Damián Ontiveros

(México, 1974)


Damián Ontiveros worked through a collaborative process with eight female hair stylists who had learned their craft in a shelter house in Santa María la Ribera. Based on a workshop format, the artist opened a collective reflection about the historical con-notations of feminine hair in society and how patriarchy objectifies and establishes relations of power toward women based on a collectivized gaze of “desire.”

Unbraiding enunciates the reality of these women, some of them immersed in situations of domestic and workplace violence—women who perceive the erotic nature of their bodies to be expressed through the abundance and length of their hair. The final work is comprised of three shapeless rugs, hand woven with the hair of different women from the neighborhood. Each one contains an embroidered phrase/sentence selected by one of the group members that highlights aspects of domination and gender inequality symbolically linked to their hair.

Ontiveros displayed the three rugs over the walls of a hair salon in the neighborhood, which has traditionally only served men since the 1950s. The artist proposed a performative moment in this emblematic place, in which the neighbors—who wish to do so—could have their hair cut by the group of co-participants. The eight stylists were the protagonists of the usually masculine space, while the hip-hop singer, Dayra Fyah, improvised verses by taking up their life experiences as themes.

—Violeta Celis

Curators: Osvaldo Sánchez and Violeta Celis
Final Project: Three rugs made of human hair.