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Operations of Redress: Orlan, the Body and Its Limits

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Abstract:

This article begins with an overview of the surgical project of performance art engaged upon by Orlan between 1990 and 1993, The Reincarnation of Saint Orlan, in which each feature of her face was sculpturally resdesigned to match one from a different female icon in the history of Western art. It then considers the relationship Orlan’s project entertains with contemporary technology, and assesses how meaningful her claims about the obsolescence of the human body in an electronic age may be said to be. The third section of the article turns to Orlan’s series of performances with dress and costume, and to the new role given in these and other works to the skin, as bodily ‘envelope’ and a significant element in psychoanalytic accounts of ego formation and psychological relationships to space. This focuses particularly on the mesurages or measurings in which Orlan used her female body as an alternative to a supposedly neutral (=male) measure of public space. Drawing on different philosophical accounts of the concept of the imaginary, the article suggests that Luce Irigaray’s writings on the currently fragmented and unsymbolised female imaginary best explain what is at stake in Orlan’s public use of her body as a measure.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/136270498779571112

Publication date: May 1, 1998

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  • Fashion Theory takes as its starting point a definition of “fashion” as the cultural construction of the embodied identity. The importance of studying the body as a site for the deployment of discourses has been well established in a number of disciplines. Until Fashion Theorys launch in 1997 the dressed body had suffered from a lack of critical analysis. Increasingly scholars have recognized the cultural significance of self-fashioning, including not only clothing but also such body alterations as tattooing and piercing.

    Fashion Theory provides an international and interdisciplinary forum for the rigorous analysis of cultural phenomena. Its peer-reviewed articles range from foot-binding to fashion advertising.
bloomsbury/jdbc/1998/00000002/00000002/art00002
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