The exterior wall of the Museum of Popular Art (MAP), a former fire station, is adorned with the figurehead of Chaac, the Mayan god of rain. This inspired representatives from the Great Museum of the Mayan World in Mérida, Yucatán to collaborate with Walther Boelsterly, the director of MAP. They discussed Hybridizations, a shared exhibition in 2022 between French artist Orlan, known for his surgical performances on his own body, and Mexican artist Demián Flores.
Orlan’s series, Disfigurement-refiguration, comprises 14 digitally altered photographs inspired by the Meridian museum’s collection. The series was also showcased at the La Cúpula Foundation, located in the southeast.
From this collaboration, We are all Chaac was born. The exhibition, curated by Leila G. Voight, features a photograph of Orlan inspired by Flores’ resin sculpture of the deity. The remaining 13 images from the series are displayed at the Terreno Baldío gallery, as part of Hybridizations. This group collection includes works from Flores, Javier Hinojosa, Karla Leyva, Ileana Moreno, Aurora Noreña, and Ernesto Solana. Each artist explores
the identity imaginaries linked to the remote past, whatever it may be, in a broad and abstract sense, as per curator Rodrigo Torres Ramos’ interpretation.
The exhibit also showcases Orlan’s 2013 video, Freedom being flayed (La libertad desollada). Through this work, Orlan aimed to create a piece that
talks about the body, a self-portrait of mine, but without a photograph, generated from the instructions I gave to a computer. Orlan is also participating in the Zona Maco art fair at the Terreno Baldío booth.
Orlan’s fascination with the Mayan culture isn’t recent. She shares,
I am captivated by the world of the Mayan gods. I find their sculptures to be of extraordinary beauty. Particularly Chaac, considering the current scarcity of water.
Orlan – whose real name is Mireille Suzanne Francette Porte – categorizes her artistic journey into
three major stages. Initially, she critically examined her Judeo-Christian culture, stating at The Conference:
Especially in relation to women, as I explore how their bodies are portrayed. In the second phase, she underwent surgical procedures to
challenge beauty standards.
Explaining these surgeries, she says,
It should be noted that as an artist, I am not confined to a specific medium, artistic practice, or technology, whether old or new. I strive to address issues that are significant to my time, hence I scrutinize societal phenomena. This analysis manifests in a manifesto that becomes the backbone of my work. Once the manifesto is established, it determines the nature of the ensuing artwork.
Before her surgeries in the 90s, Orlan had never had cosmetic surgery. However, she felt it was an
important social phenomenon she wanted to utilize in her art. Since her work centers around herself, she knew the surgeries had to be performed on her. Her goal was to
counter the purpose of cosmetic surgery, which is often to look younger or more attractive. I inserted two implants on either side of my forehead, which are typically used to lift cheekbones, to create a sense of ugliness and repulsion.
In the third stage of her work, she strived to
move beyond my ethnocentrism and embrace the cultures of various civilizations that I admired, such as the Mayan culture.
We are all Chaac, by Orlan and Demián Flores, will run until March 31 at the MAP, located at Revillagigedo 11, Colonia Centro. The Terreno Baldío gallery is situated at Orizaba 177, Colonia Roma.