Magna Mater

SJ Norman Jeff Khan
Presented in partnership with Performance Space + Ivester Contemporary

“Hair is one of the first parts of our bodies to be removed – cut – by colonisers. In a way, this act of wounding, of laceration, is a prerequisite for assimilation.

I often wonder: Where did all that hair go? Returned to the earth, in the nest of bird? lost in the desert? Held in museum basements, tagged and numbered?

To focus on Indigenous hair is thus to home in on a locus of interpellation by colonial eyes. For so long Indigenous hair has been fetishised, imagined as a source of exotic power that is at once desired and feared. At times it marks us as instantly legible to outsiders, and at others it makes us incomprehensible.” – Joseph M. Pierce, Cherokee Nation Citizen, on SJ Norman’s Magna Mater

This work documents a durational ritual action performed by a group of 12 inter-connected people, all of whom belong to the artist’s close and extended circles of friendship and intimacy, all of whom are Indigenous to the so-called American continents and the Asia-Pacific region. The 12 channels of video that comprise the installation track each participant over the course of a full moon cycle, during which committed to having their hair brushed for 100 strokes each day. This action is performed either by the subjects themselves, or by a person they nominate as a trusted caregiver in their life, family or community. Each performer’s commitment to this daily action is documented using the most readily available technology- their phone.The hairbrushes used for these actions, with strands of hair collected over time, are displayed on chairs facing the films of the performers, evoking a multiple presence and resonance of the original processes. The work inverts a museological and anthropological fascination with Indigenous bodies by centring acts of consensual intimacy and care between people, and by connecting Indigenous people through a shared performance across time and space.

Editing: Avery Holliday

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.

Magna Mater

Ivester Contemporary
916 Springdale Rd BLDG 2 #107, Austin, TX 78702

This durational exhibit is free and open to the public during the following days/hours:

April 13th: 12:00-5:00pm

April 14th: 12:00-10:00pm

April 15th: 12:00-5:00pm

April 16th: 12:00-5:00pm

No tickets needed

  • April 13, 2023 12:00 pm
  • April 14, 2023 12:00 pm
  • April 15, 2023 12:00 pm
  • April 16, 2023 12:00 pm