Hair and the obscure

research project at ZK/U Berlin, Center for Art and Urbanistics, Berlin

This project is an investigation in the history of mental disorders related to the urban environment right in the beginning of the industrial revolution when Berlin build its first polyclinics that included the mad house in its research structures.

The focus lies especially on the conjunction of superstitious believes and scientific findings. How did newly detected mental illnesses relate to the urban environment and the new circumstances people had to endure in the growing industrial city.

Artist in Residence


Zentrum für Kunst und Urbanstik, Berlin

7 Months (08.2012 – 02.2013)


The city and its massive accumulation of people gives the ground for an investigation in obscure symbolic meanings and obsessions that occured. In the course of the project I focused on one specific abnormality or obsession that was related to hair.

This project was shown in form of an video installation with szenes from popular movies in combination with textual extracts from the research. Both parts explore the very act of cutting hair, as an act of power and obression, mostly performed on women hair in movies as well as in history.

hair-collection4Central to this research stands the story of the hair despoiler of Berlin, who started cutting women’s braids in the early 20th century.

Hair is the most noted part of the body after the eyes and the peculiar facility with which when plaited it may be removed, render hair – fetishism a sexual perversion of specially medico – legal interests.

The hair despoiler, Coupier de Nattes or Zopfabschneider may be found in any civilized country. Though the most carefully studied cases have actually occurred in cities like Paris and Berlin. (Havelock Ellis, „Studies in the Psychology of Sex“, Volume 5)

Account of a „hair despoiler“ in Paris. Form „Psychopathia sexualis“, published 1894 by Ferdinand Enke in Stuttgart;