The Perpetual Insurrection of Claude Cahun

Co-created by
Tim Smith-Stewart and Jeffrey Azevedo

Words by
Ryan Helterbrand, PhD

Performed by
Fenja Abrams
Grace Orr
Sierra Hendrix

Choreography
Alyza DelPan-Monley
Tim Smith-Stewart
(with additional choreographic contribution from Alice Gosti)

Movement for this performance was generated in collaboration with the performers as well as early development workshop participants Peter Donnelly, Kaitlin McCarthy, Sarah Steele, and Eli Stefan.

The Perpetual Insurrection of Claude Cahun is a performative reading of Ryan Helterbrand’s dissertation on the queer Surrealist artist and activist Claude Cahun. It centers the anti-Nazi resistance movement and poetic tactics Cahun organized with her partner Suzanne Malherbe from 1940 to 1944 on the Channel Island of Jersey under the name of “the Nameless Soldiers.” This performative reading is intended to reclaim Cahun’s all-but-erased campaign of covert anti-fascist insurrection and sabotage. It features performers reciting excerpts of Helterbrand’s writing while performing a tightly choreographed score, rendering the text itself as an embodied set of physical gestures.

Following the performance, Nina Bozicnik, associate curator, facilitates a conversation with Helterbrand on his research of Claude Cahun and her engagement with avant-garde aesthetics and revolutionary politics.

Ryan Helterbrand currently teaches literature at the University of Washington and writes on modernism, the avant-garde and critical theory. His current book project, A Multiple Always: The Perpetual Insurrection of Claude Cahun, traces Cahun’s cultural activism with the nascent homosexual-rights community in the 1920s, her political and theoretical work with the Surrealists in the 1930s, and her anti-Nazi resistance activities in the 1940s.

The Perpetual Insurrection of Claude Cahun was performed in October of 2017 at the Henry Art Gallery (Seattle).