Vanessa Zöller MFA

Master-Thesis: "detached. aspects of hair"

Supervision: Prof. Ute Eitzenhöfer, Prof. Eva-Maria Kollischan

"Hair is a product of the human body. It belongs to it, but at the same time can be detached from the body and gets an independent identity.
As an affiliated body matter hair acts as an identifying marker of the human body.
It is primarily visible and with different management of it come different ideas of identity and gender identity.
Social norms define the rules about hair management and an infringement of these rules can cause the individual to be pushed to the margins of society.
When hair is detached from the body there happens a transformation of its status.
Hair is located at the border of the body, the skin. As it is detached from the body, it transgresses this border there happens a shift in meaning.
The hair gets an independent identity, it commences to coexist to the body.
This is such a reluctant thought to us, that we cannot accept it offhandedly.
We regard the bodily matter, that now is not occupying its intended place in the system anymore, as dirt.
Detached hair raises questions about our physical existence: It reminds us of the body’s moribundity, it raises questions about life and death itself. At the same time the detached hair has the ability to exceed the body in its persistence, to survive beyond the body it originated from.
It demonstrates the process of life and locates the human being in its social and ecological surrounding.
Detached hair, that we consider as dirt, can either be discarded, or recycled.
„Composting“ is the return of the transformed waste material into the system as modified and therefore revalued entity.
In my work I challenge these declarations by using combed out hair, I collected from dozens of individuals, mostly women.
I convert the hair by using various techniques, combine it with „precious“/„beautiful“ materials, put it into a new context: revalue it.
In my work the hair gets an independent identity.
I make the hair to be the protagonist of my objects, installation and jewellery.

The way we handle hair - whether it appears on the body, detached from the body or even in a processed shape- expresses certain tendencies of a specific period of time.
During the 19th century it was popular to process hair into memory and mourning jewellery.
The hair represented the individual as pars-pro-toto and located the individual within social frameworks, such as family, long-term commitment and was a constant reminder of the transience of life.
In recent times humanity moves close due to globalization. Fast moving circumstances, economic competition as well as private competition does not give us space to deal with our limited existence. The overstimulation with pictures of death and catastrophe through the media becomes manifested in an everyday burden, which results in a general meaninglessness.
Even though media brings us pictures of death, terror, war, climate change, climate catastrophes and the fatal prospect of live on this planet so close: it seems to be far away, abstract, not real.
In addition the identity, that the generation between 20 and 40 is experiencing right now, is based on the dissolving of structural and social circumstances. This generation has an undetermined identity, that has to be redefined.
The popular hair was in the 19th century when confrontation with moribundity was okay and the social frameworks were strong, the repulsive we regard it right now.
With my work I aim to confront the wearer or the beholder with a topic that he/she is not aware of. By using extremely time-consuming and delicate techniques and the combination with materials we commonly regard as being beautiful, I revalue the waste hair. On purpose I use comforting shapes or familiar motifs.
I work it into intimate objects and jewellery to break the barrier between the material and the wearer/beholder.
For my work it is not important to know from whom the hair originated, because I see the hair as totum-pro-parte, representing the „human“ in its entirety.
I want my work to possess the quality to be able to be applied universally.
I believe, that the encounter with the bodily matter „hair“ can work as a mediator for the individual to form its identity.
Through my art practice I observe and express current social trends.
In my opinion, society was moving so fast, that at some point there had to be a stop, a breakdown, a turning point.
Now I feel like the utopian ideas I want to express through my work, came true with the Covid-19 outbreak.
People now are questioning their personal values: now, that a disease is threatening everyone of us and everybody could potentially loose a loved one, we start to question our way of life, our behavior.
Now that we know, that the economic and financial system will break down we are weighing up material values against immaterial values. We return to what is more precious.
Now that we know that we will loose people because the health care system is overburdened, we mourn every single one of them. We again respect the value of each individual.
Now that we learn the hard way, that exploitation of nature and animals causes fatal results for humans, climate- and vegan-activists are heard.
And we start to practice more respect and gratitude towards our fellow human beings."

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