tool# 25, a collaboration with, "ArchiWalksCityGuides", Artist in Residence, Pro Helvetia, Johannesburg
When I arrived in Johannesburg, I was confronted with walls, gates and burglar bars. My first weeks were dictated by insecurity as how to move around this unique yet intense urban fabric. Questions like: Where can I walk? How can I move around at all… What are the codes, the rules? Is it safe? These questions accompanied and irritated me constantly, especially as I never had to face these questions before.
At the same time, while walking the streets, I encountered another side of the city. I saw numerous women in the city centre sitting around, chatting, telling each other stories whilst braiding hair. I started to think about a possible image, which would reflect the ritual of exchange and identity through hairstyle. Hairstyles tell stories about the person displaying them and are symbols of status, origin, power and sexuality. Here and everywhere in the world. Whilst getting familiar with how to move around Johannesburg simply by learning from its inhabitants, the image of “shells” came up. The fear of the other, the foreigner, the outside world lets us create shells, bubbles, walls. Self originated prisons. These are often what I call paradise bubbles, inside spaces, which are created to exclude the other, the outside. The discrepancy between inside and outside, the longing for the safe inside, may it be a car, a house or a mall, is being expressed in tool # 25.
Since its first publishing in 1812 the fairy tale “Rapunzel” of the Grimm Brothers is known to many. The story of a woman who lets down her long golden beautiful braided hair from a tower, in order to be rescued by her prince and his failure to do so. Her hair becomes the connecting device between the inside and the outside; a symbol for a life in prison, an image for waiting, patience and hope for change. The 40 meters long wig produced for tool # 25 is a metaphor for the thresholds between the inside and the outside. The absurdity about Rapunzel’s tale is that she never cut her hair by herself. Cutting the hair would have erased (and did) her identity as well as any possibility to escape from the tower that imprisoned her. At the same time if someone had used her braided hair to climb up, she would have probably died of a spine injury. Long, chaotically arranged hair have globally been associated with mental strangeness.
The 40m long wig showcases the strange and foreign situation that I experienced in Johannesburg: officially called the “City of Gold”, in-officially the “city of greed, power, pain and segregation”. Within the context of “ArchiWalksCityGuides”, shells became buildings and five of the selected buildings became the stage for my performances. The gold powder that covered the streets falling from the wig is a metaphor for the separation of rich and poor, which manifests itself locally in the rich neighbourhood Sandton and the poor city centre of Johannesburg. It is dream and nightmare rubbing shoulders.
tool# 25 is a 40 m long wig made out of black braids. Little packages filled with golden glitter have been knotted into the braids. While the head of the performer starts to move, the golden glitter starts flying and covers the streets and its pedestrians.