BARBERSHOP: THE ART OF QUEER FAILURE
“Barbershop: The Art of Queer Failure” is an installation and social practice performance piece that takes the motif of the barbershop and queers it, creating a space for queer world-making. “Barbershop: The Art of Queer Failure” embraces the ethos of queer failure (a concept developed by queer theorist Jack Halberstam in a book by the same name) as a productive way of proposing alternatives rather than adhering to traditions of barbershops which, under the guise of giving haircuts, often reinforce notions about heteropatriarchal masculinity.
In exchange for a queer-style haircut, participants agree to engage in an act of queer world-making before their haircut grows out. The act associated with the haircut will be negotiated during your haircut. Some suggested acts of queer world-making in exchange for haircuts can be found posted in the installation.
Haircuts are given by the artist, Ace Lehner, who is not a trained barber but who has been cutting hair outside of sanctioned barber channels for over a decade; hence part of the ethos of queer failure.
Failure has been part of queerness since the term’s reclamation in the 1980s. Queerness as identity and method fails to perform in ways that mainstream culture encourages. Queers fail to perform normatively when it comes to romantic partners, sexualities, gender identities, family structures, aesthetics, world-making, and much more. Queer and queerness fail on purpose to be normative and instead throw norms, essentialism, and givens into question. Queers and queerness fail on purpose as a means of creating other possibilities.
“Barbershop: The Art of Queer Failure” embraces the ethos of queer failure as a productive way of proposing alternatives rather than adhering to traditions. “Barbershop: The Art of Queer Failure” fails to reinforce masculinity and instead gives any barbershop-style haircut to anyone of any gender who is willing to engage in an act of queer world-making.