Although she began her career as a painter and sculptor, Gina Pane is best known as a protagonist of body art
through punishing performances in which she explored the limits of her body and mind. Pane was born in 1939 in Biarritz, France to an Italian father and Austrian mother and spent most of her childhood and early adulthood in Turin, Italy. In 1960, she permanently settled in Paris and attended the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts. After initially focusing her career on painting and sculpture, in the mid-1960s Pane turned to conceptual art in response to the Vietnam War and a politically stagnate French government. Resolved to raise social awareness through her art, Pane began producing multimedia performances which often incorporated objects, projections, recorded music, or recited words by other performers.
Pane is most known for a series of performances she executed between 1969 and 1979, referred to as actions by the artist, in which she focused on the gesture of wounding herself. In one of her first actions entitled Unaestheticized climb
) performed in 1971, a barefoot Pane repeatedly scaled a ladder-like sculpture studded with sharp metal protrusions. By evoking empathy from the audience for her pain and relating her suffering to external violence, Pane hoped to awaken the French to the reality of the Vietnam War. Other actions consisted of the artist cutting herself with razor blades, inserting thorns into her forearms, burning her flesh, and breaking sheets of glass with her entire body. Each action was preceded by a period of methodical preparation in which Pane created detailed notes and drawings, and all performances were documented through recordings and photographs.
After critically injuring herself in one of her actions, Pane abandoned performing in 1980 and spent her remaining career creating sculptural installation pieces. She became increasingly focused on the theme of saints and martyrs; however, as with her body art, she placed these works within the context of contemporary society. From 1975 until her death from cancer in 1990, Pane taught at the École des Beaux-Arts in Le Mans, France. She also established an experimental performance workshop at the Centre Georges Pompidou in 1978.
École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France (ca. 1960-1965)
Atelier d'Art Sacré, Paris, France (1961-1963)