New York-based Icelandic artist Hrafnhildur Arnadóttir (aka Shoplifter) is taking the 5th floor of Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki by storm with the opening of the exhibition Nervescape VIII, a weird and wonderful fake hair installation in which to participate, relax, shoot the breeze or decompress.
The title of the exhibition – which opened on 8 February and runs until 15 September – is a reference to Arnadóttir’s interest in neurology and she describes the masses of hair as resembling nerve endings. This is the artist’s eighth work of this kind, and each piece is site-specific and always evolving. Besides the resemblance to neurons, she believes hair is also an important part of our identity: we use it to express ourselves, to be fashionable and to be vain.
The reams of coloured fake hair are suspended from the ceiling, stuck on walls and draped. The idea is to stroke it and to appreciate its texture but never to tug at it – a sign by the exhibition advises visitors to ‘Treat it as if it were a shy, old mammoth.’
The bright hues are intended to trigger the release of the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter serotonin, as the artist attempts to bring us closer to a state of childlike innocence, with the piece being reminiscent of clowns, stuffed animals and comics. She invites us to ‘bathe ourselves in a rainbow’ and ‘stroll around the garden’ of vines, trees and undergrowth.
The material Arnadóttir uses to create her inimitable brand of Pop Art is bought and none of it is dyed by her. To this end, it becomes what she calls ‘ready-made art’, which is perhaps an allusion to off-the-peg consumerism.
And why the pseudonym Shoplifter? After moving to the USA, her Icelandic name proved difficult to convey during introductions and so, when one mispronunciation sounded like ‘shoplifter’ she decided to stick with it.