Claude Cahun/ “I is another”.

Although I had a lot of time to get acquainted with myself, my knowledge about me is fragmentary. I could tell you all about my life, but all you would get would be a mere reference to my person. I am both subject and object of my history. I could have the illusion of being self-determined, but as long I don’t know about the rules and patterns that lead me through my life, this will stay an illusion. Yes, I do have moments of insight, sometimes painful ones. It can be rather shocking to collide with the walls of your own ignorance.

We all are subordinated to biological, biographical and societal rules; they determine our actions and our being.

I doubt that Claude Cahun would have agreed with these ideas. I revert here to a quote by Laua Elkin. She knows more about her than I do:

Her playacting amounts to a total rejection of identity—the self—for Cahun, is inherently multiple and mobile, recreated and reinvented from moment to moment, and gender is a mask which can be put on or taken off according to whim or necessity. We try to “delineate our roles,” she writes, “according to our changing moods. It is only after many attempts . . . that we can firm up the moulds of our masks.” We can firm up our identity, she suggests—but it will only ever be a mold, or a mask. Deeply influenced by Rimbaud, who declared that “Je est un autre” (”I is another”), Cahun replies, “Je est un autre—un multiple toujours”—”I is another—and always multiple.”


Dirk Snauwart writes in his preface to “Claude Cahun; Bilder.”:
(rough translation)

Her most striking photographs, the ones she is to be seen with very short, colored or completely shaved hair, elude standardization and unsettle by their frontal directness. She called them her “monstrosities.” In these images her sexual identity is undefined. Cahun doesn’t refer here to physical attributes but to the self-image that defines itself in a complex relation to its manifestations.

Cahun has refused to accept our societies classification into male or female role models, as she has refused societies normative allocations of clothing or hairdo.
It’s working a bit like peer pressure. The fear of punishment and the hope for affirmation makes the world go round.

Using the example of female dress code is the easiest way to detect the standardization of norms and behavioral codes by society. Males move like males and never wear skirts. Females are defined by swinging hips and stilettos, and how could I forget, by their breasts. We never would choose a look contradicting the established dressing or behavioural code as Cahun does.

That what is, seems to be self-evident. But it could be different too.