research and sketches of work in development...
A Violence Proportional to Her Inner Emptiness is a collection of work in progress that deal with hair as sculpting material and it’s cultural revelations and implications. It descends into a study of the craft of sculpting hair by carving in Roman times by comparing it to the digital equivalent today. The culture portrayed is embedded not just in the portraits but in the nature of the materials.
In the middle of the office there’s a desk. The only one. It seems to be mine. Without looking I know I’m surrounded by glass panes of the kind that usually amounts to sky-rising office buildings made to resemble the immaterial businesses practised inside; clad in sky as if in fact, they didn’t exist. I’m trying to make sense of what I’m doing here, I don’t remember being a prosperous business professional. I take a lunch break, and as luck would have it I’m meeting a gay poet I’m very fond of for lunch. We don’t eat… or speak, but we exchange meaningful gestures and glances. In this non verbal language I ask him a significant question. I am relieved I can talk to him without the use of words, because he is a poet of course, and because the shame of asking this way is less piercing. He smiles, a not completely comforting smile but one that tells me he knows.
From that moment he is Hellen.
Hellen demonstrates and I follow. She is fearless and her hair is long and dark. It blows in the wind, less than I had imagined considering the speed she is doing. As I lean back, I think, perhaps, I’m surprised that I don’t fall, although this feeling is strangely familiar. It’s slightly mechanical, as if gravity is changing and my body happens to PIVOT around my neck letting the memory of my long young locks hang perpendicular to my back one last time. As if the world reoriented around me on this special occasion.
This is the pivot that enables what comes next, or the end of it.
As the pivot that enabled the construction of civic. This pivot: The fulcrum principle of the hoisting machine. The line and the circle; dissimilar geometries in close collaboration as elements of their motion and power. Vitruvius said: Neither linear without circular motion, nor rotation without linear motion, could have accomplished the raising of loads that built our cities. A spectacular technological monument petrified by the absence of the bodies that made it hoist.
In Rome, 218 CE the pivot of a drill bit on a wooden shaft was rotated by pumping a crossbar up and down, carving and moulding blocks of marble keeping certain people of that time, safe in time, exempt from human decomposing. A noteworthy target for this pivot-oriented carving technique was the immaculate coiffures that decorated imperial Roman women in particular, a daunting technical challenge to the ancient sculptor.
By adolescence, due to its erotic potential and the resulting anxieties about female sexuality, the long cascading hair of the young girl was controlled through wrapping, tying and braiding, circular ‘snail’ curls and towering mounds of Flavian hair crowns, seemingly unaffected by gravity in their sculptural magnificence. A sign of cultus, implying refinement and civilisation. With the exception of Venus, the UNLEASHED female locks of hair were left to perish or to illustrate the mob. Through piles of perfectly and awkwardly round curls, the domestication of imperial Roman women was carved in stone with the pioneering technology of the time.
There IS NO matter in the pioneering now. Carving morphs a mesh, not matter. Cascading representations and their erotic potential and resulting anxieties flow in a space with no civic obstacles. The potentially female locks are free; a particular kind of liberation that permits individual strands of hair to intersect and transcend each other and their surroundings. Emancipated even from gravity and from the distinction of kinship to body or to earth. All it knows is that it grows.
In Rome, 218 CE a Syrian boy was made emperor. Elagabalus spent his teenage years dedicated to gay sex and the Syrian sun God Elagabal. Ancient Rome remembers him: Indecent, defiled, shameless and depraved. Due to: Dancing, working with wool, wearing a hairnet, painting his eyes, dressing up as Venus and marrying Hierocles, besides crushing dinner guests with rose petals and constructing a gilded and jewelled suicide tower. In March 222 CE Elagabalus, 18 years old, was killed, dragged by hook and thrown in the sewer by soldiers of the Imperial Guard. Damnatio memoriae led to the destruction of most of his portraits after his death, one of which was possibly reconstructed in the 1800’s … as a woman.
With the presence of sideburn and a female coiffure in one single fragment of an incomplete, anonymous statue – is it more likely, an ancient Roman man with long, centre parted, swaddled hair? Or a woman with sideburns? The culprit of the restoration conflict that finally 1600 years after his death provided Elagabalus with the female body rumours say he always wanted.
A girl floats above a field of grass. I’m assuming it’s a girl. She looks young and in hindsight dead. All i can see is her HAIR swaying perpendicularly to her floating back, the tips touching the tall GRASS. Two organic species exchange gentle strokes, their almost identical inclination is amplified by their contrasting relationships to gravity. They are after all generated by a tool that can turn one into the other via parameters of gravity and stiffness.
Reassured that there are parameters which determine whether something is exclusively human or of the earth at large, I continue to scrutinize this fluctuant bit of body yearning to decompose as it surges towards the earth. The parameters enforce the same condition for all strands, I tell myself; the same condition for all broken bits. Until you adjust them.
Within this system they will act as one. Predictable within their confined emancipation.