Letting Your (Artistic) Hair Down

Ryoko Takahashi “liberation” at Gallery Momo Ryogoku

poster for Ryoko Takahashi

Ryoko Takahashi "liberation"

at Gallery Momo Ryogoku
in the Kiyosumi, Ryogoku area
This event has ended - (2011-06-25 - 2011-07-23)

In Reviews by Chisako Izuhara 2011-07-19

The eye is often considered the window to the soul. A comment or two about it easily breaks the ice in most social occasions ranging from friendly chats to dinner parties. If eyes represent our psyche, hair can be said to represent our materiality. Long, short, straight, or curled, almost everyone is born with hair. It comes in as many varieties as personalities; but, unlike the eye, it is detachable from the body. We naturally lose somewhere around fifty to one hundred strands of hair per day and can easily add to the count with a bit of a yank. Beautiful and silky as long as it is attached to a head, hair easily degenerates into something filthy and disgusting once separated from the person. The transition is complete as well as abrupt and hair becomes, albeit familiar, foreign. Shed hair is usually vacuumed and thrown away, but Ryoko Takahashi gives it new life as art in her show “liberation” at Gallery Momo Ryogoku.

Born in Osaka, Takahashi has been working predominantly in the Kansai region and the current exhibition marks her first in Tokyo. She has used hair for seven years as her method of expression, but unlike the Italian jokester Piero Manzoni who canned his feces or sold his breath, Takahashi does not aim to question the relationship between art and artist. Hair is not seen as a physical manifestation of an individual but is treated as an independent entity: she has no qualms about using other people’s hair as well as her own. There is no personal connection, on a genetic level, between Takahashi and her work, and they stand with a life of their own.

Ryoko Takahashi, 'Beautiful bed room' (2011)
Artist's hair, cloth, pillow, mattress D.70.0 x W.200.0 x H.150.0cm

To be more precise, they create a whole world of their own. This is not apparent at first sight: the gallery is set up to resemble an interior of a room and Takahashi’s works are stationed like furniture and ornaments. The chandelier-lamp, for example, wouldn’t be out of place in some chic furniture store. It hangs in the corner of the gallery with a composed expression, posing as if it is normal furniture. Similarly, the bed placed in the center offer attractive linen with an interesting pattern.

Ryoko Takahashi, 'Thinking light #4'
(2011) Human hair, mixed media
D.70.0xW.70.0xH.120.0cmHowever, upon close inspection, you realize that these objects are not what they seem: they emanate a faint waft of human presence. As mentioned in her artist statement, Takahashi’s works float in between realms. They resemble commercially purchased furniture yet embody a detectable spirit, alive with a slight smell of death. Defying generalization, Takahashi pries open a third world between the two that we know. The exhibit also involves a live performance where every Saturday, the artist sits inside a white, curtained space and asks visitors to cut her hair and paste it on a sheet of paper. Reminiscent of Yoko Ono’s “Cut Piece”, we experience the life, death, and resurrection of hair as it transforms from “beautiful” to “filthy” and ultimately in to “art” by being snipped off and pasted on paper.

As its title suggests, the exhibition attempts to “liberate”: it not only liberates the hair from death by making it art but also offers us a door out from a world regulated by the dualistic notions of life and death, new and old, beauty and filth. By organizing the gallery into one big trompe l’oeil, Takahashi transports the viewers to an alternate universe of uncertainty.

Chisako Izuhara

Chisako Izuhara. She was always interested in people. Chisako escaped her mother's womb in 1990 but only entered the real world in 2008 upon starting school in Tokyo. There she found herself amidst a crowd of crazy people, ideas, and action which made her want to learn more about them. Studying a variety of subjects in school ranging from the history and philosophy of science to Buddhism, her schedule book is always full with various art exhibits and events. The vibrant Tokyo art scene always keeps her busy but she also likes to relax at her favorite cafe and drink coffee while reading a book on travel. » See other writings

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