This essay theorises the performance of the medicalised body with respect to the performances of Orlan, who has plastic surgery as an artistic gesture, and Kate Bornstein, a post-operative male-to-female transsexual, whose performance pieces reflect the process of her changing body. Auslander considers the relationship between the self and its outward representation, the body, and how technological intervention alters this dichotomy. Orlan looks upon plastic surgery as an ideological practice, critiquing its use as an enhancement of conventional beauty. The surgical procedure itself becomes a performance, through Orlan’s use of costumes, props, recording equipment, and her own artistic control over the surgeon’s knife. Through her performances and critical writing, Bornstein attacks those who would say that she is not a ‘real’ woman, arguing that there is more to gender than biology. Both perform their physicality and their gender in a way that is antithetical to dominant ideologies of the body.
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