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remember the future


“Orlan has recounted the circumstances surrounding her first surgical operation on numerous occasions; one could say that it has become part of her ever growing mythology. The story goes something as follows: during a 1978 performance symposium in which she was scheduled to speak, Orlan suddenly became ill. Instead of focusing completely on her physical pain and discomfort, Orlan reflected on the possibilities her medical crisis offered. As she was being rushed to a hospital, Orlan asked that a camera crew accompany her to the emergency room and document what was to be emergency surgery for an extra-uterine (ectopic) pregnancy. Orlan had the idea that a videotape of the event could be shown to fill the gap in the symposium program created by her unexpected absence.”

Tanya Augsburg, from her essay in the collection The Ends of Performance



Orlan is a French performance artist who underwent nine cosmetic surgery procedures in the name of art. The doctors and nurses dressed up in futuristic costumes; Orlan painted the operating rooms and turned them into film sets.

A camera crew documented the gruesome details of each procedure while Orlan read from a philosophical/theoretical text (as long as she could.)

She had liposuction done (everywhere) and then sold off the fat to galleries and museums under the label “relic.” Apparently she gave one of these “relics” to Madonna (saint of a different order).

Madonna said, “It looks like caviar.”

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