During the final week of my body and lit class, we talked about Orlan, a French performance artist whose work includes body modification and plastic surgery.
To be honest, Orlan's work strikes me as both incredibly interesting, and weird as all get out. The hybridity stuff, for example. What does it mean that a white (well, she looks white) woman from a country (France) that was involved in colonialism is making herself into hybridized figures of Native American and African peoples? Is it a hyper-aware critique of colonialism? Further acts of appropriation? What does it mean to "adopt" momentarily and for the making of art, a small part of the practices of another people? (Hybridizing with robots seems less troubling to me. But then, as someone who's a cyborg, I find it discomfiting to see that appropriated, too. Cyborgness wasn't fun to get, and isn't fun to have, but I depend on it. Does Orlan making it art seem too easy?)
Given the nature of her work, I think it's a critique, but even within the critique, there's slippage, it seems to me.
I guess it gets to my discomfort with what it means to encounter other cultures. I'm uncomfortable with some aspects of tourism, the practices of going to "see" other cultures on display, especially when the seeing of those cultures on display involves people having to dress up in a way that isn't practiced really? But then, I feel a bit strange when I go see "pioneer" museums or whatever with white folks dressed up as pretend pioneers. It's a job, right? But still, the theatricality pretending to be the "real" (yes, I went all Lacan on you, sorry), when the "real" really isn't accessible in that way.
I want the "real" but can't get at the real, really. Authentic experience is always changed by my presence, inserted into spaces real and metaphorical. (Angsty, me? Why do you ask?)