the 2012 edition, was exhibited at the Musée d’Orsay on the occasion of the “Masculin/Masculin: The Naked Man in Art, from 1800 to the Present” exhibition.

ORLAN’s L’Origine de la guerre undoubtedly deserves, and perhaps already has, an iconic status and is a milestone image of the feminist movement.

x W38cm
Signed and inscribed.

ORLAN ((1947 - ))

Mireille Porte, known as ORLAN, is a French transmedia artist, born on May 30, 1947, in Saint-Étienne, in France. She resides and works between Paris, New York, and Los Angeles. “She is not tied to any one material, technology or artistic practice. She creates sculptures, photographs, performances, videos, and videogames, augmented reality, artificial intelligence and robotics (she has created a robot in her own image that speaks with her voice) using scientific and medical techniques like surgery and biogenetic. Those are only mediums for her, the idea prevails and the materiality pursues. ORLAN makes her own body the medium, the raw material, and the visual support of her work. In her 1989 manifesto she talks of 'carnal art' -and her intention to make her body an arena for public debate. Her commitment to liberty forms an integral part of her work. She defends  the artist's right to be innovative, interrogative and subversive. ORLAN changes constantly and radically; she disrupts conventions, and “ready-made thinking”. She is opposed to the idea of genetic determinism, and to all forms of domination, whether through the patriarchy, religion, or cultural segregation and racism, etc. Always mixed with humor, often of parody or even grotesque, her provocative artworks can shock because they shakes up the pre-established codes.”
Source: Information taken from ORLAN’S official site:

Artworks by the same artist