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Hair Follies Exhibition Features Outrageous Wigs

(Written 1 February 2009)

Leisure Projects was pleased to participate in a casual interview over lunch and tea with the Montreal Gazette reporter Christine Redfern. An excerpt from the article published in the January 17 issue is copied here.

Meredith Carruthers and Susannah Wesley are the twosome behind the Montreal curatorial collective Leisure Projects. I spoke with them earlier this week about their latest project, titled Hair Follies, which features outrageous wigs by hairdresser Bernard Perreault from the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s and a video of the two of them having their hair done alongside art by Matthieu Gauvin, Maya Hayuk, Fabienne Lasserre, Io Palmer and Ken Smith.

Tell me about Leisure Projects.
SW: We work as artist- curators. Our art practice has become our curatorial practice.
MC: When Leisure Projects started four years ago, we had just gotten our first full-time jobs working at art galleries. So you get an MFA, then a full-time job. How does your studio practice adapt if you are doing something else five days a week? Your art practice becomes your leisure time.

Is there a particular focus to the shows you curate?
SW: Yes, it is this changing, loose exploration of the idea of leisure.

I always think of your shows as historical in some way.
SW: We are very interested in that. We get a lot of our inspiration out of historical research and going through archives, then finding ways to connect the historical and the contemporary.

This show started with wigs you uncovered at the Musée d’art de Joliette?
MC: It is funny, because the wigs kind of found us. Gaëtane Verna was looking through the collection to see what was in it, as the new director. She saw these wigs and she immediately called us.

Hair Follies is a pretty eclectic mix. Could you talk briefly about the other works?
SW: Matthieu Gauvin’s drawings are so gnarled, of these strange people. Who are they with their strange shaped hairdos and heads? MC: They are close to the world of the wigs for us, with these imagined protagonists that would wear this hair.
SW: Maya says her work has a lot to do with sensuality and sex.
MC: And they are very intercultural, too. She borrows from all sorts of different traditions of hair manipulation. The poem by Baudelaire talks about hair becoming something else: a rolling dark sea. For us, this was also connected with Fabienne Lasserre’s work in that the hair becomes like planets in a way. Io Palmer’s is more about the history of black women and domestic labour.

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