From Tyler Akers’ event description of “Adulio Pitaksalok” at Non-Fiction Gallery here in Savannah:
Hair serves as a synecdoche for understanding the meaning of self and other, subject and 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. When abjection occurs upon observing hair as an autonomous substance, it stems from an inability to assign ownership and our own personal conceptions of bodily entropy.
The processes of changing hair fiber 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 jewelry. In more unfortunate circumstances, the Nazis used materials of the body, including skin and bones, to construct objects of daily life.
The artistic partnership, Adulio Pitaksalok, 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, Pitaksalok produces a matted wool-like fabric, bleached to a yellowish off-white. In the space, the bristly, thick textile is used as a conventional bed covering, an outer blanket. The pillows are also formed from the material, filled with loose, unprocessed hair, exposed and spilling out. A presentation against the gallery wall of different human hair samples with corresponding labels suggests formal cues of materiality as linked to phenotypical identity.
Pitaksalok 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.
I found the exhibit’s cultural references reached beyond even the scope of Akers’ description. There’s a kind of fetishistic creepiness in the harvesting and displaying of the 220 hair samples, and the descriptors selected by the donors in response to narrow categories of identity are themselves interesting comments on the labeling process so common in our culture.
So, here you go, some images from the exhibit: