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Human Hair in Artworks by Sheela Gowda and Doris Salcedo: Engaging with Materiality and Memory


Human Hair in Artworks by Sheela Gowda and Doris Salcedo: Engaging with Materiality and Memory

Kemp, Rosemary (2023) Human Hair in Artworks by Sheela Gowda and Doris Salcedo: Engaging with Materiality and Memory. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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This thesis examines the use of human hair in sculptural installations by Indian artist Sheela Gowda (b. 1957) and Colombian artist Doris Salcedo (b. 1958), focusing on questions of materiality and memory. In Gowda’s Behold (2009), car bumpers are suspended from the ceiling by a continuous, four-kilometer hair rope made of rewoven traditional amulets, while in Salcedo’s Unland (1995-98), many individual strands of hair are stitched through the wood of disfigured tables. Despite the cultural distance between the two artists, their artworks have circulated internationally, and there is a striking commonality to how the artists explore the unusual and unique qualities of human hair as an artistic material. This thesis deploys new materialist and phenomenological methodologies, drawing on Jane Bennett’s concepts of “vibrant materiality” and “assemblage” to address Gowda’s Behold, and Sara Ahmed’s notion of “queer phenomenology” to address Salcedo’s Unland. These approaches illuminate how Gowda and Salcedo engage with their materials, and help to explain the complex impact those materials have on viewers. The thesis closes with a discussion of memory, examining the artists’ use of materials, and hair in particular, as monument-like ways of addressing collective memory.

Contemporary art, Installation, Sculpture, Found objects, Hair, Sheela Gowda, Doris Salcedo, New materialism, Phenomenology, Memory, India, Colombia, Counter-monument

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts > Art History
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Kemp, Rosemary
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:Art History
Date:29 March 2023
Thesis Supervisor(s):Sloan, Johanne
Keywords:Contemporary art, Installation, Sculpture, Found objects, Hair, Sheela Gowda, Doris Salcedo, New materialism, Phenomenology, Memory, India, Colombia, Counter-monument
ID Code:991966
Deposited By: Rosemary Kemp
Deposited On:21 Jun 2023 14:19
Last Modified:21 Jun 2023 14:19


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