Don’t Just Reinscribe! Dissolve, blur, disguise, grrr, meld & dye, dye, dye…

Cahun’s work explores the interior and plays with the metamorphosis of self. Her androgynous polymorphy, her adoption of various theatrical disguises (vampire, gymnast, swami, masked gypsy, braided girl, mannequin, angel) and of the trappings of either gender, sometimes of both within one image, melts the boundaries drawn by the construct of two polar oppositional genders. During much of her life, Claude Cahun cut her hair very short and dyed it rose, gold, or silver, when she didn’t shave it off completely. In her mimicry of all codes of social representation, she eludes any claim of one “true” identity, calling into question the concept of there being any one true identity. For Cahun it seems not so much a desire to BE the other gender but to dissolve the borders. In blending polar opposites she renders them non-oppositional, and thus inoperative, as in her blending of these two ideas: “poetryguardsitsecretsurrendersitsecretguardsitsecretsurrendersitsecret. . . .” Les Paris sont ouverts

Art Photography Sexy

AMY KING View All →

Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She co-edited with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edits the anthology series, Bettering American Poetry, and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.

3 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Remember this from Women & Surrealism Exhibition Catalogue: “Michael Glover “The Independent’s” reviewer of the Manchester, UK exhibition, is the one who wrote, “Could Surrealism, from the evidence of this show, be construed as proto-feminist? The evidence here suggests that it could. ”

    Well, Amy, I think your Calhun posting and headline is the best response to the answer seemingly poised as a question by the reviewer that could be got! Claude Cahun. Begetter of pre-surrealistic visual language(s). I recall Stein figuring into Cubism with language(s) before Picasso . . .

  2. Barbara Hammer created a mesmerizing documentary, *Lover Other*, about Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore a few years ago. Here’s a clip:

    I saw *Lover Other* at the Woodstock Film Festival where Hammer answered questions. She wondered if the film, created in an appropriately surrealist style, was hard to follow. Many people in the audience said it was, which surprised me. I found the film much *easier* to follow than most since the subject matter was so absorbing that my attention never strayed. I want more “hard-to-follow” art of such beauty and wit.

  3. Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore were not only important figures in the art world. They also acted as Resistance propagandists during the German occupation of the Channel Islands (they lived on Jersey). Arrested shortly after the Normandy invasion, they served time on death row before the Liberation.

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