Assisted Blonde was created for the 2010 Next Wave project The View From Here: 19 Perspectives of Feminism, curated by Clare Rae and Victoria Bennett.
It was exhibited at West Space as part of that project, and has since been shown at 24HR Art in Dr Jeckyll and Mrs Flowerface, curated by Eugenia Lim in 2011. The soundtrack is by Cait Foran.
This project was made 7 years ago when I was much younger and potentially dumber. The intention of the work was to question why as a society we were so obsessed with blonde women, who were constantly put up on pedestals, only to be torn down brutally (it was the era of Britney and Christina, young female celebrities self-destructing under an excoriating public gaze). I read my artistic rationale for this project now with total embarrassment that it appears totally devoid of a basic awareness of racism, of post-colonial discourse, of what we now call intersectionalism. In some misguided attempt at getting at something beyond “identity politics” (A subtle but pervasive pressure experienced in undergrad) I’ve ended up writing some bizarre pro-aryan screed. I want to delete this page and pretend it never happened, but I’m going to leave it here as a reminder of why politics in art is important. Art devoid of personal politics is devoid of humanity. A couple of further notes: this work was exhibited at Next Wave in 2010 and I remember someone telling me that it had caused strong responses in some audience members, that people had argued about it. I had absolutely no idea why at the time, but I really wish some one had pulled me up and told me how screwed up this work is/was and why. The lack of critical discourse in Australian art – REAL critical discourse, whereby artists are actually challenged about their positions and postures does a disservice to everyone.
My starting point for the blonde project was the idea that blondeness was more rare than it appeared- that many women who appear to be blonde, were only born blonde, and have clung to the idea of it long after their actual blondeness has departed. Along the way I have surveyed friends and strangers, read about blonde archetypes and mythology, cultural meanings of hair, the genetic evolution of blonde and a smattering of anthropology and feminist science theory to boot.
What I have decided is that the key factor which makes blondeness so desireable, so haunting and so alluring, is its impermanence. The definition of glamour is that it does not last. Flowers are so beautiful because they are fragile and that beauty soon succumbs to rot. It is not just that blondeness is rare, or un-usual, which was my starting point- it is more the fact that it is fleeting. It sits adjacent to both birth and decay- represents both new growth and abundance, and the constant dying and fading of our very selves.
This is why it sizzles in our collective imagination- why it so electrifies our visual primate brain, jarring it to attention. yes, it stands out from the crowd in a real world saturated with brunette, but in our unconscious, pattern-seeking, association forming brains, it also plants itself with one foot in our most primal hopes, and one in our most primal fears.
So while the lived experience of being blonde may seem very far from the myths and cliches that surround it, its powerful symbolism telegraphs ahead and behind- and all around it- still acting on, for and against, those only dimly aware of it. Our collective mind is constantly constructing and destroying blondeness on grand and minor scales: building it up and tearing it down, venerating and reviling it over and over, like the proverbial snake eating its own tail.
Inversions are at work: the more delicate, fragile and evocative of childhood appears the blonde occupying one side of this dichotomy, the brassier, more fallen, impure and laced with decay will be the blonde on the other- with naturally many points between.
It’s not just about the virgin and the whore. It’s life and death, abundance and dearth, matter and anti-matter, and the fire that burns between, transforming one into the other.