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Sunday, 5 December 2010

Claude Cahun, getting in to the cupboard for comfort

Have you ever crept inside a cupboard or a wardrobe when things get really difficult? I know I have, and perhaps if my wardrobes weren't so cold I would consider getting in them now and having a snuggle. Anyway, that isn't the point really. The point is Claude Cahun.

Claude Cahun is a surrealist photographer and photomontager, who if I am honest I don't know a great deal about. In the summer I went to an exhibition called The Surreal House at the Barbican (you may be noticing a trend, I have not been to many exhibitions since summer ended and work returned) and discovered Cahun snuggled in to the shelf of a chest. Cahun is famous for her subversive portraits, as well as her androgyny. So I think it is important that she has a suggestion of blonde curls, a bow in her hair and appears to us as a child in this photograph. Most people probably shouldn't be getting in cupboards for comfort by the time they are adults, or at least they shouldn't admit it. Cahun's portrait transforms her in to a child, the lens warps time and identity as she sleeps. There is nothing but Claude in this photograph, no complications or uncomfortable juxtapositions, just that deep comfort of sleep and all of the security it affords. The lens goes beyond our expectations in this attempt at portraiture, it strips away layers to get at the innocent core of Claude.

Over the past few days I keep returning to this postcard. I wish I was Cahun and that this peace she has was mine. It reminds me of the most delectable sleep of my life; after days without sleep in Beijing I found myself on the middle bunk of a sleeper train, my duvet filling all available space and the train rocking me to sleep. I think this is what is so appealing about being a child; being small enough to fit in cosy spaces. To hide and dream. To find comfort in tiny spaces.

Some getting-in-the-cupboard style music:

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