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March 2024
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   « When I received the invitation to participate in LIVRE OUVERT, so many texts came to mind. I’ve read so much in my life! But I quickly realized that I wanted to talk about the foreword of L’enseignement de la peinture, a book written by the theorist Marcelin Pleynet in 1971.
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 L’enseignement de la peinture written by MARCELIN PLEYNET, 1971, 224 pages.
  This foreword is itself taken from a Chinese text from 1912: Kiai-tseu-yuan Houa Tchouan, or in English: Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting (editor’s note: one of the most famous Chinese texts on painting).
« Some consider it noble to have a method. Others consider it noble to not have a method. Not having a method is bad. Constricting oneself entirely to the method is worse. »
   Excerpt from the foreword of L’enseignement de la peinture, written by Marcelin Pleynet, 1971.
   This text bowled me over, left me in awe, and followed me throughout my life. I can’t tell you exactly when I read it for the first time because I’ve never been good with dates, but I was very young, still a teen. Today, my art school students have also heard it hundreds of times. I quote it extremely often, because the essential lessons of Art, but also of life — a fortiori my own, can be found in these words.
It says, in the most straightforward way, that you must learn to be and to see by yourself. That you must “de-format” yourself. In other words, you must unlearn. It’s the quest of a lifetime. 
  This text is about going outside of the box, beyond the stereotypes and diktats of the moment. But also differing opinions, counter-currents … So goes my life. 
  I am ORLAN in capital letters because I do not want to step in line. I am ORLAN in capital letters because I want to constantly free myself and question myself. Thinking is always a process of reassessing yourself. 
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ORLAN reading during her 4th operation (1991)
   As a woman, it is unacceptable to be reduced. Also, I don’t like static identities. I’m all for nomadic, mutant and moving identities. Because you have to call yourself into question, constantly free yourself, rethink yourself and liberate yourself from yourself. 
   I hate rules. I un-rule them and invent for others. It’s a feminist attitude and artistic at the same time.
I wouldn’t be like anyone else for anything in the world. That’s what this text is about. 
   It’s about questioning which method to use and knowing whether to apply this method or not. But if we all apply the same method, won’t we all become the same? On the contrary, I think that we can only be enriched by the differences of other people – who will always suffer from being other.
   This text deconstructs every principle that society, my parents, my social class, my professors and my environment pounded into me. It helped me see far beyond preconceived notions, ready-to-consume thoughts. Since finding it, what I do now is study societal phenomena and confront information. Then, I try to situate myself in relation to them. Finally, I define which material, which technique, will compose the work. And I bring my material. I wonder which artistic practice I will explore in order to be who I want to be, to remain consistent with the backbone of the theoretical work that I constructed, like a manifesto. I create my art, my life art, based on the teachings of this foreword. 
« One must first [follow] a strict rule; then, intelligently enter the transformations. The goal of possessing the method is the same as having no method.»
  Excerpt from the foreword of L’enseignement de la peinture, written by Marcelin Pleynet, 1971.
   Texts, words and books have always been an integral part of my creations. For example, for each of my surgical-operation-performances, I asked to not be put to sleep completely. This allowed me to read out loud during the entire performance. The main idea for each one was to put beauty stereotypes into perspective by moving plastic surgery away from its primary objective of rejuvenation and improvement. Instead of beauty, I wanted these operations to bring ugliness and monstrosity, undesirability.  
   ORLAN-CORPS-DE-LIVRES is another example of my love for books and the way that they leave their mark on me.  
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   Performance ORLAN-CORPS-de-livres
   During my residency at the Getty Research Institute in 2007, I asked the researchers who were doing their residencies with me that year to give me the title of a book that most impacted their reflections, guided their work, their lives. Once I collected the books, I placed them all on a large block of granite, at the entrance, where the words ‘Getty Research Institute’ were engraved, before lying down next to these books. 
   Then, I had people remove all the books that extended beyond the total length of my body. Finally, I read all the ones that remained, continuously, taking notes in them as I went along. 
The books became me and I became the books.
   I did this performance several times in my life, in various places and circumstances. A body performance with a book corpus. So, it’s rather funny that I’m taking part in this newsletter, as I myself am an open book containing words that left their mark on my mind and my life. Texts that, more than ever, include the foreword of L’enseignement de la peinture. »
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