This project is dedicated to all women who have lost their hair against their will.
I cut my hair every 4 years (every Leap/Olympic Year), on the same day (night), August 31st, harvesting it for my Braid Collection.
First it was a symbolic haircut in 1984 before moving from Kharkov (Ukraine) to Moscow, starting new “moscow time”. Date of that haircut coincidently fell on the date when influential Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva committed suicide in 1941.
Braid #1. 1984-1988, Made in Russia. It was cut in front of a wardrobe mirror, at home.
Braid #2. 1988-1992, Made in Russia. First public performance in Moscow before departure to USA.
Braid #3. 1992-1996, Made in USA. Performance at the Cleveland International Performance Festival.
Braid #4. 1996-2000, Made in USA. Shaved on a trip from the Bronx to the East Village, while driving.
Braid #5. 2000-2004, Cut in Ukraine. “20 Years After” Performance at Palitra Gallery, Kharkov, Ukraine
Braid #6. 2004-2008, Cut in Tribeca. Performance at The Tank in NYC.
Braid #7. 2008-20012, Cut in Moscow. "Twenty Years After" Performance at the NCCA in Moscow.
While each performance was created differently, some parts developed at different times and became traditions.
Summer of 1984: I had finished art school in my native Ukrainian city Kharkov and was going to move to Moscow in September. My hair at that point was approximately the length of the time I had spent in Art School and I invited two close Art School friends to cut that time off before starting a new time in Moscow. Lena Kudinova and Masha Glushchenko chose the night of August 31 and the symbolic haircut was performed. (That braid was traded for a kilogram of butter.)
Soon after, already in Moscow, I learned that the date of the 1941 suicide of one of the influential Russian Poets, Marina Tsvetaeva, was August 31st. Marina Tsvetaeva was also known for shaving herself several times in her youth to achieve curly hair. I was not sure if she achieved that affect, but I wanted to cut my hair again in her honor. It was supposed to grow first. 1984 was a leap (and Olympic) year. I decided to grow my hair and to cut it again during the next leap year, on August 31st.
In 1988 I cut my hair myself, at home, in front of a wardrobe mirror. By that date a lot of things had happened in Moscow and even though my hair continued growing with no haircuts, August 31st almost took me by surprise. I remember a clear feeling that next morning I could not wake up the same. I braided my hair into one braid and cut it off. The Shaving Performance started that night. I saved the braid.
Next leap year I was preparing to leave Moscow for the USA and on August 31st invited Moscow friends to my home/studio to perform the shaving. A month later I moved to the USA. A satellite farewell project “Portraits of/by Great People”, started that year. I asked everyone I knew in the Moscow art community to take my picture (before the shaving).
In 1996 I was invited to make a Bus Trip 59 performance at the Cleveland International Performance Art Festival. It was an annual festival, running in April. In the beginning of the year I got a phone call from Thomas Mulready telling me that the festival was postponed to the end of August. I mentioned my Shaving Performance; he welcomed it and the performance happened the day after “BusTrip 59”. Someone in the audience mentioned the miracle of the date shift. Next year’s festival was again held in April.
One Spring morning in 2000 my sister was called to the hospital for our father's severe condition. It was in Cleveland. I went to the hospital too. There was 8 hours of driving in between. In memory of that driving, the next Shaving Performance was in my car. I drove from my apartment in the Bronx to the East Village, with 5 passengers: Catherine McGregor and John Badami were cutting my hair, Aleksey Danilov, Sergei “Photograph” and Ignat Ayzenberg were documenting.
The Shaving Project started in 1984 in Kharkov, Ukraine, but there was no documentation from that evening. To commemorate the very first event, in 2004 I developed a new series “20 years after”, returning for shaving to the same place. Both Lena Kudinova and Masha Glushchenko performed the shaving, which was organized by Andrei Avdeenko at Palitra Gallery. Less than 2 months after shaving in the Ukraine, their national election led to the Orange Revolution.
I passed the word around and got responses with requests to shave the next time in USA. In 2008 with help of The Tank organization, the Shaving was performed at the space of Children Theater in Tribeca. For the first time this performance included a screening of documentations from previous shavings. Live video mix by Aleksandra Dementieva. The curator from The Tank, Tatyana Tenenbaum, performed the shaving along with a member of the audience. LuLu Lolo was the braid maid. Later that year Obama was elected president.
In 2012 I went back to Moscow to cut the 7th and longest ever braid. I wrote to several art organizations, and Irina Gorlova from NCCA wrote a short and nice response. Angelina Panova, Rostislav Egorov, Vladimir Sal’nikov and Nina Kotel, who attended the Moscow shaving of 1992 were involved. Angelina made the braid and Rostislav took pictures as they did 20 years before. Vladimir and Nina did the shaving. The curator was Natalya Goncharova.