Hair serves as a synecdoche for understanding the meaning of the self and the other. Of the subject and the object. The mimetic processes of hair modification separate and connect members of a culture; they are extensions of identity, an amalgamation of inheritance and formulation. The follicle and sebaceous glands generate hair as an inert by-product. It is dead but constantly growing. Once cut, shaved, or waxed from the body, it is disconnected but not entirely indistinct. The common abjection to hair as an autonomous substance stems from an inability to assign ownership and our own personal conceptions of bodily entropy.
The processes of changing hair fibre have a long history, presumably beginning with the Egyptian use of synthetic hair extensions and henna to dye greying indications of maturity in the 34th century BCE. Lakota and Navajo children often played with dolls stuffed with chopped hair, and during the Victorian era, hair became a regular medium in producing wall hangings and jewellery. In more unfortunate circumstances, the Nazis used materials of the body, including hair, skin and bones, to construct objects of daily life.
The artistic partnership, Pepe & Hiranprueck, explores the functionality and representation of human hair by employing collected clippings from the floors of salons and homes. Using a felting technique of parting, rolling, picking, and stitching, Pepe & Hiranprueck produce a matted wool-like fabric, bleached to a yellowish off-white. In the space, the thick textile is used as a conventional bed covering, an outer blanket and underlying layers. The pillows are also formed from the material, filled with loose, unprocessed hair, exposed and spilling out. A presentation of laminated human hair samples with corresponding labels against the gallery wall suggests formal cues of materiality as linked to phenotypical identity.
Pepe & Hiranprueck examines processes of union and fusion. The bed and material are an exhibition of the abject but also of sleep and alchemy, of human bonding, the sensual and sexual. It is Duchampian in its staging of a functional reality but with a confounding surrealist undertone. We are connected by the ephemerality of experience, by our ability to grow and the common thread of hair.
Using a felting technique of parting, rolling, picking, and stitching, Pepe & Hiranprueck produce a matted wool-like fabric, bleached to a yellowish off-white.
The human wool collected from hair salons and donors are treated with hydrogen peroxide to have a uniform material to work with. Human hair is often treated with chemicals, as per an individual's choice, to acquire a desired quality in the hair, commonly to change its colour and texture. The choice in using H202 relates to its biodegradability and the fact that it is a naturally occurring compound.
Information submitted by the maker and edited by the Future Materials Bank.
Human hair dyed with hydrogen peroxide, olive soap, and water
Text by Tyler Akers