Feminist performativity of monstrosity, cyborg, and posthuman subjectivity: Grlan's carnal art

I-Chu Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Beginning in 1990, French performing artist Orlan launched her decade-long project of "Carnal Art," in which she has undergone nine surgical operations, with each being directed and videotaped, called "disfiguration and refiguration of body." Orlan's cosmetic surgery transplants onto her face the goddesses' and female's features from Western canonical paintings: Europa's mouth, Mona Lisa's forehead, Venus's chin, Diana's eyes and brows, and Psyches nose. Among this project, the seventh operation-performance "Omnipresence" at Sandra Gering gallery, New York, was transmitted live by satellite to Paris and Toronto. In addition, aided with electronic apparatuses, she created a series of computer-generated self-portraits as hybridization of woman, monster, and cyborg in recourse to the Mayan beauties of Mexican culture. She is one of the first French female artists who started to exploit the potential of new digital media in contemporary art practices. Presenting a series of multimedia installation of mediated body in various international festivals, she explores the issue of absent body, synthetic body parts, dematerialization, and invisibility. This paper will investigate how Orlan toys with the boundary of inte-rior/exterior along the tropes of monster/(m)other/machine continuum, which envisions the posthuman feminist subject through the vantage point of Donna Haraway's cyborg feminism. Moreover, this paper will utilize Artauds theatrical notion and Deleuze and Guattari's theories of "Body without Organ" to analyze how Orlan integrates body art, surgery technology and media technology to reach the cybernetic transgression which transforms her from a "molar woman" to a "molecular woman", making female body the site of "dematerial- ization" and "re-materialization" of sex and gender.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-96
Number of pages22
JournalTamkang Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2010


  • Body without organ
  • Carnal art
  • Cyborg
  • Face
  • Feminism
  • Molecular woman
  • Orlan
  • Performance
  • Performativity
  • Plastic surgery
  • Posthuman


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