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Don’t Kiss Me: Disruptions of the Self in the Works of Claude Cahun

February 28, 1999 - May 2, 1999

AWE Gallery

The photographs of Claude Cahun have been little known until recent years, and this exhibition is the first showing of her work in Canada.

Born in France in 1894 as Lucy Schwob, she later changed her name to the ambiguously-gendered Claude Cahun. A poet, actress, sculptor, and photomonteur, she was one of the few women close to the Surrealist group. She was considered a political and sexual revolutionary, even within the radical cultural milieu (surrealist figurehead Andre Breton was said to have been so put off by her unconventional manner and appearance that he would abandon his favoourite cafe upon her arrival.)

She lived in Paris and England, and then settled in Jersey in the late 1930s. She was an activist in wartime resistance, and was imprisoned by the Nazis for six years. Cahun died in Jersey in 1954, where she had lived since 1937.

The exhibition of photographs features self-portraits from the 1920s and 30s. In these images, Cahun presents herself in a number of guises through various costumes, masks, and theatrical make-up. Cahun’s disguises stretch the established boundaries of gender definition. They are assertions of an ever-shifting identity, one that refuses to be singular.

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