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French body-art icon graces Riga

Iconoclastic French artist ORLAN landed in Riga this week as part of the Culture Capital 2014 events to host a public lecture and open her exhibit Friday at Old Town’s Museum of Decorative Arts and Design.

ORLAN’s lifetime of provocative creative work – what she terms her ‘carnal art’, runs the gamut from performances including bodily mutilation and adornment through plastic surgery, to classicist painting and antique sculpture references.

The exhibition at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design opened Friday and will run until the 25th of January, 2015.

According to curator Inese Baranovska: “The objective of the exhibition is to present one of the most controversial and provocative personalities at the contemporary art scene, who has declared her body an instrument of art, and only identifies herself with the pseudonym ORLAN that she herself invented.”

According to Baranovska, “the diverse creative work of the artist (performances, happenings, photography, video, installations, sculptures, biotechnological experiments, literary texts, etc.) is impossible to classify and put on one particular shelf of ‘-isms’, her art skillfully balances classical tradition and innovative challenges, historical heritage and the latest scientific achievements, the pinnacles of intellectual art and the popular culture.”

ORLAN, being at the forefront of contemporary art, has never cut the “umbilical cord” with the legacy of classical art. Her work includes numerous references to and parallels with the antique world and the aesthetics of medieval and renaissance art, baroque and surrealism.

There also are the conditional forms of the carnival ritual as well as, obviously, the well-known, but not yet completely mastered, phenomenon of celluloid – the real and relative film world.

Cinema is one of the areas where the artist feels at home, and one of the subjects of her research is the unique project “Le Plan du Film and Other Scenarios” that ORLAN brings to Riga.

The project goes back to the 1990s, but the artist will take it through a new series of changes at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design.

The textual group “Orbīta”, an association of Russian-speaking poets, photographers, musicians and multimedia artists in Latvia, and graphic designer Valters Verners are taking part in ORLAN’s exhibition in Riga by creating texts that advertise her non-existent fictional films. This seemingly traditional and self-explanatory element of a promotional campaign for a film becomes a mystery, through countless surreal changes. Eventually, the artist, the authors of the texts, and exhibition visitors become all involved in a kind of a dichotomous process, says the curator.

For the occasion of the exhibition, the Latvian National Museum of Art in collaboration with the publisher “Neputns” released a richly illustrated catalogue in Latvian, French and English. The catalogue was created by Inese Baranovska, designed by Inga Ģībiete, printed at the Jelgava publishing house.

The project will also take place in other locations of Riga: during the “Staro Rīga” festival of light, an impressive multimedia sound and light installation ORLAN CITY will be on show on Skārņu Street near the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, accompanying the exhibition at the museum. The project is implemented in co-operation with the Society for Attractive Urban Environment.

ORLAN is the first artist to make surgical operations part of her artistic arsenal. On Thursday the artist met with Latvian plastic surgeons to discuss her work in the medium of their medical profession.

The Museum of Decorative Arts and Design is located in the Old Town at Skārņu iela 10/20. The exhibition “Le Plan du film and Other Scenarios” will be on show until the 25th of January, 2015.

ORLAN’s exhibition is part of the “Riga Carnival” thematic line of the “Riga 2014” Programme. The project has been organised in co-operation with the French Institute in Latvia.

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