Alice Anderson, Time Reversal, 2010
Galleries don’t usually have fringes. It’s not a hard and fast rule, of course, but in practice they seldom have much hair at all and if they do it’s usually just on the inside. During Alice Anderson’s exhibition Time Reversal in 2010, Riflemaker in Soho (the London one, that h isn’t lowercase by accident) was something of an exception in that respect. But then exception seems to be what Riflemaker does best (if only because the building is distinctly more rickety than the average West End gallery space).
The centrepiece of Anderson’s exhibition was an installation made from hair – okay, doll’s hair; real hair really doesn’t grow quite this long – that one saw first from the street when approaching the gallery. The hair seemed to go on forever. It hangs down from an upstairs window, forming a fringe that partially covers the door; looping back up it nips back in to the gallery above the door. And that’s just what could be seen from outside…
The combination of the lights in the gallery and the redness of the hair meant that the gallery seemed to glow enticing people to enter the web of hair within. The slightly magical feel of hair as a means of entrapment makes an obvious connection with the way hair features in fairy tales and while that could make cliché a significant risk, the audacious excess of the installation immediately wins out.
Inside the gallery, the hair creates a tangled web across the room before disappearing up the chimney only to emerge in the gallery space upstairs from where it tumbles from the window. The Rapunzel reference is pretty clear albeit with a difference. The hair hanging from the window is plenty long enough to work one’s way down to safety, but the way the it loops through the space and up the chimney means that escape is never the outcome.
There were other elements to the exhibition involving dolls and masks; in the basement Anderson’s film The Night I Became a Doll reinforced the idea of a psychological narrative so fundamental to fairy tales. In Anderson’s hands the narratives are dark but ultimately the work seems more about the passage of time and memory than about specific stories. Though the work was interesting – and I do have a fascination with both hair and fairy tales – and I’d really like to see some of it again, it was, perhaps inevitably, the spectacle that most excited me about Time Reversal; arguably in doing so it overshadowed – sometimes literally – the rest of the exhibition.