homework: reading about Orlan

Last week our teacher gave us homework. We had to read an article about Orlan, a French performance artist, which is in p. 46 lesson 5A in the student’s book. Then we had to do the exercise 2 from the READING section.

This is the article:


A worldwide satellite audience watched the live broadcast in fascination and horror. A woman was lying on a surgical table in an operating theatre ans was reading texts from French philosophers. As the doctors, who were wearing costumes that had been designed by Paco Rabanne, prepared their tools, an African man danced around the table.

Orlan, the star of the video, is probably the world’s most well-known performance artist. She has had dozens of exhibitions around the world, she appears in fashion magazines and TV talk shows and collectors pay high prices for their pictures. She is a professor of fine arts at a prestigious college in Dijon and her work is supported by the French Ministry of Culture.

She was born in central France in 1947 and did her first performance at the age of eighteen. She later became a teacher but lost her job in 1977, as a result of a work that she had performed at an art fair in Paris. In the work, ‘The kiss of the artist’, she had sat behind a life-sized photograph of her body and sold kisses to the audience. At the end of each kiss, an electronic siren deafened the gallery. The work succeeded in shocking the public but Orlan was out of a job.

Orlan was getting more and more attention, but art lovers were unprepared for what came next. Her next major work –a video– was shown at the Lyons Centre of Contemporary Art. An ambulance had rushed the video to the Centre from the hospital where Orlan had just had an emergency operation. She had installed a video camera in the operating theatre, and the film became the fisrt of her surgical performances.

By the mid-1980s, her fame had led to work for the Ministry of Culture and a teaching position at Dijon, but international stardom came later, in the 1990s, after changing her appearance. Returning to the operating theatre, she began a series of plastic surgery operations that continued for the next ten years. In each operation, a part of Orlan’s body was changed, so that it looked like a beautiful bit of her favourite painting –the forehead of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa or the chin of Botticelli’s Venus, for example.

Galleries around the world showed films of the operations and Orlan’s fame grew. Her self-portraits are her most recognizable paintings, but her work is conceptual, rather than figurative. She describes herself as a feminist and says that her intention is to challenge traditional ideas of besuty. In the tradition of Marcel Duchamp, her work is designed to shock and provoke, not simply to be admired.

And the exercise after reading the article above:

2 Read the article. Put the events in the order in which they happened.

[7] She became internationally famous.
[1] Orlan’s performance at an art fair in Paris caused an scandal.
[6] She began changing her appearance.
[4] Her work was taken to an arts centre in an ambulance.
[3] She needed emergency surgery.
[5] She began teaching at a college in Dijon.
[2] She was fired.



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