Trapping Men for Recruiting Angels: Claude Cahun & Marcel Moore

Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 23.40.24 Trapping Men for Recruiting Angels: Claude Cahun & Marcel Moore
11 – 14 April 2013
Cre8te Centre for the Fringe! Queer Film and Arts Festival, London 

Claude Cahun, born in 1894 as Lucy Schwob, was a French photographer and essayist. She and her partner Marcel Moore were an extraordinary couple who worked, lived, and loved together for more than forty years. The self portraits of Cahun, produced over a 20 year period, together with her prose poems, political tracts, journalistic essays, photo-collages, and sculpture-objects register the extraordinary range of media with which she worked. Like other same sex couples of the period (Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Natalie Barney and Romaine Brookes, Radclyffe Hall and Una Troubridge) who resisted traditional female roles and opted for same sex partnerships, the relationship between Cahun and Moore signals the importance of female artistic collaboration as an alternative to bourgeois heterosexual marriage. As such, creative self-intervention and intimate artistic collaboration become important themes in Cahun’s work. 

Cahun focused her work on questions of identity and representations across sexual, political and aesthetic domains, sometimes within the framework of a Surrealist aesthetic and sometimes against it. If we read anything into her portraits, it is their ‘inquisitive’ properties, their openness to the question “Who am I?”. Cahun never conformed to a particular identity, and constructed her self-image to cross over between discourses of the fashionable, the avant-garde, the bohemian, the androgynous, the lesbian and the revolutionary. 

Within the context of an orthodox Surrealism, with its festishisation of the female body and its underlying homophobia, Cahun’s work directly addresses the crisis of identity and self-definition for women (and homosexuals.) Cahun is an artist for whom sexual politics, as opposed to the body, is a domain to consciously and intellectually investigate, a far different purpose than Surrealism’s celebration of eroticism. 

Her work passed into obscurity after WWII and was only rediscovered in the mid 1990s by art historians, though much of her work was lost during the war. Since then she has come to be recognised as one of the most inspired female artists and activists. 

Read full essay here Hemera would like to express our sincere gratitude and appreciation to Dr. Thomas Moors, without whom this exhibition would not be possible. 

  Press: My Modern Met’s ‘Famous Self Portrait Photographers’ Read Punk Tum’s review of the exhibition