The Electric Chaircut is an interactive, electro-sonic, hair cut performance. Volunteers request what they would like and are taped to my chair. Their eyes and mouth are taped closed to symbolize our fetishism of appearance. I cut the hair with various implements, all amplified. Scissors and clippers wired to effects pedals, slung round my waist, are blasted through an amplifier strapped to my back. I whack at the hair in a seemingly random pattern and a cacophony of trance like sounds play to the audience. When I am finished I peel away the tape and show them the new look I have created.
Nelson’s Electric Chaircut is an interactive, electro-sonic, hair cut performance. After a brief consultation and the signing of a release form, Volunteers are taped to the chair. Their eyes and mouth are also taped to symbolize the fetishism of appearance. The Volunteer’s hair is then cut by Nelson, the original master of electro-sonic hair design. His various implements are amplified, scissors and clippers wired to effects pedals, slung round his waist, and blasted through an amplifier strapped to his back. The whacking haircutting sounds reverberates in a trance like cacophony of seemingly random patterns, as the true stylistic nature of the volunteer is released. Originally conceived in San Francisco Nelson’s Electric Chaircut has been performed world wide since 1989.
In my work I am alluding to our willingness to participate in what Michel Foucault called conditioning of the body. I am also exploring the dichotomy between image and emotion; how we look, as opposed to how we feel. Hair is a powerful metaphor for strength, beauty, potency, faith and even mourning. It is cut, burned, shorn, braided into jewelry as a keepsake; it is colored, curled and straightened, manipulated in every conceivable manner to convey a statement in the culture in which it is presented! This powerful symbol, which grows from our heads is temporary and regenerative, which allows us to experiment with it, change it and change who we are. Hair and identity are closely linked, now just as it has been for thousands of years. Those who choose to participate in the performance are placing their trust in a complete stranger, who will physically remove a portion of their identity.
Nelson’s “Electric Chaircuts,” satirizes the notion that we are all only a haircut away from possessing a sense of authenticity that distances us from the crowd. He straps a willing accomplice into a chair, and with a pair of amplified scissors attached by wires to a power-pack on his back, attacks the unruly mane of hair. By theatricalizing the “performance” of a haircut, Nelson suggests that the codes of individuality as filtered through fashion, are just that — theater. In Nelson’s knowing hands, the boundary between the external and the internal shed their dichotomous nature, becoming a single route to a reinvestigation of the self.