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First thing you notice when walking into Moussa Cheniguel’s Espace Moss are the mountains of hair accumulating in the corners of an otherwise empty room. The magnitude is impressive, considering he’s only been at his new location in Saint-Gilles for two weeks now. Even more impressive is that he can assign the different piles to their previous owners. This certainly isn’t your usual hairdresser.
Interview by Yente Vaneerdewegh
Photos shot by Tiny Geeroms in Brussels
For me, the essence of hairdressing is the relationship I have with my clients and cutting their hair
Hi Moussa! Can you tell us a bit about Espace Moss?
It’s an experimental project that questions the nature of a hairdressing space. I’ve often wondered about the position of the persons who have their hair cut, the spectators, and wanted them to live a unique experience by proposing on-site installations and sharing an intimate moment together. A typical moment lived in a different way.
How did this idea come about?
I’ve been cutting hair for about 15 years now, but Espace Moss originated about three years ago after a certain revelation and being fed up with the commercial approach to hairdressing. So instead, I decided to strip it down to the bare basics. For me, the essence of hairdressing is the relationship I have with my clients and cutting their hair. Which is also the reason there are no mirrors here, no music, no wash basin and nearly no products.
Just piles and piles of hair on the floor.
I find it interesting to see to what extent hair has the ability to both attract and repel. Voluminous, silky hair can be appealing, alluring and even inviting to touch, but change the context and it easily becomes repulsive. Hair has been used to mop up oil spills, to mourn the dead, to fertilise gardens, to ward off demons, to make cheap soy sauce. It’s not surprising that artists have used this natural fibre as a medium. In here, the hair accompanies the acoustics of the sound installation you’re hearing right now.
So what’s currently going on in here?
There’s my sound installation named CUT, which is a soundscape of several haircuts from our previous location. It interacts and blends in with the actual haircut being performed in the room. And since the very beginning there has also been a live broadcast. The performance is simple; by connecting to my website you can attend a very intimate moment from a distance: me giving someone a haircut.
Is it still an intimate moment if it’s out there for the whole world to see?
It’s a nice contrast to what’s really happening in the room. I’m convinced that anonymity safeguards our freedom. That’s why the live stream is silent, on a separate platform, and the position of the camera doesn’t identify the people in the room to preserve their privacy.
By connecting to my website you can attend a very intimate moment from a distance: me giving someone a haircut
What else do you have on your plate right now?
This year I continue to evolve Espace Scalp, which is both a publication and a virtual exhibition space focusing on hair and hairstyling. It offers online residencies as a creative playground for artists, but each project also has its own physical launch at Espace Moss. We’re currently working on number four.
Any plans for the future?
It might take a while, but I’ll grow and expand Espace Scalp for a total of 30 research projects with a big retrospective publication and exhibition afterwards. And definitely proposing more collaborations to other artists, or maybe even on-site residencies now that there’s plenty of space at the new address. Perhaps they can also interact or intervene with the people who come for their haircut, that might be interesting.