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E.D.M. (Sex) from Aveux non avenus
This photomontage heads the third chapter of Aveux non avenus. Self-portrait images of Cahun comprise its symmetrical design. The artist faces herself, and her image is repeated in mirror reflection at top and bottom. The shape of her shaved head, multiplied and arranged in a cloverleaf, evokes the pips on playing cards of the French suits of clovers and pikes--or clubs and spades. This cluster of bust portraits is flanked by small images of ancient sculptural figures of women. These two full-length figures are half draped, with their arms broken away, perhaps to symbolize the historic debilitation of women. Another bust of Cahun the artist hangs down from the top of the composition, with winglike shapes arching from her shoulders. Subsidiary images of the artist present her in character, dressed in costumes from her Le Plateau performances, often grimacing with exaggerated facial expressions. Several of the montages from Aveux non avenus are made up of figures, often in androgynous costumes and makeup, cut up and reassembled like paper dolls into decorative patterns, playfully confusing their person and cultural identity. The artist's face appears again, at the bottom of the image, dressed in a theatrical costume with a painted forehead and turban. Her head has rotated on a drawn body, so that she gazes up at the viewer like a vanquished demon under the feet of a deity. Reduced versions of these faces project like finials from the central block of the design. These dreamlike fragments, disjointed memories, puns and vagaries are Surrealist conceits that all occur in Cahun's writing as well. The cruciform typographic acrostic on the cover of Aveux non avenus introduces the verbal and pictorial games that feature throughout. Diametric symmetry and contrast is a recurrent theme of Cahun's imagery.
from Acton, A History of Photography at the University of Notre Dame: Twentieth Century (Notre Dame, 2019)