Using photographs taken by Cahun (of Jewish descent) on the British island of Jersey during the Nazi occupation in the Second World War, the exhibition tells the story of the courageous acts of resistance that led to her death penalty – which, incidentally, was never carried out thanks to the liberation. The film Confessions To The Mirror (68 min., 2016) by the renowned filmmaker Sarah Pucill will be screened as well. On the basis of a text written by Cahun, this film reflects on the artist’s political involvement and imprisonment.
Claude Cahun was born as Lucy Renée Mathilde Schwob. In reference to her great-uncle, who was an author, she adopted the gender-neutral name Claude Cahun. Cahun grew up in a prosperous, intellectual family. Her father was publisher of the newspaper Le Phare de la Loire and her uncle was a French symbolist writer and journalist who was friends with many artists and intellectuals. This gave Cahun the opportunity to publish her work at a young age and gave her access to avant-garde circles in Paris. The surrealists were a great inspiration to her. Just before she died, for instance, she wrote to a friend: ‘All my life, I have always been surrealistic in essence’.
In her teens, Cahun fell in love with illustrator Marcel Moore (born Suzanne Malherbe). After Cahun’s father divorced her mother, he married Marcel Moore’s mother. Thus, the two lovers also became stepsisters. The lovers stayed together their entire lives, working together on publications, photographs and photomontages.
Just before the Second World War broke out, Cahun and Moore left for Jersey. After the Nazis arrived on the island, they joined the resistance and used art as a means to undermine the occupier.