There comes a point in many a man’s life when he must go bald. For many, it comes later in life; for some unfortunates, it comes early. I took mine by choice. For Art.
It began two weeks before the actual event. It was at a point where I had too much hair: it was unruly, messy, and though as a student it made little difference to the outside world, its length was beginning to annoy me. I was considering getting it cut to an acceptable length again.
Out of the blue, I receive a text from my best friend. It was an odd request. She was in the process of creating her final art installation for her Foundation course, and was curious as to whether I’d be willing to help. As she is my best friend in the world, I was immediately up for it.
She proceeds to explain her pitch. It’s a short video segment, inspired by a David Mamet play called Vikings and Darwin, with overtones of 1984 as well. It would feature me repeating a few choice phrases from the play in the midst of being tortured.
I press for more details, and she’s a bit… vague. It’s clear that though she has ideas, she’s not sure how far she can push it. She reels off a list of things she would like to do: water-boarding, shave my head, blindfold me…
I latch onto the shaving. It strikes me as a great money saving opportunity. We arrange a date when we’re both available.
I meet her in town, ready to get shaved up. We go to her sister’s flat, who fortunately is never in and I believe still has no idea to this day what happened there. We film the first bit, pre-shaving, with my screaming at the camera various phrases. We then wait for another friend to arrive with his clippers. She asks one last time if I’m sure.
I’m not afraid to say it hurt a little. As I was playing a renegade of the state, my hair was not exactly neat. As the clippers cut through my hair, it yanked and pulled its way through knots and tangles, pulling on my scalp and making my eyes water, for half an hour, by which time my head is very cold and the batteries are running down on the clippers. I am grateful they did not run out before the job was done.
Next we filmed the water-boarding sequence, where my head is dunked in the water and I have to gasp choice phrases. It was all very safe, and I was in complete control the whole time.
|What a jolly soul I am.|
Job done, with around an hour’s footage, we retire to the pub for a few pints.
The weeks pass, and I regularly text my friend to see what progress is being made. According to her, it’s very effective. I withhold my judgement. Yet what happens next certainly raises my expectations.
Before the piece is put on for public display, it is marked by her tutors and seen by her friends and colleagues on the course. Many of them cried.