Performance Artist Imitates Gustav Courbet’s Painting”The Origin of the World” By Exposing Herself

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On May 29 at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, Luxembourgian performance artist Deborah de Robertis, wearing a gold sequined dress, plopped down in front of Gustav Courbet’s painting “The Origin of the World,” and spread her legs and vaginal lips, publicly exposing herself. The artist’s intent was to re-enact the famous painting, but with an open, exposed vagina in contrast to the vagina presented in Courbet’s piece. Eventually, de Robertis was escorted from the premises by police officers, and two museum guards filed sexual exhibitionist complaints against her after the incident.

“This is a typical case of disrespecting the museum’s rules, whether for a performance or not,” the Musée d’Orsay’s administration said in a statement. “No request for authorization was filed with us. And even if it had been, it’s not certain we would have accepted it as that may have upset our visitors.”

de Robertis, of course, disagrees with these accusations (as does Banksy). “If you ignore the context, you could construe this performance as an act of exhibitionism, but what I did was not an impulsive act,” she explained to Luxemburger Wort. “There is a gap in art history, the absent point of view of the object of the gaze. In his realist painting, the painter shows the open legs, but the vagina remains closed. He does not reveal the hole, that is to say, the eye. I am not showing my vagina, but I am revealing what we do not see in the painting, the eye of the vagina, the black hole, this concealed eye, this chasm, which, beyond the flesh, refers to infinity, to the origin of the origin.”

de Robertis says she’s performed this piece, “Mirror of Origin,” more than once in the same museum without causing a hysteric scene, and unsurprisingly, this is not the first time a performance artist has imitated a famous work of art by exposing their body: last year, performance artist Arthur G stripped down and appeared in front of Musée d’Orsay’s parade of male nudes, “Masculin/Masculin.” It is also not unusual for female performance artists to use their bodies as a medium for messages about our culture and the way it conceptualizes female anatomy and sexuality: I’m thinking of recent Beautiful/Decay features, like Milo Moire’s vaginal egg-dropping and Casey Jenkins’ vaginal knitting. The reactions garnered from such performances reflect our culture’s current conception of female anatomy and sexuality and prove that our stripped-bare biology continues to be seen as obscene, threatening, and attention-seeking, even within performance-based contexts. (via art fido)

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