Cut

Performance: high definition video with sound, c-print photographs

2006

McCallum & Tarry

Cut is a self-portrait of Bradley McCallum and Jacqueline Tarry in performance, video, and photography.

"Cut is a powerful performance project that encompasses both a video and related still photographs. This discomfiting self-portrait tracks McCallum and Tarry as they slowly and deliberately cut each other’s hair with a straight-edge razor. A complex and unsettling video, Cut confronts the viewer with an experience that is at once sexually charged, racially fraught and emotionally layered. The encounter between these two carefully choreographed figures is simultaneously an act of collaboration and dominance. This intimate interlude explores the complicated terrain of racial and gender stereotypes, territory that is rife with land mines. The intensity of the physical and psychological trauma for both artists emerges as the video shifts abruptly between close-ups of the actual act of hair cutting and wider shots with full-body views that allegorically establish a broader framework for the narrative.

The subtle yet haunting audio for the piece combines the unmistakable, jarring sound of hair being slowly sawed with a blade, segments of dialogue from the slave-bidding sequence in a cinematic adaptation of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) and a poignant French liberation song whose lyrics subtly reference an inspiration for this work–a photograph of French women whose hair was cut as punishment for “collaborating with the enemy” by taking German lovers during the Occupation in World War II. Laden with symbolism, the dangerous blades and shorn heads of the artists in Cut allude to a number of biblical, literary and historical references, ranging from the stories of Samson, Judith and Holofernes, John the Baptist and Joan of Arc to harrowing episodes in world history involving imprisonment, torture and even extermination."

Source: "Cut." In Bearing Witness: Work by Bradley McCallum & Jacqueline Tarry, edited by Jennie Hirsh, 32.  Baltimore, MD: Maryland Institute College of Art, 2010. 

©Exhibition Development Seminar 2009-2010, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA: Baltimore, 2010) 

To view or download the entire exhibition catalogue from Bearing Witness: Work by Bradley McCallum & Jacqueline Tarry with descriptions of each work as well as a critical essay, please visit the Featured page.