chapter
14 Pages

The Mutant Woman: The Use and Abuse of the Female Body in Performance Art

I first became fascinated with Orlan during "Totally Wired". This season of new work by international artists from Stelarc and Gilchrist to Franko B. and Ron Athey, raised many fundamental questions about the nature of the body and our relationship to technology. Significantly only one of the performances as part of the season was by a female artist, namely, Orlan, the French "beauty morph", "plastic artist" and focus of the following reflections, who combines new technologies and aesthetic surgeries to explore the status of the human body and its relationship to modern technology. Since 1990, she has undergone a series of surgical operations to transform herself into a composite of features taken from women in Western Art history. To date, she has had nine operations. Her most radical, the creation of a large bulbous nose that will start at the centre of her forehead, is currently being prepared. "What is a body?" she asks, "What can it do? What kind of relationship should it have to the new and radical technologies of our time?" (Orlan 1996: 34).