Sunday, February 28, 2010

Carnal Art Manifesto

Taken from Orlan's website:


Carnal Art is self-portraiture in the classical sense, but realised through the possibility of technology. It swings between defiguration and refiguration. Its inscription in the flesh is a function of our age. The body has become a “modified ready-made”, no longer seen as the ideal it once represented ;the body is not anymore this ideal ready-made it was satisfaying to sign.

As distinct from “Body Art”, Carnal Art does not conceive of pain as
redemptive or as a source of purification. Carnal Art is not interested in the plastic-surgery result, but in the process of surgery, the spectacle and discourse of the modified body which has become the place of a public debate.

Carnal Art does not inherit the Christian Tradition, it resists it! Carnal Art illuminates the Christian denial of body-pleasure and exposes its weakness in the face of scientific discovery. Carnal Art repudiates the tradition of suffering and martyrdom, replacing rather than removing, enhancing rather than diminishing - Carnal Art is not self-mutilation.

Carnal Art transforms the body into language, reversing the biblical idea of the word made flesh ; the flesh is made word. Only the voice of Orlan remains unchanged. The artist works on representation.

Carnal Art finds the acceptance of the agony of childbirth to be
anachronistic and ridiculous. Like Artaud, it rejects the mercy of God -Henceforth we shall have epidurals, local anaesthetics and multiple analgesics ! (Hurray for the morphine !) Vive la morphine ! (down with the pain !) A bas la douleur !

I can observe my own body cut open without suffering !....I can see myself all the way down to my viscera, a new stage of gaze. “I can see to the heart of my lover and it's splendid design has nothing to do with symbolics mannered usually drawn.
Darling, I love your spleen, I love your liver, I adore your pancreas and the line of your femur excites me.

Carnal Art asserts the individual independence of the artist. In that sense it resists givens and dictats. This is why it has engaged the social, the media, (where it disrupts received ideas and cause scandal), and will even reached as far as the judiciary (to change the Orlan's name).

Carnal Art is not against aesthetic surgery, but against the standards that pervade it, particularly, in relation to the female body, but also to the male body. Carnal Art must be feminist, it is necessary. Carnal Art is not only engages in aesthetic surgery, but also in developments in medicine and biology questioning the status of the body and posing ethical problems.

Carnal Art loves parody and the baroque, the grotesque and the extreme.
Carnal Art opposes the conventions that exercise constraint on the human body and the work of art.
Carnal Art is anti-formalist and anti-conformist.


I'm increasingly interested in carnal art. There's a book I've just started reading called "Carnal Art: Orlan's Refacing" - it's suprising, but the purported goals of Orlan are much the same as mine. Which leads me to believe that my work is far, far too tame. Or in Rena's words, too polite. Here's a short quote taken from an interview with Orlan (cited from "Carnal Art"):

"A few words...on these images... Sorry to have to make you suffer, but know that I do not suffer-unlike you- when I watch these images. Few images force us to close our eyes: death, suffering, the opening of the body, certain aspects of pornography (for certain people), or for others, birth. Here the eyes become black holes into which the image is absorbed willingly or by force. These images plunge in and strike directly where it hurts, without passing through habitual filters, as if the eyes no longer had any connection with the brain."

The Theatre of Cruelty

Reading about Orlan and I ran across a reference to "The Theatre of Cruelty" created by surealist Antonin Artaud in the early decades of the 20th century. Here's a bit taken from wikipedia:

The Theatre of Cruelty (French: Théâtre de la Cruauté) is a concept in Antonin Artaud's book The Theatre and its Double. “Without an element of cruelty at the root of every spectacle, the theatre is not possible. In our present state of degeneration it is through the skin that metaphysics must be made to re-enter our minds” (Artaud, The Theatre and its Double). By cruelty, he meant not sadism or causing pain, but rather a violent, austere, physical determination to shatter the false reality which, he said, "lies like a shroud over our perceptions."

On the nature of cruelty (also from wikipedia):
Antonin Artaud spoke of cruelty (french: cruauté) not in the sense of being violent, but the cruelty it takes for actors to completely strip away their masks and show an audience a truth that they do not want to see. He believed that text had been a tyrant over meaning, and advocated, instead, for a theatre made up of a unique language that lay halfway between thought and gesture. Artaud described the spiritual in physical terms, and believed that all expression is physical expression in space.