Laura Swanson makes UK debut alongside Claude Cahun at Attenborough Arts Centre

Posted by pt91 at Aug 14, 2017 11:55 AM |
Photography and art exhibitions hosted by University arts centre from September

Issued by Attenborough Arts in July 2017

Media opportunity: Meet artist Laura Swanson and attend a private tour between 3.30pm – 4.30pm on Friday 8 September at Attenborough Arts Centre

Images of artworks available to download here.

The University of Leicester’s Attenborough Arts Centre is delighted to be the first venue in the UK to present a solo exhibition by American artist Laura Swanson, alongside the Hayward Touring exhibition of photography by gender-defying artist Claude Cahun (1894 – 1954).

Gallery 1 will present brand new, especially commissioned work by Laura Swanson; two new photographic series, Beauty and Recluse, alongside recent work from her mixed-media series Uniforms (2014 – 2015) and pieces from various past projects.

The free public preview takes place on Friday 8 September, 5.30pm – 8pm and offers the chance to see the show for the first time at Attenborough Arts Centre, with a free drink and an opportunity meet the artist.

Swanson examines the behaviour of looking at physical difference, working across media including drawing, installation, photography, and sculpture. Her work often references her experience of being a short-statured person, confronting the impact of objectification, exploitation and marginalisation as a result of physical difference.

In her new series Beauty, the artist took portraits of friends wearing ready-made face masks to explore what transpires when selfies are displayed in a formal context. By using the visual language of Baroque portraiture, Beauty elevates and prolongs the ephemerality of the selfie to question the ease of borrowing, concealing, and performing identity in a social media obsessed culture.

"As an avid social media user, I was aware of people taking selfies with face masks as an ironic response to the idea of achieving beauty by appearing temporarily creepy, silly, or grotesque,” Swanson said.

“Curious to see how the masks would look in a studio portrait, I invited friends to sit for portraits while wearing the masks. I wanted to remove the spontaneous visual style of the selfie and evoke the look of formal portraits from the 17th century to complement the absurdity of the masks.

“The casual and carefree nature of the selfie compels me to consider both the instability of identity and the implications of appropriating other identities in order to amuse friends on social media,” Swanson continues. “Does the temporality of the selfie enable it to evade ethical questions, more so than a formal portrait could? Does its cultural dominance amplify and promote the reductive and theatrical representation of identity? Or, is it a cultural indicator of the increasing acceptance of the idea that identity is fluid and not fixed?

“These are some of the thoughts and questions I am presenting to an audience by exhibiting these portraits and I’m thrilled to show Beauty and my other work for the first time in the United Kingdom at the Attenborough Arts Centre.”

In Gallery 3 AAC will also be presenting Beneath this Mask: 42 reproduction giclee prints by French photographer Claude Cahun (1894–1954), whose radical self-portraits brought her posthumous fame. Born Lucy Schwob, she adopted the pseudonym in 1917 to free herself from the narrow confines of gender. Cahun’s work was far beyond its time, challenging ideas of gender, identity and traditional portraiture in these now famous images.

In 1937, Cahun moved from France and settled in Jersey with her stepsister and lover Marcel Moore. She was imprisoned for activities in the resistance during the German occupation of Jersey, and remained in Jersey after the Second World War.

Curation and Experience Director at Jersey Heritage, Louise Downie said: “Claude Cahun was a ground-breaking artist ahead of her time. From her precocious teenage writing to her gender-bending self-portraits and politically charged still-lifes, she prefigured the works or artist like Cindy Sherman by 70 years."

“She explored herself, her identity and her body in a way so familiar to the Instagram generation. She lived her life in a spirit of defiance and rebellion. This exhibition provides an expansive review of her most significant photographs.”

The exhibition continues until Sunday 10 December 2017 and the galleries are open Monday – Saturday 10am – 5pm and Sunday 12 noon – 4pm.

As part of the exhibition we will host free debates, lectures, tours and family workshops. All events are free but booking is advised. To book please visit our website: or call our box office: 0116 252 2455.

Public Preview

Friday 8 September, 5.30pm – 8pm
FREE, booking advised.

You are invited to the opening of our new exhibition, with a chance to meet the artist and see the artwork for the first time. Book in advance to enjoy a free drink on us.

Guided Tours

Every other Thursday of the month during the exhibition on 14, 28 September, 12, 26 October, 9, 23 November and 7 December.

FREE, booking advised.

Join our curators, gallery assistants and learning staff for a deeper insight into the exhibition and the ideas behind it.

Family Workshops

Saturdays, 9 September – 9 December 2017, 1pm – 3pm

FREE, booking advised.

Explore themes, materials and ideas from the exhibition with our friendly learning team and expert artists. No experience needed.

Attenborough Forum

Lewys Holt and Katherine Hall

Thursday 9 November, 6pm – 7pm


Join dance artists Lewys Holt and Katherine Hall as they explore what it means to hide, dress-up or frame ourselves in society. Discover new ways of looking at the latest exhibition through a choreographic duet that will uncover themes that lie behind the work.

Lewys and Katherine have previously created dance improvisations and performances as a duo locally in the Phoenix Cube Gallery and De Montfort Gallery, as well as Bristol’s Spike Island Gallery.


Notes to Editors:

Further details are available from Sam West at email, tel (0116) 223 1529.

About Attenborough Arts Centre

The University of Leicester’s Attenborough Arts Centre prides itself on being accessible and inclusive. With over 20 years of experience, the programme offers courses and workshops, contemporary art, performance and live art, theatre and comedy, live music and jazz, dance, activities for children and families, and more. It is proud to champion emerging talent and disability-led performance companies, supporting those starting their careers. Its outstanding access and inclusive work has been recognised, through multiple awards and grants from Arts Council England, British Council, BBC Children in Need, Leicester Shire Promotions and Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Its audience has grown to 109,000 people over the last year.

Attenborough Arts Centre is part of the University of Leicester’s Division of External Relations. Its new exhibition programme will significantly contribute to the University’s corporate social responsibility, wider public engagement and strategic research goals. It will specifically explore issues of human identity and inter-cultural interactions, promote inter-discipline, attract high-calibre collaborators, and encourage new imaginative approaches that culminate in exhibition projects.

About Hayward Touring

Hayward Touring produces exhibitions that tour to galleries, museums and other publicly-funded venues throughout Britain. Hayward Touring collaborate with artists, independent curators, writers and partner institutions to develop and tour imaginative exhibitions that are seen by approximately half a million people in over 100 cities and towns each year. Hayward Touring also extends to smaller monographic print, photography or new media exhibitions touring to a variety of venues, including galleries, libraries, universities, colleges and schools, arts centres and historic sites. Current and recent exhibitions include Mark Leckey: The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things, A Universal Archive: William Kentridge as Printmaker and Curiosity: Art & The Pleasures of Knowing.

About Southbank Centre

Southbank Centre is the UK’s largest arts centre, occupying a 21­ acre site that sits in the midst of London’s most vibrant cultural quarter on the South Bank of the Thames. The site has an extraordinary creative and architectural history stretching back to the 1951 Festival of Britain. Southbank Centre is home to the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery as well as The Saison Poetry Library and the Arts Council Collection. For further information please visit Southbank Centre is carrying out vital restoration work on the Hayward Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room to make the buildings fit for future generations to enjoy, more information can be found here:

About Arts Council England

Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2015 and 2018, we plan to invest £1.1 billion of public money from government and an estimated £700 million from the national lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

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