SHAVING PERFORMANCE / 20 YEARS AFTER
“Shaving Performance” is a quadrennial project: harvesting and cutting hair every four years on the same day (night), August 31, for the collection of braids, “Meaning of Life.” Braid #7 was cut in 2012 in Moscow, Russia.
Hair is a representation of the time periods of life. This project started in 1984 with a symbolic haircut when I was leaving my native city, Kharkov, for Moscow. Kharkov time was over and Moscow time was about to start.
Later I learned that the randomly chosen date of that haircut coincidently fell on the date when influential Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva committed suicide in 1941. I wanted to cut my hair again, in memory of this tragedy, but it had yet to grow. 1984 was a leap year. The next leap year on the same day I cut my hair myself, at home, in front of wardrobe mirror, reciting Tsvetaeva’s poems. “Shaving Performance” started that night. The braid was saved.
On August 31, 1992, the first public shaving performance, “Tonsure to America,” happened in Moscow, just before my departure for the US.
This year, 20 years after, I went back to Moscow to cut the seventh braid at the Moscow National Center for Contemporary Arts. Curator Natalya Goncharova, introduced the project. Angelina Panova, Rostislav Egorov, Vladimir Salnikov and Nina Kotel, who attended the Moscow shaving in 1992, were involved in this performance. Angelina made the braid and Rostislav took pictures as they did 20 years ago. Vladimir and Nina did the shaving in front of a screen with a projected video documentation from previous performances, along with a recitative of the Marina Tsvetaeva’s poem from the mono-play “Marina” by Inna Samitnaya. After the shaving, everyone who was involved left a signature on the newly bald head.
At the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, Tehching Hsieh and Linda Montano started conceptually altering their lives. “Shaving Performance” started on its own in the Soviet Union during a total information blockade, approximately at the same time, and at least a decade before I first heard about Tehching Hsieh or Linda Montano.
“Shaving Performance” is about the notion of time, about loss and new beginnings, about femininity. There are several positive reasons (spiritual) for men to shave their heads but only brutal ones for women. “Shaving Performance” is dedicated to all women who have lost their hair against their will.