fall off: Tracing the Dynamics of Violence in the Global Hair Trade (2023 - Ongoing research)

This research aims to shed light on the hidden violence that women experience in the context of global economic development in this process. I will examine the historical reasons how China became the production center of the hair trade from 1903-1927 and I want to understand the current situation of women in different parts of the hair trade chain.

As a Chinese visual artist living in Europe, surrounded by 'made in China' products every day, I decided take the wig as the object to research on, a commodity that is both common and special, Personal and industrialized.  In this research, I draw from my work experience in 2023 in a factory in Xuchang, China, Where the world's largest hair production center is located. I also want to visit local wig and hair salons in my current residence in Antwerp to understand the circumstances of women in these parts of the trade chain.

Through this, I will reflect on the potential violence that can occur in the everyday production of industrial products. I intend to supplement the missing personal narratives within this industry through writing and videos. This will aid in reclaiming the often-neglected human emotional space, which tends to be marginalized in the relentless pursuit of industrial efficiency, ultimately enabling the reconnection of the value of labor and the intrinsic worth of individuals.

The theoretical framework aims to explore wigs as a global product. Their raw materials originate from the human body, and the key contributors, including hair providers, workers, and customers, are predominantly women. However, the entire system is entrenched in male aesthetics, patriarchy, and hierarchy. My methodology involves immersing myself in the environment where these events unfold and perceiving them through interactions with individuals across this extensive industrial chain. The objective is to comprehend the alienation experienced by individuals within industrial production and to reassess the value of labor and the underlying significance of products.

Link to the research booklet:


Hair Recycling Workshop

At Sint Lucas Antwerp, 29th February 2024

Where does our cut hair go? Tossing hair into the trash might be easy, but it doesn't disappear from there.Hair takes years to decompose, and its accumulation in the waste stream can lead to many environmental problems. In addition to potentially clogging drains and sewers, its long-term presence in landfills and waste streams takes up a lot of space, and leachate from these landfills can gradually increase nitrogen levels in water bodies, leading to eutrophication problems. It also promotes the growth of algae in waterways, which can be harmful to other marine life. Harmful chemicals in hair care products can damage coral reefs, and human hair treated with bleach or chemicals can leach out these substances during degradation. Lost human hair in the urban environment is the main cause of pigeons losing their toes.

This workshop introduced some of the impacts of human hair on the environment and existing methods of hair recycling. We also showcased companies and organizations that are already practicing these recycling methods, such as "Hair Recycle" and "Matter of Trust," as well as “Smart4Growing.These methods include using human hair to clean up oil spills and promote plant growth. Through the technic of ‘felting’, we will craft hair mats ourselves.