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Now that quite a few of my hair pieces are in Strand, and there’s a possibility of them going to another exhibition, I’ve decided it’s time to re-assess them.

I work with artificial hair. It is a sensual material, soft, smooth, kind of gleaming when I first unpack: three thick silken strands loosely woven into a plait, cool to the touch. These qualities change as soon as I divide a length of hair into thin strands: suddenly knots and tangles abound, while infinitesimal electric currents seem to course through every single fibril. Working with this material in the home-environment leaves strange traces – at the end a fine web of hair is spun all over my carpet and knots of hair reappear in other rooms like spiders. And in my clothes…

The first piece I made is My mother has golden hair. I actually said that to the girl who sat next to me in class in fifth grade – my head already filled with notions of ideal beauty, mostly gleaned from fairy tales (I am the only of 15 cousins on my mother’s side who has dark hair). For me the work has performative elements and questions gender as well as the reality and fictions of the mother-daughter relationship.

Next was I don’t need a muse, I need a wife. The masses of hair with which I replaced the original steely bristles in both works make these objects (conceived as multiples) as contradictory and ambiguous as the emotions behind them. How I loved the handling of the hair – separating and tying up thin strands and fixing them into the brush felt as pleasurable as it felt obsessive. I bet the viewer wants to touch as much as the maker!

As I tried to crochet the hair that was so malleable became recalcitrant (I’m writing as if hair had a will), and unraveling is a nightmare. It’s crochet in fits and starts: each strand makes for twelve to thirteen double stitches, then a new one has to be taken up, which slows the work right down. I often let the ends of each strand hang, inside or out, depending on the textures I want.

When they aren’t out in the world my Five perfect maidens hang here at home and I realise I’ve stopped seeing them. The dresses are small, but intense and a bit scary in a fairy tale sort of way. There is an innocence here, mostly in their (toy-) size, which lures the viewer in, disarms. Female body hair is such an object of cultural anxieties and pressures, esp. in the Western world, and I wanted to waylay some of these notions, have fun with them. This reminds me: One Sunday many summers ago, when I first came to London, I sat in a park reading, and was accosted by a guy who took offence because I had not shaved/plucked/waxed/
done away with the hair under my armpits and forcefully expressed his disgust. Not a trace of English humour! I was speechless and shook up by his vehemence, as similar prohibitions did not (yet) apply in Germany. Now I think it’s ubiquitous.

The dresses are loaded with humour, anxiety and contradiction. The hair, the material itself, evokes, in different degrees bodily things, instinct, desire. Diverse aspects coexist: the pretty and the disconcerting, the domesticated and the wild, innocence and excess. A friend of mine literally shivers and gets goose-pimples when she looks at them or any of the other pieces. What to me is beautiful is repulsive to her. But then my head brims with hair-motifs.

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My mother has golden hair (2004) edition of 2
Materials: debristled brush and artificial hair
Dimensions: 21cm x 4cm plus 65cm hair

I don’t need a wife, I need a muse (2005) edition of 3
Material: dustpan and debristled brush, artificial hair
Dimensions: 80cm (incl. full length of hair) x 41cm x 10cm

Five perfect maidens (2010/11)
Materials: crocheted from artificial hair; double-pointed knitting needles, twigs, wire
Dimensions: each dress between 20-25cm wide and 25-30cm high