• Installation view
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Titian
Installation view

Year: 1996
Dimensions: 1.20 m × 1.00 m × 45 cm
Medium: cotton, resin, hair
Photography: David Bradfield

TITIAN originally aimed at celebrating the intelligence of women who run large households, a daily set of hard chores (taken for granted by society at large). For example my mother was handed down and passed on how to hang bed sheets to dry properly as to minimise ironing, maximise perfect folding and store in the wardrobe all bed linen in neat calibrated piles.

While working at the piece I understood a less admirable aspect of this commitment. A couple of centuries ago embroidered bed sheets used to be first reserved for the wedding night, to present a newly born and to keep vigil over a dead family member. One generation later they were used as ordinary bed linen. When the middle section became worn, they were torn in two and used for children beds, then torn again for baby cots, after that into kitchen towels and finally into rags. Only once absolutely useless their remnants were offered to me, which I used for TITIAN. Even with the interests of their descendants so much at heart the women were unable to support one of theirs who had chosen differently and needed bed linen for her art — rather than for her family.

Before the piece was finished an aunt died and her flat had to be emptied. Among her belongings there was a plastic bag containing several types of hair: curly, long, plaited, thick and fine but all of an identical colour. A string was binding the bag with the label in my aunt’s handwriting ‘cheveux’ and a little note inside the bag read: 'cheveux des femmes de la famille’. I remembered when I was a child that my grandmother touched my hair and said its colour was ‘blond vénitien’ (translated in English as ‘Titian’).

In the end I may not have been given decent bed linen when I needed it but instead I was provided with the hair of those very same women and the title for the work.

A string was binding the bag containing hair with this orange label in my aunt's handwriting 'cheveux'
Flat A.T.
Flat A.T.
fig. 6