Lens under a Mask. On the Theatrical Aspect of Photography by Claude Cahun
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Surrealism and photography share a fascination with duality, the mirrored reflection, and the doppelganger. The first three decades of the twentieth century were also a time when not only taking photographs but also the photograph as such, conceived as an effect of activity, assumed the features of a theatre, when photographic reflections became simultaneously theatrical thought, and when the limits of the traditional approach to assorted domains of the arts were crossed. One of the artists situated on the borderline of the arts - between the theatre and photography - was Claude Cahun, a niece of the writer Marcel Schwob, who in the theatralisation of her own person went much further than Duchamp for whom it was only a 'staged' episode. Duchamp as Rose Sélavy remained two persons, while Claude Cahun standing in front of the lens, although disguised, was still the same person ... Incessantly questioning her identity, she created an unusual photographic theatre (indistinguishable from 'life'). Who was Claude Cahun? A woman or a man? A photographer or a photographed object? An actress or a director? 'Herself' or 'the other'? Or perhaps she was Leiris' Judith?
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