skip to content

Department of History of Art


Chaired by Ciaran Hervas.

Register here:

The event will begin with a screening of Sarah Pucill’s experimental film Magic Mirror (16mm, b/w, 75 min, 2013), which collages together re-stagings of the French Surrealist artist Claude Cahun’s black and white photographs with selected extracts from Cahun’s 1930 book Aveux non avenus (Confessions Denied, or Disavowals). In Surrealist kaleidoscopic fashion, the film creates a weave between image and word, exploring the links between Cahun’s photographs and writing, as well as the thematic and iconographic concerns that connect Cahun’s work and Pucill’s films. 

Cahun’s multi-subjectivity sets the scene for the film, in which the artist swaps identities between gender, age and the inanimate. Three women masquerade as Cahun’s characters: often it is hard to tell them apart. The splitting of identity appears as a double which persists throughout; as a literal double (super-imposition), as shadow, imprints in sand, reflections in water, mirror, or distorting glass. The voice is similarly split between differently dressed voices, which sometimes speak simultaneously and sometimes in dialogue. Part essay, part film poem, Magic Mirror translates the startling force of Cahun’s poetic language into a choreographed series of tableaux vivants. 

Magic Mirror premiered at Tate Modern in 2013 and has since been screened internationally at various galleries, museums, cinemas, and festivals. In 2015, the film was staged in a show, Magic Mirror, alongside photographs by Claude Cahun at the Nunnery Gallery in London. The film is half of a two-part project on the work of Cahun; its sister film, Confessions to the Mirror, (16mm, colour, 68min, 2016) employs a similar strategy of re-making photographs as tableaux vivants interwoven with voices reading extracts from a major text by Cahun. 

The screening will be followed by a conversation with the film’s creator, Sarah Pucill, and radical cultural historian and author Diarmuid Hester, who writes on Cahun in his recent book Nothing Ever Just Disappears (2023), chaired by History of Art PhD student Ciaran Hervás. The conversation will delve into the film's exploration of queer historical memory through the cross-temporal collaboration between Pucill and Cahun. We will discuss the role of the intermediate/intermedial in Pucill and Cahun’s work, examining what it means to move and exist between mediums, times, and identities. We will conclude by opening the conversation to the audience for questions, comments, and reflections on the screening and discussion. The event will be followed by a drinks reception.

Thursday, 13 June, 2024 - 17:30 to 20:00
Event location: 
Buckingham House Lecture Theatre, Murray Edwards College, Huntingdon Road, Cambridge, CB3 0DF