Hair: Textures of Belonging

With work by
Marina Abramović, Sonia Boyce, Sonya Clark, Monique Goossens, Yuni KIm Lang, Zhu Tian, and Jayoung Yoon.

Curated by Dr Eleen M Deprez and Dr Sweta Rajan-Rankin

Due to Covid-19 the exhibition had to close on 18th March 2020

In this exhibition, we engage with hair as a material as well as metaphorical space by which questions of gender and racialized belonging can be explored. It is a conversation between the artist and their use of hair as material and allegory, and the audience, who can become aware of their own entanglements with the art work, each other and the wider world.

Hair is not just hair. This exhibition reflects on the social, political and aesthetic significance of hair. With its different textures, grooming practices, interpretations, and symbolic values, hair provides a unique and timely entry point to understanding racialised and gendered belonging among different communities. Artists have long used hair as a material in art practice. Here, they explore hair as a material with affective potential and as a signifier of identity.

Hair can be a treasured and celebrated expression of personal identity. Grooming or presenting hair (shaving, styling, colouring, braiding, covering, curling, straightening, weaving, etc.) is a performative element in social enterprise and a visible, powerful marker of identity and belonging to one’s community.

But, hair as beauty practice can also be an instrument of social control. Eurocentric and sexist aesthetic beauty norms fuel an in industry that sees many people enduring painful, expensive, dangerous procedures to attain so-called ‘good hair’.

In Hair: Textures of Belonging, we explore hair as a material artefact but also a narrative tool to explore stories of belonging, exclusion and collective identity.

Supported using public funding by Arts Council England.