Curating Magic Mirror

Claude Cahun, 1928, Courtesy of the Jersey Heritage Collections

Claude Cahun, 1928, Courtesy of the Jersey Heritage Collections

Sarah Pucill, Narcissus, 2013.  Photographic print from negative

Sarah Pucill, Narcissus, 2013.
Photographic print from negative

Magic Mirror: Claude Cahun and Sarah Pucill
Curated by Karen Le Roy Harris
17 April –  14 June 2015
Nunnery Gallery, 181 Bow Road, London E3 2SJ. Open: Tues – Sun, 10am-5pm

Thursday 4 June 6-9pm, Late night opening & curator tours (with me)!

I recently curated an exhibition of work by French Surrealist artist Claude Cahun and contemporary British artist filmmaker Sarah Pucill at the Nunnery Gallery, London. The exhibition is part of the Nunnery Gallery’s 2015 In Dialogue season, a year-long exploration of partnerships, artistic inspirations and deeply involved relationships between the artist and the muse. Photographs by both artists will be shown in London, many for the first time.

Sharing an engagement with Surrealism, the layering of Pucill and Cahun’s work embraces the uncanny in relation to the inanimate. Their work explores the idea of a multiple ‘self’ and of looking, as both artists assert a queer gaze between mirror, camera and across two centuries.

Pucill’s film Magic Mirror combines a re-staging of Cahun’s photographs and visualisation of written text from her book Aveux non avenus (Disavowals), transforming Cahun’s work from still to moving image, whilst exploring the relationship between word, photography and sound in film.

Cahun (born Lucy Schwob) continually challenged social conformities. Known for her writings she published articles in journals and in 1929 translated Havelock Ellis’ theories on the third gender, which forms part of the gender neutral position Cahun took. ‘Masculine? Feminine? But it depends on the situation. Neuter is the only gender that always suits me’ (Claude Cahun). She was part of the Théâtre Esoterique and this element of staging and masquerade are carried through to her work. Cahun’s history and many ‘selves’ will be explored throughout the show.

Pucill’s dialogue with Cahun repositions her within a post-modern context with gender, self and identity at the centre of discourse. Through text, photography and film, the exhibition mixes and questions authorship, medium and identity.

Sarah Pucill’s films, which span over two decades, have been screened at major international film festivals with Magic Mirror being premiered at the Tate Modern. Her films and photographs explore a sense of self which is transformative and fluid. At the core of her practice is a concern with mortality and the materiality of the filmmaking process.

I’m delighted to be curating the show which also reflects on my own history – growing up in Jersey, where Cahun was resistant during the WW2 Nazi Occupation and London – where I currently live. Jersey Heritage Trust hold Cahun’s largest collection and I’m thrilled to be able to share such an important collection of work.  Meeting artist Sarah Pucill enabled me to see Cahun in a new light not just through the animation of her images but also through the deep rooted connections Sarah shares with Cahun and her work. The exhibition also allows for Cahun’s work to be placed in a shared contemporary voice and experience to which it sits so comfortably, despite some of her works being made nearly 100 years ago.

I hope you get chance to see the show. To find out more visit Bow Arts, Nunnery Gallery.


The exhibition has been kindly supported by:








Leave A Comment