In Brief

Performance Artist Does the Impossible, Shows Up Courbet’s “Origin of the World”

by Hrag Vartanian on June 6, 2014

originofworld-performance-640

Picture it: Paris, 2014. A twentysomething woman in a shimmering gold dress that echoes the frames all around the Musée d’Orsay walks into one of the institution’s most famous galleries. She proceeds to sit down in front of Gustave Courbet’s “Origin of the World” (1866), pull up her dress, splay her legs, and show her vulva, clitoris, and possibly part of her vagina — the video is too grainy to be sure — to the visitors in the gallery. Guards panic, visitors seem taken aback, and in their shock they start recording the action, at several points even applauding. Did they think it was sanctioned? Are they enjoying the visual reference? Do they think the resemblance is uncanny? Not to be a stickler, but you can’t really see the clitoris of Courbet’s woman — the performer seems overzealous. The rest of the video is dull. The unsanctioned performance was by Deborah de Robertis, and you can friend her on Facebook.


Une artiste expose son sexe sous «L’origine du…” by quoi2news

UPDATED: Artist Betty Tompkins, who has probably painted more details of sexual organs than any other artist in history, reminded Hyperallergic on Twitter that Courbet’s masterpiece is anatomically incorrect:

Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 9.11.26 AM

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  • Rus Archer

    yay, i’m 12 years old!

  • Branko Miliskovic

    OMG, how many medias writing about some chick showing her riot pussy for a second.

    • http://hragv.com/ Hrag Vartanian

      Is this a riddle? How many?

  • http://josephayoung.tumblr.com/ JosephYoung

    I think it’s pretty great. For one, it shows how different the authority-subject relationship is in France compared to the US. The guards seem to have little power over anyone–the artist, the videographer, the crowd–not explicitly or implicitly. i also like the humorous nonchalance of the artist–not defiant, not ‘performancey,’ not even ‘arty,’ really. And i think she would need to ‘show more’ if she wants an even close to comparable reaction to the original (which of course she doesn’t get), right?

    • Peter Gauge

      Joseph, we liked you better when you were a penis holster for diseased monkey cocks. Back to work.

  • ParisIonescu

    brilliant. a surprise, a thrill, a risk, a moment, a gift, a look, a commotion, an opening, a tete-a-tete between a history and a present. cost nothing. destroyed nothing. all i know is these are rare.

  • punktoad

    Finally, someone put a face on the Origin!

  • Guest

    I think the point of Courbet’s painting was the hair, and not the anatomical correctness of what the hair was covering.

    • http://hragv.com/ Hrag Vartanian

      Betty is saying that the part not covered by hair is also incorrect.

      • http://firstproofprints.com/ J Redmann

        I’ll use another piece of art as my reference: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/224687468879610096/

        Jamie McCartney’s Great wall of Vagina is a good example highlighting the differences from one vag to the next. Simply because Courbet’s vag doesn’t look like Betty’s own vag is pretty tacky miscalculation on Betty’s behalf. Jamie McCartney’s piece has pointed out they come in all shapes, sizes, and in several of the sculptures featured on the ‘GWV’ there are striking similarities to Courbet painting: Row 2 column 6, or row 3 column 8, or row 4 column 8.

        How does Betty have any way of knowing what this woman’s vagina actually looked like? Betty’s projecting her own ideas of what a vagina should look like and simply saying Courbet is wrong, instead of accepting that the model in the painting has vagina different from her own.

        • http://joaovaz.net Joao Vaz

          Thank you thank you thank you.

        • Chicken Fingers

          Artists often feel qualified to talk about all kinds of stuff. Skip the medical degree and residency as an OB/GYN. Just be a “feminist” who makes paintings of people fucking, then pretend you know more about body parts than teenagers who watch porn all day.

    • Anarcissie

      Yes, I have always thought Courbet’s painting was supposed to be cloudy, mystical, and dramatic, not an anatomical illustration. I like the general idea of the performance, but could do without the invidious comparisons.

  • Bill Kranz

    AAhhhhh, “Thanks?”

  • Peter Gauge

    I can “friend her” on Facebook? Why would I want to give any kind of recognition to that dumb and filthy cunt?

    • Toby Wong

      why do you think doing without your recognition is a bad thing?

      • Lauren Purje

        Warning: do not feed the trolls.

  • Ekwinoks

    i really fuckin hate performance art

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