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Museum of haircuts

Published : Jul 5, 2018, 5:49 am IST
Updated : Jul 5, 2018, 5:49 am IST

Artist Pallavi Singh is working on Mudivettu MuseumNirmanathil as part of her art residency.

Pallavi with her work
 Pallavi with her work

Pallavi Singh sounds so thrilled when she talks about her project Mudivettu Museum-Nirmanathil (Haircut Museum — Under Construction). At Pepper House, Fort Kochi, where she is working on this project as part of Kochi Biennale Foundation’s art residency programme, Pallavi is chronicling the life and work of hairstylists, both young and old, in the surrounding area. “I befriended them and then took short interviews to do this,” says Pallavi, who is from Delhi. “That’s when I realised they are so good at imitating the styles that are in vogue. They recreate them by taking cues from the pictures that clients bring for reference. And they have coined names such as sada cut and slope cut for their convenience. They are not aware of the proper names of these cuts. That was the starting point,” she adds.

Once she got the thread, she revisited the salons, explained the concept to barbers and asked whether they could give their unused materials. The intention was to denote the relationship a barber shares with his tools. “I could exhibit new ones, but there wouldn’t be any emotions attached to them,” says Pallavi, who had to seek a translator’s help sometimes.

Some were willing to donate, while others were reluctant. “They said no because it would be difficult for them to get used to the new tools as they have already formed a rhythm with the existing ones. I respect their privacy,” she says, showing her collection of manual trimmer, old scissors and various combs.

A painting of haircut done in watercolour and tea washA painting of haircut done in watercolour and tea wash

Through the museum, Pallavi aims to shed light on various aspects of a profession that otherwise won’t find a place in a museum. “The concept of museum is colonial, where elite issues are discussed. Here, we bring a community that is sidelined to the forefront by making it into an art project.”

As of now, she is planning to feature 10 shops in three parts. “I may add a few things as the work proceeds. It is a vast subject and I don’t think I would be able to give all details in one go. Hence, I added ‘Under Construction’ in the title,” says Pallavi.


She has already plastered some photographs on the wall. A moving box that would showcase 12 digital prints and 12 paintings of haircuts is being made. “The box generates curiosity,” she says. She also has plans to exhibit the collected tools in small cubicles. She adds, “They will have nameplates carrying the name of the stylist and the shop.”

Pallavi’s work will be completed by the end of July. She says she will invite all those who have contributed on the launch day. “They are the ones who made it possible. They are curious. They have no clue what I am going to do with the things I have taken from them. So I want them to be here,” concludes Pallavi, returning to her world of haircuts.

Tags: pallavi singh