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March 23 – 6 May, 2018

Entre Nous: Claude Cahun and Clare Rae

  • Claude Cahun and Clare Rae

Entre Nous brings together the photographic works of Claude Cahun (1894–1954) and Clare Rae, presenting a conversation between two performative practices some 70 years apart.

Claude Cahun was a queer avant-garde artist and writer associated with the Parisian surrealist movement in the 1920s, before she relocated with her female partner Marcel Moore to the island of Jersey, U.K in the 1930s. Since her rediscovery in the 1980s, Cahun’s subversive self-portrait photographs and texts have become highly influential for artists dealing with questions of gender identity and representation of the female body.

In 2017 I undertook an artist’s residency with Archisle: the Jersey Contemporary Photography Programme to research the archive of Claude Cahun works held by Jersey Heritage. During my time there I began capturing a series of photographs alongside my research, starting with the sites inhabited and imaged by Cahun on the island, from the 1910s until her death in 1954, and moving into the spaces that house her work now—the reading rooms and storage stacks.

My series, Never standing on two feet, considers Cahun’s engagement with the physical and cultural landscapes of Jersey, an aspect of her work that has received little analysis to date. The photographs Cahun produced in Jersey are intimate. They explore an idea of self within the immediate environment and were produced in collaboration with her lover, Marcel Moore. Many threads of inquiry emerged for me while viewing the archive: Cahun’s performative photographic gestures; the nature of photographic performance for a lover; and the repercussions of imaging a woman’s body aging over time, to name a few.

Like Cahun’s, my photographs depict my body in relation to place; in these instances sites of coastal geography and Jersey’s Neolithic ritual monuments. I enact a visual dialogue between the body and these environments, and test how their photographic histories impact upon contemporary engagements. Cahun used self-portraiture to subvert the dominance of the male gaze in photographic depictions of the female body in the landscape. My practice is invested in the feminist act of self-representation and I draw parallels between my performances of an expanding vocabulary of gesture and Cahun’s overtly performative images of the body expressing a multiplicity of identity. In this series, I tease out the interpretations inherent in landscape photography. I utilise gesture and the performing body to contrast and unsettle traditional representations of the female figure in the landscape.

-Clare Rae, 2018