Thursday, 21 April 2011

Claude Cahun

Claude Cahun (1894 -1954) was a writer, photographer and political activist who loved in Jessey during WWII. She was fascinate with gender and identity and took  a series of photographs, often self-portraits, that explore gender and her own identity, often portraying herself in a guise where it is difficult to immediately decide whether the image is of a male or female.

Cahun was heavily involved with the surrealists and this clearly affected her thinking, and was described as a 'curious spirit' by Andre Breton (letter to Claude Cahun, 1932). The surrealist view of women was unusual for the time as they were often shown as objects of men's desires, and it is interesting that although Cahun was involved with them many of her self-portraits are asexual, or at the very least, showing an unusual view of sexuality.

This exhibition of photographs is the first solo exhibition to be shown in the UK.  The prints are small, often only 6-8 inches  in height, therefore need close studying. The immediate impression that I was left with was of a kind of narcissistic collection, that although it avoided any overt sexuality actually emphasised it by its sheer absence, which I found disturbing. These are not images that I would wish on my living room wall, although there were a few I found strangely beautiful.

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