Miriam Cahnartist sheet 7/78




She is best known for her charcoal and colour drawings and her paintings, which often deal with sex, war and death. Action is also part of her work, especially she films herself throwing a block of modelling clay on the floor until it becomes a soft sculpture.

60 years of performance art in Switzerland museum Tinguely, 20.09.2017 - 28.01.2018

Lesen in Staub (1986, video)

Chalk, 3-screen video installation, 580 cm x 170 cm

Lesen in Staub is a typical example of Cahn's sculpture-based performance practice: she shapes chalk blocks and films herself as she does so. The videos of this very physical action are then displayed next to the blocks worked by her gestures.

PerformanceProcess Paris, Centre culturel suisse 18.09-13.12.2015

Das Wilde Leben (weibliche waffen, wurfgesschosse, waffemfälschungen), (05.10.1986, 9'48'')

Courtesy of the artist and galerie Jocelyn Wolff, Paris
An energetic gesture, repeated and filmed. A chunk of modelling clay is softened and becomes a sculpture. The energy of this process can be compared to the movement of her hand when she draws in charcoal.

schreiender säugling + körperteile (2014, diaporama vidéo, 5'03'')

Courtesy of the artist and galerie Jocelyn Wolff, Paris
A montage of photographs of the artist handling modelling clay sculptures. Parts of her body interact with fragments of sculpted bodies, creating a narrative in a series of images.










Grappling with the body

Miriam Cahn's performance work combines urban incursions, feminism and objects made of modelling clay. ...

Miriam Cahn's performance work combines urban incursions, feminism and objects made of modelling clay.

Paris, 1979. In a series of pieces entitled Von geheimen Orten (Of Secret Places), Miriam Cahn, moving through urban space, made her first performance work, using an approach similar to that of the “Situationist” movement of the 1950s. To express her feminist viewpoint, she used a repertoire of “signs”: a TV set, a warship, a bed, a house. Her intention was to leave “marks” on “non-places” (in the words of Marc Augé) and, temporarily, on public space, in the form of short-lived charcoal drawings. She proceeded in a similar way in Basel with Mein Frausein ist mein öffentlicher Teil (“Being a Woman is my Public Side”).

In 1980 she created performance pieces in a studio that are only accessible via photographs, sound recordings, and a few drawings.

In 1984, Miriam Cahn worked on DAS WILDE LIEBEN (Wild Love) and, in the installation Weibliche Waffen, Wurfgeschosse, Waffenfälschungen (Female Weapons, Projectiles, Fake Weapons), documented the production of objects made of modelling clay. The formal methods she used were very precise: a fixed camera, frontal framing, black and white. The concept of LESEN IN STAUB (strategische orte) alltagsarbeit (Reading in Dust [Strategic Place] Daily Work) in 1986 used the same methods. Using the motif of the knife, the video forges links with Semiotics of the Kitchen by American artist Martha Rosler.
In 2014, Miriam Cahn made screen “slide-shows”, including Schreiender säugling + körperteile (Screaming Baby+Body Parts), in which she created a montage of photos of sculptures made of Plastiline—a material she had already used in the 1980s—and photos of herself handling the sculptures. The material takes the form of shrivelled hands, phalli, or breasts that meld with her own body, in a narrative that is built up in a succession of images.


Sabine Gebhardt Fink, art teacher at the Hochschule in Lucerne.