Excuse me miss, there’s a hair in my meal.
Although there is something innately repulsive about finding a stray hair in your food, the inclusion of hair in these works by art duo Beast and Burden is very much intentional. And much like when prickly hairs on the skin of pork belly reminds the eater of the origin of their food, these photographs call on us to examine our relationship with food and its wider context.
While there are elements of the grotesque in their work, Beast and Burden didn’t seek to create something outwardly unappealing in these latest pieces. “The challenge was to make something beautiful from a combination normally considered gross”, says Emily Bridge. To aid in this process, Bridge and her artistic partner Emma Witter collaborated with photographer Louise Hagger. They were inspired by Hagger’s refined, luxurious photography and it was appealing to them to work with her within the boundaries of a more editorial style, especially given the subject matter.
The resulting works have a complexity to them which begs to be examined further. The maroon hairs emerging from the artichoke look almost natural and the delicate white strands enveloping the pear could easily be mistaken for a candy floss - that is, until you take a closer look. The pieces are multilayered - both in their construction and concept - with the three women’s hair wrapped and layered among the salmon eggs or meticulously looped to appear like salmon’s iridescent skin.
The artists were inspired by the cultivated mould served at Adoni Luis Aduriz' Mugaritz, which is used to approximate wool in a lamb’s dish. They’re also are fascinated by how many people compartmentalise certain aspects of eating and how one substance might be perfectly acceptable in one context, but unappealing in others. They specifically chose to work with foods that are known to promote healthy hair, something that was surprisingly easy for Witter to recall considering the proliferation of ‘Eat Your Way to Healthier Locks' articles in the teen magazines she read in the 1990s. In a way, promoting 'healthy hair and nails' was the acceptable way for magazines to sneak in diet advice to young teens so it’s appropriate that Beast and Burden have snuck in hair right back.