Prologue (The Hedgehog's Dilemma) 2021
mixed media, video
180 x 50 x 50 cm
“The hedgehogs in the garden will freeze in the winter.” I am still not sure whether this is a stern denial of another’s warmth or the wail of regret as we are left to freeze in our solitude. Inspired by Schopenhauer’s theory of ‘The Hedgehog's Dilemma’, I created a work that dissects the turmoil of human intimacy with others and with the self. The installed work consists of two main components; a sculpture and a video performance. The sculpture is a clothing stand that carries the weight of the various versions of myself; the self I show to others, the self I hide from others and all versions in between, even versions that I am unconscious of. A heavily worked bodice of manipulated textiles, a pair of gloves and a headpiece to match. These pieces are sewn and dyed in a variety of colours, they carry carefully stitched fabrics and gaudy jewels. From up close and afar, they are simultaneously alluring, attractive, but repulsive and unsettling, portraying the abject characteristics of the intimate self. These hang next to a formal dress shirt, blazer, dress pants and leather shoes which lay neatly beneath, forming a grotesque figure with an eerie shadow. Empirically, these may represent a ‘false’ self and a ‘real’, however, as the performance plays, the situation becomes complicated.
I begin in formal wear, confronting the viewer calmly and explaining that “the hedgehog's in the garden will freeze in the winter”. I slowly start to change my appearance whilst repeating the phrase over and over. Inspired by artists like Adrian Piper and John Baldessari, this repetition simultaneously puts pressure on the viewer whilst eventually overwhelming their senses. Putting on gloves, taking off ties, putting on ties and taking off my blazer, there are infinite versions of myself as these pieces cover me. Finally, the bodice and mask are donned. As the video progresses my chant becomes desperate and my voice strained as I crawl on the floor and struggle for air. Perhaps my rejection of my public self brings me more torture than relief? Perhaps the rejection of human intimacy severs more than just a superficial connection. But was my calmness in the beginning true comfort, or a stifling facade I strived to maintain? We struggle with the pains of intimacy, with laying ourselves bare and acknowledging our ugliness. But as the unruly hedgehogs struggle to find warmth in one another through the winter, we must struggle to accept others and ourselves through living.