Claude Cahun: Boy & Girl Together
Claude Cahun: Boy & Girl Together For this discussion I found an interest in the gender bending “self-portraiture” of Claude Cahun. An added interest I later found about Cahun and her work came after googling her name; I found some articles about feminism in art that not only speak about Cahun and her feminist work, but also about Cindy Sherman’s art as well (Imagine that to my surprise).
Cahun was one of first the 20th century (female) artists to dress herself up in an array of gender bending disguises and photographed herself in the name of art, from the time she was 16 with the collaborative assistance of her life partner (and step sister), Marcel Moore. Cahun had preferred to present herself as both object and subject for her own sexual fascinations, rather than a passive object (Claude Cahun, Self-Portrait, 1928, The Guerilla Girls’ Beside Companion to the History of Western Art, page 62) o be consumed by the “male gaze. ” Claude’s work was scandalous to everyone including the homophobic, surrealist men she hung out with, as she paved her own path towards liberation; could Cahun and Moore have been the first two Guerilla Girls’ of the 20th century? Yes, I do feel that woman’s artwork is read in a gender-based way, while men’s is mainly looked at in terms of its content and statement. Claude Cahun’s artwork is looked at as scandalous and pornographic; the surrealists wrote her out of their history.
On the contrary the surrealists could appreciate that of Rrose Selavy, the avant-garde alter ego of Marcel Duchamp; a male artist disguised as a woman for art’s sake. Claude Cahun’s gender most definitely comes into play when interpreting and studying her work, as well as her sexual identity. Cahun disrupts restrictive ideas about gender, social prescriptions and femininity. The fact that has surprised me throughout the study of art history is that only the art of white, European affiliated men held any merit. Meaning, the art itself was not looked at by what it was or how well it was created, but y who created it as to whether it was to be consider museum worthy or not. “What do women want? They want the human to be neither man nor woman. ” – Jean-Francois Lyotard (The Guerilla Girls’ Beside Companion to the History of Western Art, page 59) I found this to be supportive of how artwork should be studied, interpreted and of its success of not. The art should be the topic and the content and message be heard over the fact of whether it is created by a man, a woman or someone in-between. References: * The Guerrilla Girls’ bedside companion to the history of Western art. New York: Penguin Books, 1998. Print. page 62-63. * “Claude Cahun. Guerrillagirlsbroadband. N. p. , n. d. Web. 2 Apr. 2012. http://ggbb. org/meet-the-broads/claude-cahun/. Claude Cahun – radical, Jewish, lesbian, writer, resistance fighter, political activist, Surrealist, photographer strangely prescient in their concern with sexual politics and gender identity. Her self-portraits represent such a diverse range of sexual selves Although Cahun did not become closely associated with Andre Breton’s Surrealists util the early 1930s, she later declared herself to have “always been a surrealiste”. The Surrealists organized in response to the rise of Hitler and the spread of fascism in France.
Her political commitment extended throughout her life, and though she might best be described as a libertarian anarchist, her politics had an explicitly feminist subtext In examining issues of female self-identity and subjectivity, before they were really formulated as such, Cahun was moving toward her own liberation. Jersey was occupied by the Germans during World War II, and the two women mounted resistance activities such as writing and distributing anti-Nazi leaflets. Cahun was nearly executed for this act, but was given a reprieve at the last minute.
German soldiers moved into Cahun and Moore’s home, destroying much of their art work, including original photographs, photo-plates and negatives. The two women were subsequently incarcerated. The ignorance about Cahun is such that there are source books on Surrealism that refer to her as a man. Cahun’s boyish image was, in fact, shocking in the context of mainstream French Surrealism. The male Surrealists not only advocated heterosexuality, but tended to be homophobic. Claude was a lesbian, A Jew, and a Marxist, three no-nos to the Nazis, who invaded France in 1940.