Lady Gaga isn't exactly a stranger to accusations that her work is derivative. But now, a French artist is reportedly suing the singer for plagiarism. Meet Orlan, who's been active in the French art scene for decades:
There are some obvious similarities between the two: Orlan, like Gaga, wears horns. Gaga, like Orlan, takes a stage name. Orlan, like Gaga, employs a ton of visual and conceptual references to Catholic imagery, the human body, and celebrity. There's even an entire tumblr dedicated to the similarities between the two (supplemented by comparisons to other visual artists): Gagaorlan. And there are some more broad conceptual resonances, too: here's Orlan's work explained in a 1993 Art in America feature:
"Orlan has trafficked in notions of an ambiguous and constantly shifting identity. Her actions call into question whether our self- representations conform to an inner reality or whether they are actually carefully contrived falsehoods fabricated for marketing purposes--in the media or in society at large...rlan leaves her background deliberately fuzzy, the better to maintain the anonymity required to project an enigmatic "star quality."
Orlan's performance went a bit further that Gaga's — those bumps on her face are real implants, and Orlan spent a good portion of the early 1990's undergoing a series of plastic surgery "interventions" as performance art. It seems plausible, then, that Orlan's work has influenced, and is referenced, by Lady Gaga. But that's not what, specifically, her greivence addresses. For the legal case, Orlan is reportedly focusing on one image from Gaga's "Born This Way" video to make the case that the singer's album of the same title relies on Orlan's body of work for its visual elements. As reported by Art Info, the lawsuit mentions an image of Gaga's severed head from the video's introduction, because it bears a resemblence to a 90's Orlan sculpture, “Femme Avec Tête” (“Woman With Head”).
Source: Lady Gaga, "Born This Way"
The lawsuit also cites another work of Orlan's "Bumpload." We're no experts on French plagiarism law, and most of the reports on the reported suit are, in French (the story was broken by a French art mag called "le Quotidien de l'Art" and picked up by the AFP), so we'll stay away from conclusive opinions here on whether Orlan has a good case against Gaga. But in the most general sense, there's a difference here between creating an homage to an iconic work of art (which Gaga herself did for Duchamp by inscribing a message on a urinal, a la the artist's immensely influential Fountain), and ripping off someone's work. Orlan seems to think that Gaga's apparent, repeated references to her work are the latter, and is apparently asking for 7.5 percent of the profits from the "Born This Way" album and video in compensation.