Irina Kulik’s next lecture will focus on a pair of female artists, who used photography to explore gender and identity among other subjects.
Claude Cahun (1894–1954) is the alias of the French female artist, sculptor and writer Lucy Schwob, who was one of the pioneering figures in the history of contemporary period to have explored the issues of gender roles and their representation, via photography. She is best known for her self-portraits where Cahun—long before the famous photo series of Cindy Sherman—impersonates various characters, including masculine ones, using make-up, costumes and props. Following her acquaintance with André Breton in the early 1930s, she exhibited at a number of important surrealist shows in London and Paris. Her essays and literary texts also investigate identity and draw on the surrealist poetics. In 2007 David Bowie, who compared Cahun with Man Ray and Meret Oppenheim, initiated a multimedia exhibition of her works in New York.
Francesca Woodman (1958–1981) was an American photographer and artist who died at the age of twenty-two following a second suicide attempt. Most of her remaining works are black and white, small or medium-size photographs representing herself or other women under different guises. She also recorded short clips featuring her own body and face on video camera and created several artist’s books. Woodman’s practice was appreciated only postmortem however, with the first exhibitions of her photography organized in the mid-1980s. Meanwhile more recently, her retrospectives have been displayed globally, including major institutions in Spain, Italy, the USA, Sweden, Holland, France and Finland.