exhibition: ‘gillian wearing and claude cahun: behind the mask, another mask’ at the national portrait gallery, london

Self Portrait c.1927

“…the life of spirit is not the life that shrinks from death and keeps itself untouched by devastation, but rather the life that endures it and maintains itself in it. It wins its truth only when, in utter dismemberment, it finds itself. It is this power, not as something positive, which closes its eyes to the negative as when we say of something that it is nothing or is false, and then having done with it, turn away and pass on to something else; on the contrary, spirit is this power only by looking the negative in the face, and tarrying with it. This tarrying with the negative is the magical power that converts it into being.”

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George Wilhelm Frederich Hegel 1807 ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’, Preface (trans. A. V. Miller 1977), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 10

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London in the 1930’s

 

 

London Camden Town in the 1930s

Camden Town 1930’s

 

 

London Child staring into bakery window, London, 1935

London, 1935.

London Evacuees from the East End of London during the Second World War, 1939

Evacuee’s during WWII, East End London, 1939.

London Lockyer Street, Bermondsey, London, 1935

Lockyer Street, Bermondsey, London 1935.

London Milkman on Charing Cross Road, 1935

Milkman on Charing Cross Road, 1935.

London A woman and her two daughters rooftopping Hillcott House, Haggerston, London 1938

A woman and her two daughters roof topping Hillcott House, Haggerston, London 1938.

London Shoeshine in London, 1936

Shoeshine in London, 1936.

London Victoria Bus Termina, 1939

Victoria Station, 1939.

London

Milk Bar, London, 1935.

Gladys Bentley [1920s]

Gladys Bentley [1920s]

Gladys Bentley (August 12, 1907 – January 18, 1960) was an American blues singer during the Harlem Renaissance

She moved to New York at the age of 16, and her career as a performer skyrocketed when she appeared at Harry Hansberry’s Clam House on 133rd Street, one of New York City’s most notorious gay speakeasies, in the 1920s, as a black, lesbian, cross-dressing performer.

She headlined in the early thirties at Harlem’s Ubangi Club, where she was backed up by a chorus line of drag queens. She dressed in men’s clothes (including a signature tuxedo and top hat), played piano, and sang her own raunchy lyrics to popular tunes of the day in a deep, growling voice while flirting outrageously with women in the audience.

Bentley was openly lesbian during her early career, but during the McCarthy Era, she started wearing dresses, and married a man at the age of 28 named Charles Roberts. Roberts later denied that they ever married.

She died, aged 52, from pneumonia in 1960.