Null cartography: Hair Actor, Boat Proxy 2020 (COVID-19 Era)

Emanating from the Null cartography (2018-ongoing) series of performative identity projects, Hair Actor (2020) is a distributed work in collaboration with the Creative Occupation Group, based on the Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria, Australia. More information on the Creative Occupation group: Facebook: Creative Occupation Facebook
Web: https://www.creativeoccupation.com.au/

Hair Actor has undergone multiple adaptations and realignments since its initial proposal: a mixed media incubation in vitro, in vitrine, on public display. In this planned artwork, a pink synthetic wig was to steep in bubbling Port Phillip seawater, isolated from the originating corpus encircling South Channel Island, Victoria. Due to the global disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, the work has been revised in order to unfold beyond the traditional artworld forums of gallery or exhibition space.

Floating in a small tank, the wig is laced with glitter detritus and LEDs evocative of queer, femme jubilation. It is a Thing in stasis, accumulating a history spent in vitro. With visual emphasis on the femme, naturalcultural and bodily relations of faux hair, I enrolled these materials (and their entangled semioses) into a posthuman ethos of caring for objects. This sustains Maria Puig de la Bellacasa’s treatise in Speculative Ethics in More than Human Worlds, offering an alternative mode of caring for objectified worlds through practice: a way of generative restaging, unruly connection, and transformative perception in the mattering of ‘our worlds.’ (1). The Hair Actor emerges from my practices using as a femme costume signifiers; the specific valences of hair span connotations of youth, fecundity and health. As signifying agent, plastic hair especially crowns the performative excess of drag and gendered ‘passing’. Hair Actor enshrines hair as the focal inquirer in a posthuman network of practice, after the critical provocations of Latour’s Matters of Concern, wherein “objects… become again things, mediating, assembling, gathering.”(2)

Following a 3 day period of immersion, the Hair Actor was delivered to my collaborators in the Creative Occupation group, alongside instructions for a routine of gestures to be performed by (and with) proxy agents once at sea in Port Philip Bay. These actions were performed in alignment with the pink Hair Actor, human and more-than-human actors. All remained unaware of the details of the performance prior to the day of action in May, 2020; these were delivered in a sealed gold foil envelope, containing an artistic array of gestures. The work refers to both the curatorial systems under investigation by the Creative Occupation group project, led by Marita Batna (MADA), and my broader Null cartography praxis in performative dandyism, posthumanist femme signification and excessive costuming. The outcomes of the project are below, presented in the Occupation Newsletter Series, and arising in a new speculative video work, entitled Hair Actor: Speculation on a Nullified Performance (2020).

1. María Puig de la Bellacasa, Matters of Care : Speculative Ethics in More than Human Worlds, Posthumanities: 41 (University of Minnesota Press, 2017), 65.
2. Bruno Latour, ‘Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern’, Critical Inquiry 30, no. 2 (1 January 2004): 248, https://doi.org/10.1086/421123.

Documentation of the Hair Actor in vitro; the envelope of gestures

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“It’s very interesting because the proposition that I am loosely imagining is the idea of assuming I am completely alternate persona, that was the proposition I was thinking of  when I came today – returning to the island as another person, as a kind of character performance.  That’s not myself I am performing that character. It’s a role and renegotiating the space, the site, and mythology from an assumed position of a completely alternate persona. My parallel practice in my doctoral project is really starting to move into performative identity work, I have been doing it – kind of subconsciously – for the last few years with a lot of costume and theatrical stuff  that I’m just interested in as {enjoyable?} thing. [do you have the consciousness of that alternate person only  or you have another one as well there] I am not sure yet. I kind of have a visual lexicon that I would be interested in assuming or immersing myself in, I’m not sure if I need an actual physical person there as part of characterization. [..in a way, if we are talking about ‘guiding’ you are guiding yourself, you yourself are guiding someone who is you before, this kind of thing..] .. which is interesting – guiding the past iteration of myself, … what kind of material aspect that would take, would it come through the artefacts from the previous encounter, or  how would that be, would that be almost like Hauntology with audio-visual recordings or traces, I’m not sure but it’s really interesting…”

Extract from interview with Marita Batna, curator, on 31 January 2020