Sitting on the foundations of the old commonwealth building, in itself, a symbolic ushering in of the new, is the highly anticipated, ultra forward, Design Museum. It’s peaked roof is leaning tower of Pisa-esque in its purposefully off-symmetry. Yet it is careful not to disrupt greatly the more traditional roofs that crown High Street Kensington. Inside, the front entrance is reminiscent of an urban, Shakespearean theatre, an ideal space for performances no doubt. A deliberate, initial open space that evokes a sense of freedom. A clear safe haven for interpretation, creation and inspiration.
With three floors of modern design, the museum houses a plethora of leading-edge exhibitions and workshops from every design discipline. Fashion, graphic, product, and industrial design can all be appreciated and explored here, whilst the building itself, curated by Terrence Conran, is an architectural wonder in it’s own right.
One of the exhibitions that stood out to us was Alix Bizet’s project ‘Hair Matters’ explores the substance of hair and how much it connects to society.
Speaking on her motivation for the project, Alix shares: “One day I said to myself OK I recycle everything, I try to partake in meaningful recycling. I have always wanted to undertake a project with human hair, because I have a fascination for it. I believe you can discover a lot about the society you design for by looking at the matter of hair. Creating something that was provocative and shocking was a way for me to explore more my role as a designer. I could have played with really beautiful things but analysing society through the matter of hair was something more real and telling.”
Indeed hair is indicative of much, in our styling, neglecting, lauding and covering of it. In the 60s, the newly popularised bob was a revolutionary proclamation on the role and image of women in society. Traditional long locks innately tied with femininity and beauty were suddenly confronted with the practicality of having short hair, to do jobs similar to men. It symbolised not being tied down, simultaneously rejecting the fixed image of traditional female beauty. This hair revolution ushered in by Vidal Sassoon was not just a fashion statement, but a social, and even political one too.
Alix states that the hair being real was not important.
“There was a girl and she was saying oh but it’s not my real hair. I said hair, no hair, fake hair, real hair, it’s still yours. It’s still part of your identity because you chose it to be so.
It’s exactly like the girl with the hijab. She said ‘oh I cannot be part of your project’ and I asked why. I told her, look, it’s still part of you. The hijab is her statement in connection to her hair. Whether you want to show it, whether you have it, whether it’s yours, it’s all relevant.
Lady Gaga, Nikki Minaj and Amber Rose are all aware of the significance of their hair as a statement. Whilst Rose proudly sports a shaved head, Minaj’s brightly coloured wigs are emblematic of her identity. Women who choose to cover their hair are also making a statement too like Bizet points out. By removing this part of their appearance from their social interactions, the wearer is forcing a different type of engagement, one perhaps not predicated on appearance.
Hair it seems, is an appropriate and surprisingly useful artistic tool with which to explore the multi-faceted dimensions of social diversity.
Alix Bizet’s ‘Hair Matters’, is open until February 2017.
See more of Alix’s work here: http://alixmariebizet.com/.