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Saturday, November 3 • 4:00pm - 5:30pm
8.B. Affective Mediums

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PANEL. Affective Mediums

“Performing Intimacy and Exile: Surrealist Practice in the Work of Joseph Cornell and Yayoi Kusama”
Felicity Gee
University of Exeter

Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama lived in New York between the years of 1957-1975, becoming more famous in America than in her native Japan. She met the shy and reclusive Joseph Cornell at his home, Utopia Parkway, Nyack, in 1962, and the two remained in correspondence, and sometimes collaboration, until his death in 1972. Seemingly unlikely partners, the pair nevertheless had much in common: from their peripheral and direct engagement with surrealism and surrealists, to their acute psychological and social difficulties, and an alternatively micro/macro artistic practice. This paper will discuss what I call the exilic état d’attente that brings these artists together Both Kusama and Cornell travel to escape their homes – actually and virtually – through the imaginary, and performative. Their ‘outsider/insider’ status is paramount to a wider understanding of transnational surrealism during this period. While Cornell was famously inspired by the collage work of Max Ernst, and exhibited in a number of the early Surrealist exhibitions in New York, Dawn Ades argues that he was not creating ‘in the wake of […] the development of the object within the Surrealist movement, but ‘simultaneously’. For her part, Kusama bridges Eastern and Western painting of the twentieth century, pushing against the boundaries of Nihonga and collapsing the distinction between body and universe, mind and world in a hallucinatory, female, surrealistic dynamism. The affective collaboration between these two artists, and their relationship to surrealism (and each other) has been little explored in scholarly work, a lacuna that this paper seeks to address.

“La Boxe contre l’ombre: Claude Cahun at Ringside”
Austin Hancock
Princeton University

Over the past thirty years, a resurgence of interest in the photography and writing of Claude Cahun has transported this once forgotten surrealist from a position of self-imposed exile on the island of Jersey to the fore of queer and feminist theory alike. Indeed, operating both literally and figuratively on the outskirts of France and of the central Surrealist group in Paris, part of the appeal of Cahun’s work is no doubt her unequivocal and oftentimes confrontational reclamation of her own marginalized position. This confrontational stance is on full display in a series of Cahun’s most famous photographs in which she dons a pair of boxing shorts and sneers into the camera, the words “DON’T KISS ME I AM IN TRAINING” written across her chest, and, taking these portraits as a point of departure, my presentation traces Cahun’s appropriation of this pugilistic persona through her writing and back to an oft-forgotten short story from her youth entitled “Boxe.” Through a close analysis of this text, we discover how, by stepping into the exclusively virile space of the boxing ring, Cahun manages to subvert the macho rules which define the sport and score a knock-out blow for the marginalized in the very arena where paternal order reigns supreme. Moreover, this entry into the ring then invites comparisons to Cahun’s later participation in the surrealist group which, while it did not share the misogynist logic of the boxing ring, was nonetheless a predominantly male circle.

avatar for Felicity Gee

Felicity Gee

University of Exeter

Austin Hancock

Princeton University

avatar for Jonathan Wallis

Jonathan Wallis

Associate Professor of Art History and Curatorial Studies, Moore College of Art & Design

Saturday November 3, 2018 4:00pm - 5:30pm EDT
Room B. Hildreth-Mirza Hall: Humanities Lab (lower level)