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Beñat Moreno : a shifting identity

He may collaborate with famous plastic artist ORLAN, but Beñat Moreno (ESMOD class of 2022) is also keen to assert his own status as a multidisciplinary artist, with a vision that perpetuates the teachings of the Fluxus movement whereby art and life become one. He agreed to show us around the ORLAN studio and granted us an interview that had something of a cry of love for art and freedom about it.

Plastic artist ORLAN’s studio stands at the far side of a very large, well-lit courtyard

at the heart of Paris’s 11 th arrondissement and is run by a disciple who has been a

great admirer of the leading artist since childhood. This disciple is himself an artist

who, just like his mentor, expresses himself through a variety of media that offer a

questioning look at the status of the body. Inside, the studio combines the energy of

a factory with the majesty of a museum, with major works from the history of

contemporary art over recent decades, to which this feminist has made a significant

personal commitment, displayed alongside current projects. The iconic photograph

Orlan accouche d'elle-même (‘Orlan gives birth to herself’), presented in 1964, sits

alongside the famous Baiser de l'artiste (‘Kiss of the Artist’) that made such an

impression during the FIAC international contemporary art fair of 1976. The

ORLANoïde, a humanoid resembling the artist herself and created in 2018, is

displayed along with several pieces from the Self-hybridations series, while La liberté

en écorchée, (‘Flayed liberty’), a 3D video showing a body stripped of its skin,

glorifies the truly ‘flayed’ nature of the artists while highlighting their ability to defend

the integrity of their vision at all costs. Not only does Beñat love this vision, with

which he has been familiar since childhood, but he perpetuates it by embedding it in

his own work, which is also based on reflection on the political, social, individual and

collective body. We took a guided tour and interviewed Beñat.

Planetesmod: How would you describe yourself in a few words?

Beñat Moreno: Who am I? Well, that’s a question I ask myself on a daily basis and

that I hope to be asking myself for a long time to come. Let’s just say I’m constantly

trying to emancipate myself, and even emancipate myself from my previous

emancipation. I believe in shifting identity and constant evolution, because there’s

nothing worse than becoming set in our ways of thinking. I also consider myself an

artist, not out of aspiration but because it’s something I sort of fell into. The more

mundane truth is that I grew up on the Basque coast and took my first art and art

history classes at the age of 6. When I was 9, I discovered the Fluxus movement,

ORLAN and Marina Abramović, and when you discover major figures of this calibre

at such a young age, female artists with the ability to question the world and the

body, it changes your mindset.

What made you decide to go to fashion school (ESMOD Paris, to be precise)?

I’ve never felt bound to any particular artistic practice; I’m more for the creative

movements that advocate multidisciplinarity, or even polymorphism. As far as I’m

concerned, concept is everything. I always start a project with a writing phase that

involves a lot of questioning. Materiality comes later on and often involves the body

and therefore performance, which is really my playground. That said, I’ve always had

a conflicting relationship with fashion as something that interests me but that I often

find somewhat outdated in terms of its conventions, so I decided to become part of

the fashion world so that I could challenge it from the inside.

Do you find restraint inspiring?

It’s important to be willing to go beyond our limits and overcome our fears, always in

the context of emancipation and the search for freedom. It’s kind of like a macabre

dance between compliance with specifications and integrity of vision.

What was the theme of your end-of-year collection?

My project was entitled Eucaristía: fragmentos de una introspección en movimiento,

meaning ‘Eucharist: fragments of an introspection in motion’. So as you can see,

there was already this idea of motion that is so dear to me. Everything is constantly

being constructed and deconstructed, and in this context I questioned my relationship

with the body without representing myself, through living scenes that all represented

different allegories, scenes depicting my mental and emotional journey. The people I

asked to be involved decided to take this autobiographical act and reinject it into their

own stories through their performances. It really was a collaborative project. Each

scene begins with a text I wrote and ends with another text, this time written by the

artists represented in it. I wanted to merge art and life, in accordance with the

teachings of the Fluxus movement.

Some of the scenes featured nude artists. Was it easy to defend at a fashion

school, before a jury, bearing in mind that you’d chosen the performance


I find restraint inspiring from an artistic perspective, as you said, and even exciting,

I’d say, so I tried not to follow the advice of those who advised me to use flesh-

coloured body stockings, which seemed like an aberration. I then defended the

performances in which there was no clothing because they made sense; this very

absence of clothing supported my narrative. Isn’t our own skin the ultimate garment?

The Rencontre (‘Encounter’) scene offered a detailed insight into the exposure that

comes from the attraction of two bodies. The performance itself, which ultimately

lasted six hours, was in their hands, no constraints. They made love on camera, and

this performance, which I presented on the big screen during the jury session,

exceeded even its own framework as it led to an intimate story. Another scene

entitled La mort (‘Death’) was portrayed through an open window representing a

birth, that of Boticelli’s Venus, in fact. After all, the end is a beginning in itself.

Beñat Moreno pose avec la plasticienne ORLAN pour qui il a notamment réalisé les tenues qui seront dévoilées dans le cadre du projet artistique "Le Slow de l'artiste".

Your career path has led to you collaborating with plastic artist ORLAN, a

feminist artist who expresses herself through photography, video, sculpture,

installation and performance. How did this collaboration come about?

The thing with ORLAN came about as a result of our paths crossing a few times. I

first met her and discovered her work when I was 9 years old. Our paths crossed

again when I later moved to Paris and she was presenting her autobiography at an

event. I still have that autobiography that she signed. We met a third time last May

when, during my end-of-year internship at ESMOD, which we needed to do in order

to obtain our diplomas, I sent her an unsolicited application by e-mail. She replied to

me personally and asked if I’d like to come to the studio. That was a game-changer.

I’d grown up with the artist and met the woman, and we’ve since established a real

relationship. She’s a woman I love and admire, and she’s changed me forever.

Working with a leading avant-garde artist is a privilege that I’m very grateful for on a

daily basis. I stayed on after my internship and I’m now director of the ORLAN studio.

What do you make of her career? Does her work fuel your own creativity?

ORLAN is an extraordinary and inspiring woman who’s seen everything and met

everyone. She’s given me the opportunity to meet artists I’ve always admired, such

as Michelle Lamy and Jean-Charles de Castelbajac. I’d like to point out that she’s

always had to fight and put herself out there in order to get to this point. You have to

know what you want and what you don’t want. So we have to succeed in existing,

because that’s what she asks of us, but we also have to know our place. There’s a

balance that needs to be struck, and that’s why I design on the side as well, dressing

Ellipse, for example, for the French Drag Con tour, and also ORLAN herself. Fashion

has been there for her throughout her career, especially during her surgeries, which

she saw as performances. She was therefore dressed by a designer or costume

designer throughout. And since she’s not bound by any particular practice or

technology, I’m pleased to announce that ORLAN will be releasing her first music

album in two months’ time. I’ve dressed her in a ‘manifesto costume’ that we made

together for this album and the corresponding performances, promotional

appearances and music videos. She’s been extremely generous and put her trust in

me, so I think that’s the answer to your question right there. I feel so humble that,

thanks to her, I’ve also played my part in the history of the arts.

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