Sappho am Fenster der Guillotine. Zu intermedialen Reflexionen von Visualität und Queerness bei Claude Cahun


  • Julika Funk




Sappho at the Guillotine Window: Intermedia Reflections of Visuality and Queerness in the Work of Claude Cahun

The paper explores Claude Cahun’s literary work and contemporaneous art contexts around 1900 to reappraise the problem of gender identity and gender attribution in Cahun’s stagings of the self. It traces both the complex, semiotic vector field spanning the manifold interrelations between Cahun’s works and the references therein to the prevailing discourse on homosexuality and the state of aesthetic debates at the time. Particular attention is devoted to the continuing resistance of Cahun’s photographic work, the resistance offered by identity images produced in the genre of self-portraits, and the possible resistance of these works to becoming photographic images. The paper thus sheds light on the media-specific conditions of such representations and on the possibilities available to Cahun for figuring at once as a female artist, photographer, writer, and lesbian. Such figuration is intimately related to the performance and visibility of body images which, however, are unable to elude their own masquerading. The actual project of Cahun’s texts is described as a poetics of double or multiple exposure, as a negative-positive process of photography, that is, as a form of critical experimentation in the field of visibility. Using the example of Cahun’s Aveux, a series of autobiographical texts, this paper traces the interaction between photographic and linguistic (literary) processes. It shows how Cahun’s photographic reflection on the gaze regime and its playing with the camera’s gaze discovers its identity-logical analogy in writing: both techniques, the photographic and the literary, resist a definitive attribution of identity as regards their motifs (contents) and form.