Would you undergo plastic surgery for art?

French artist, ORLAN, has drastically challenged how far one will go for art by utilizing her body as an architectural canvas. She has undergone many facial and body alterations to represent pieces of artwork and enact performances. For example, in 1990, ORLAN underwent many plastic surgery alterations to create a “new human being.” She uses these modifications to support carnal art which insists that cosmetic surgery is not done for the likings of men but rather for a woman’s individual idea of beauty. Therefore, her unique and bold methods of artistry are tough pieces of work to copy. However, according to ORLAN, Lady Gaga is a suspect in art forgery in an interesting way.

2013 was the year that ORLAN sued Gaga claiming that Lady Gaga’s music video for Born This Way scammed ORLAN of her ideas. The video is argued to have two fictional characters that ORLAN has used previously. In the video, Gaga has lifted cheeks that are pointy and square very similar to ORLAN’s video of Bumpload (1989) where she wears prosthetics to create bumps to raise her cheeks and forehead. In addition, Gaga has two decapitated heads in the same scene on both sides of her which is exactly the same as Women With Head (1996) where ORLAN puts a decapitated head on the table. Due to these similarities, ORLAN charged $31.7 million for copyright infringements. However, French law’s tactics against art forgery were not on ORLAN’s side.

Even though ORLAN dropped the charges in 2016, she still continued to blast Gaga for taking credit and money for her original work. French laws regarding copyright are far off from what America abides by. These laws believe that artistic ideas are not protected. However, there is a “free-riding” charge that states that in order for an artist to be accused of free-riding, their creations must create confusion with the original piece that they free-rode off of. This means that if their audiences collide, this is when the artist should be charged. Looking at ORLAN’s situation, the court concluded that the audiences of both artists are completely separate and that Gaga’s video similarities contributed no benefits for Lady Gaga.

In the end of all of this, the court ordered ORLAN to pay $12,000 to Lady Gaga and $6,000 to Universal Music Group Recording and Universal Music France which is absolutely astounding. When I think about forgery, I think about forging signatures or copying paintings of old artists. Never did I think about the copying of cosmetic art forgery. However, justice was not served on ORLAN’s side as the French court did not support her due to the lack of correlation between the two artists. It is interesting to look at the past looks of Lady Gaga and see the similarities between her themes and that of ORLAN making the audience question if art forgery has really occurred.

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Parnaz Rezaie Boroon

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