‘Net’ is an intricate web of possible connections; grand themes of ‘love and loss’, ‘light and dark’ knotted with opposing forces of ‘freedom and control’. Delicate pathways capable of securing and unraveling in equal measure
Like the sister series, ‘Nylon’, this shares notions of vain control, precarious states and unsettling beauty…
Hairnets have been found in archaeological digs and gravesites dating from the 13th century onwards. The ones I have focused on, were made from real human hair in the 1920’s to 50’s. They are delicate and often hand woven. Although viewed as something ordinary, functional and familiar, a second glance reveals an object, finely crafted, a complex pattern and structure, an object of beauty and weirdness. Gradually real human hair was replaced by nylon and fibres became finer to the point of invisibility.
In the UK we had the image of tv character Hilda Ogden – a ‘no-nonsense’ woman who does not mince her words. The image of the hairnet is unflattering, functional and reinforces an unsexy image of hard work, control and restraint. There are now collectors of such objects, but their interest is focused on the packaging with its apposite pictures of gorgeous and carefree women with not a hair out of place.
Hairnets were produced in great numbers, but initial searches suggest that few remain, except the ones that are preserved in bottom drawers!
The fact that many are made from real human hair sets up all kinds of musings. Whose hair? Who knotted the net? Hair has always been a curiously ‘emotive thing. It never dies and cuttings of it have always been treasured as keepsakes. The Victorians in England perfected this with production of hair lockets and memento mori. Relics were made out of things whose value emanated from an intrinsic relationship to life.
Celeste Olalquiaga summarises a kind of process or notion that an object is capable of transcending the limits of its own signification to represent partially or fully the whole event that gave it birth.
The isotopic composition of hair remains constant. For example the hair of an ice age man found in 1991 had the same composition as a modern day vegan. Modern resources mean that we can glean information from this inanimate object resurrected from the bottom drawer.