OPENING Freitag, 02.10.2020



Rolf-Axen-Straße 35, 04299 Leipzig

The Hair as Needle

In Anja Heymann`s work the needle assumes the role of a single hair. This piece of pointy, thin metal loses its sharpness when it appears in clusters of hundreds, thousands and even hundreds of thousands. Each needle is pushed through its support – a piece of primed linen – in a laborious and often painful process.  Here the needle harnesses its industrial, mass-produced origin. It imitates animal hair, growth, and skin/leather. In doing so, Heymann’s objects resemble pelts. The metal sheen of each pelt betrays its artifice, but it also elevates the object as a trophy and anomality. If we choose to look at these objects as pelts, we imagine the fantastical or extinct animal it came from. Or perhaps we choose to recognize them as symbols of power: precious pieces of animal fur that can be worn like armor.    

It is appropriate to think of Heymann’s pelts as suits of armor since she clads her performers in them. Their protective quality is emphasized by the nudity of her performers who are given specific directions how to interact with any given exhibition space. Heymann’s performers are never confrontational; they acknowledge the presence of gallery and museum visitors, but they do not reach out to them. Instead, they remain bound to the objects they carry on their shoulders. The role of spectator and participant is clear-cut.  We, the viewers, are kept at a distance to remind us that the needle is both a tool and a weapon: an object of desire better admired from afar. 

Another object of desire and material in the work of Anja Heymann is her own hair which the artist has been collecting for the past thirteen years. In some cases, she details the amount of hair used for a work by listing the number of hairbrushes used. Even though there is a direct link between the needle as stand-in for hair and the actual human hair used by Heymann, the latter takes on a different role. It is detached from its original carrier. While the needle evokes an organic material, the hair which is organic and tied to an individual turns into an uncanny object. It implies a human carrier, but the hair suddenly exists in isolation from its carrier. The hair takes on a variety of forms: it is stitched, pressed behind glass, applied on canvas, or embedded in encaustic. These modes of usage amplify Heymann attempts to manipulate our perception of hair. In addition, her approach to hair as a medium speaks to the preservation of discarded hair. No matter if we are confronted with needles, suits of armor or discarded hair: we never quite manage to escape the sensation that we are witnessing something at once tender, fleeting, yet powerful and double-edged.  

Viktor Witkowski / September 2020/ Leipzig

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