We see processed hair around us all the time. Be it in the form of wigs/extensions, or models sporting the hair in sprawling advertisements or commercials. However, the roots of the hair industry are seldom known to people who use this hair.
The hair stems from religious rituals from various countries that practice Hinduism and Buddhism. India is the largest producer of raw hair, which is then used to produce wigs and hair extensions. In Hinduism, it is a religious ritual to sacrifice one’s hair in the hope for a good fortune. This ritual is predominant in the southern part of India. People travel to the popular temples situated in the cities Tirupati and Tirutanni to get their heads shaved, and get the lord’s blessings. The belief is that to letting go one’s ego, and sacrificing it to God, results in a consequent better luck in the future. Therefore, majority of the people who travel to these temples tend to be impoverished or facing hard times, looking for hope and/or luck through this process. The temples collect the hair and sell it to bidders, who then get it processed into wigs. India’s hair exports evaluates to an earning of approximately 60 million USD, majority of which comes from these temples. The temple of Tirumala itself earned around 22 million USD through collection and selling of the sacrificed hair. There is a problem though. Most of the women who give away their hair are oblivious of the monetary aspect of it. The women using this hair are unaware of the roots too. The women in India who participate in this ritual are not from wealthy families and are paid nothing in return for this profitable business. The large scale advertisements and promotions of straight wavy lead to false understanding of beautiful hair, especially amidst the African American community.
I worked with Mint to create an installation that asks questions around religion, ritual and consumerism. The accumulation of profit through advertising hope and luck. The installation is centered around a Banyan tree, which is considered sacred in Hinduism and Buddhism. The design of the enclosure is based around money donation boxes found in Hindu and Buddhist temples. The installation is a participatory one, in the sense that the viewers can cut off strands of their hair and donate it to the piece.
Links for reference : Dailymail , TheGuardian, NYTimes .
Art Strategies / Week 6 and 7 / Conceptual and Performance Art
Two conceptual art works that resonated with me were Robert Rauschenberg’s Combines and Tracey Emin’s My Bed. Below, I’ll try to articulate how these art pieces particularly struck with me. Rauschenberg’s paintings such as Monogram and Black Market translate to me ideas such as disorder, chaos and anti-consumerism. For me, chaos has been been central to the way I draw. Messy line strokes in monochrome with unfilled spaces and noise, is how I like my pencil/ink drawings. Below are a couple of examples:
(The first sketch was done for a independent short film based on a story by Saadat Hasan Manto. The second sketch was a representation of my monochromatic experiences in the uber-corporate corners of Hyderabad, India.)
Although I’ve tried to mess with the strokes, my work has been organized and neat, when I look at it again. Rauschenberg’s work is inspiring in the sense that he completely disregards order, and tries to represent his inner chaos in a way that breaks the limitations of two dimensions. Tracey Emin’s work is similar. Works such as Exorcism of the Last Painting I Made and My Bed, while being very abstract, tell a story effectively. The story can be different for each person, it’s very subjective. Not to mention, I also love her recent pencil drawings.
Conceptual Strategy Prototype
My proposition for a conceptual prototype was the breaking of two dimensions to represent objects of daily use. Laundry bag, cigarette boxes, plastic forks, half-written stories, Unread books, bedsheets, contents of my bag, et all. My idea deals with drawing on a large paper first and then exaggerating that drawing by placing such objects of daily use over the canvas. My idea is to represent anxiety by using daily objects as the medium of expression.
Performance Strategy Prototype
I also had an idea for a performance piece ( more inclined towards being participatory ) which revolved around smokers and how they react to attention. The idea involves two performers ( a man and a woman ) silently holding ashtrays for smokers to throw their cigarettes in. I wanted to execute this outside the doors at NYU Tisch, in the corner where students generally smoke. It’s interesting to see how different people react to this experiment, how inclined they are towards contributing their cigarette buds to the woman or the man. This performance is heavily inspired from Marina Abramovic and Ulay’s work. Their work is fascinating to me because on one hand it not only challenges the performers but also the participants. And also because their work tries to explore people reacting to different genders during a confrontation (link). Eventually the piece would end with the accumulation and presentation of the collected cigarette buds (sorted in order of size, color or performer).