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…
Takahiro Iwasaki, Out of Disorder (hair), 2011
It was a random conversation about the Cornerhouse in Manchester that reminded me about Takahiro Iwasaki’s work, which I saw there last year in the exhibition Constellations, and as some of it involves the use of hair this seems like as good a time to write about it as any what with hair being my preoccupation of the week. It was noticing that Constellations included the work of Katie Paterson and Felix Gonzalez-Torres that put it firmly on my list of things I needed to see during a very brief trip to Manchester last summer and though they didn’t disappoint, it was Iwasaki’s work that charmed me the most when I got there. Out of Disorder is a tiny, fragile world of constructions made of and emerging from the stuff of our daily lives. In some cases the stuff in question is dust and hair found in the space which become mountains and pylons.
Kiki Smith, Untitled (Hair), 1990
Though the degree to which hair can disgust is undoubtedly lessened by being mediated through photography or print, it nonetheless has a certain hold for me at least. I think it’s the connection with fairy tales and a sense that it’s in some way magical. I know nothing of spells at all apart from the opening lines of Macbeth but there’s hair right there, as far as I recall, so my mind makes that connection whether or not it would be borne out by, you know, actually looking stuff up. And of course, hair can stand in for the body. And in this lithograph by Kiki Smith, I think I’d argue that it stands in for both the artist and the process of recording in that the hair becomes a kind of drawing. Indeed, in this image the hair is Smith’s; the print is one of a folio of work in which Smith used imprints and photocopies of parts of her hair, face and neck as the basis for making prints.
Mona Hatoum, Hair Necklace, 1995
At first glance, especially through the window of an expensive jewellery shop*, Mona Hatoum’s Hair Necklace might appear to be delicate beads made of spun metal thread. A closer look – or knowing the name of the piece – would immediately give the game away though and this delicately beautiful necklace would immediately become somewhat less appealing. A single string of beads as a necklace isn’t exactly unusual. And the idea of carrying a lock of a loved one’s hair in a necklace, specifically a locket, is hardly new. Combine the two ideas though and you get something rather less commonplace and much more interesting. Hatoum’s hairball beads are undeniably beautiful. There is an extraordinary filigree delicacy to them. Nonetheless, those odd stray ends disturb. And the realisation that this is hair – real hair – inevitably offsets the aesthetic appeal.