Acting Out: Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore

Acting Out, guest curated by Dr. Tirza True Latimer, differs from previous exhibitions featuring photographs of the Paris surrealist Claude Cahun in at least two significant aspects. First, the exhibition spotlights the collaborative dimension of an oeuvre conventionally attributed to Cahun alone. Many of the photographs described in recent catalogues and exhibitions as "self-portraits" were actually shot by Cahun's life-long partner, Marcel Moore, who alternated positions with her lover before and behind the camera’s lens. Secondly, Acting Out situates this body of work with respect avant-garde theater in Paris, where Cahun and Moore were both spectators and performers throughout the 1920s. This significant context has been upstaged in recent scholarship by the later surrealist affiliation. Acting Out aims, then, to fill in the theatrical backdrop against which Cahun’s photographic episodes were staged while restoring Moore to the scene of their production.

The exhibition showcases approximately 90 objects including estate prints of photographs featuring Cahun, as well as high quality facsimiles of Moore's costume and set designs, publications realized by the two artists working in collaboration, and personal documents. This material offers dramatic documentation of the couple’s cultural and political engagements, from Paris' experimental theater of the 1920s to acts of resistance staged during the German Occupation of Jersey (where Cahun and Moore had taken up residence in 1937). The Jersey Heritage Trust collection, from which the exhibition is drawn, contains works unknown to US audiences. By juxtaposing unfamiliar images produced by Cahun and Moore with newly translated excerpts from Cahun's writings and by considering the couple’s cultural activities from fresh perspectives, Acting Out aims to incite a new round of discussion and scholarship.