Rarely-seen works by elusive artist Claude Cahun kicks-off LGBT History Month programme of events at Brookes

Monday, 16 January 2017

Claude-Cahun-Glass-Tank

From Monday 23 January, the Glass Tank gallery at Oxford Brookes University will host a touring exhibition of rarely-seen works by French photographer Claude Cahun.

Claude Cahun: Beneath This Mask is a Hayward Touring exhibition from Southbank Centre, London selected for the Glass Tank by curator, Joanna Walker. It will run alongside Oxford Brookes University’s programme of events to mark LGBT History Month 2017.

Claude Cahun (1894-1954) achieved posthumous fame for her original and enigmatic photographic self-portraits in which she assumed multiple personae.

Decades ahead of its time, her worked played with perceived gender roles and identity, concerns that are still as current and pertinent in today’s world.

Already, in the early twentieth century, Cahun was challenging fixed ideas around self-identity and authenticity; she is a transgender artist years ahead of her time. Her work has direct relevance to contemporary feminist debate on the subjects of gender, identity and sexuality and our students in particular will benefit from having an exhibition of this quality on campus.

Joanna Walker, Curator of the Glass Tank, Oxford Brookes University

Curator of the Glass Tank at Oxford Brookes University Joanna Walker said: “I selected this touring exhibition first and foremost because Cahun is a fascinating artist whose work is surprisingly still not that well known.

“Her highly staged self-portraits incorporate the visual aesthetics of Surrealism and they prefigure the work of more recent female artists such as Cindy Sherman. Already, in the early twentieth century, Cahun was challenging fixed ideas around self-identity and authenticity; she is a transgender artist years ahead of her time. Her work has direct relevance to contemporary feminist debate on the subjects of gender, identity and sexuality and our students in particular will benefit from having an exhibition of this quality on campus.

“Furthermore, it connects with our programme of events marking LGBT History month. Later in the year, in September 2017, we will be hosting another major exhibition of photography as part of Photo Oxford, a city-wide international festival of photography.”

Born Lucy Schwob, she adopted the pseudonym Claude Cahun in 1917 to free herself from the narrow confines of gender.

At the beginning of her career she was aligned to the Surrealist movement and was friends with Andre Breton; however she distanced herself both politically and physically after fleeing France on the eve of Nazi occupation.

Cahun settled in Jersey where she embarked upon her defining photographic series, in which the subversion of traditional portraiture and the constructed nature of identity and gender are pressing concerns. In these now famous images, Cahun anticipated the performative work of contemporary artists such as Cindy Sherman.

The exhibition is drawn from the Claude Cahun Archive at Jersey Heritage and contains photographic works that have rarely been seen in the UK.

Over the coming weeks, Oxford Brookes will be hosting a series of events to mark LGBT History Month 2017. On 22 February, Brookes will host a panel debate with national speakers on LGBT+ identity, rights, pride and community – bringing activist perspectives on ‘being who we are today’.

This is the second year Oxford Brookes has collaborated to celebrate and highlight achievements, voices and perspectives from the LGBT+ community and promoting LGBT+ equality.

The exhibition will run until Friday 17 February 2017 in the Glass Tank gallery, Abercrombie building on the Headington Campus. The exhibition is free and open to all.

More information about the University’s programme of events for LGBT History Month can be found on the University’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion webpages.