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Leandro Erlich: Hair Salon

Installation consisting of two mirrored rooms, created for the 2nd Singapore Biennale 2008.
By Fumio Nanjo | Sep 2008

For the Singapore Biennale 2008, Leandro Erlich has recreated the interior of a beauty parlour inside an old room in the South Beach Development. The installation is devised so that when you look into the mirror on the wall, it appears as if the room is reflected in the mirror, but in fact, there is an identical room that has been created symmetrically behind the mirror. The double-room-mirror is used as a trick, a device to surprise people and to pose an interesting question about reality and illusion. It shows us that what one thinks is an illusion can actually be real, and that there is only a fine line between illusion and reality.

Erlich has created many artworks that deliberately confuse our perception of space and lead us to be surprised by what is in front of our eyes. One of his famous works is Bâtiment (2004) in which the viewer becomes a participant, 'climbing' up the illusory façade of a building, and The Swimming Pool (1999) [1] in which visitors are able to go beneath the water of a swimming pool (part of the permanent collection at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan), and many others. These works all transform the place we are standing in, surprising us and making us wonder about reality. They also make us realise the mutability of our sense of perception.

It is characteristic of Erlich's work to be interactive, encouraging the viewer not only to observe but to experience his artworks by stepping inside them. These unpredictable installations are not complete without the visitor and there is drama similar to that of theatre in his works. Truth resides right next to fantasy. Where we have to have the ability to recognise the fake amongst the real; this is also where wonder of reality lurks [2].

Notes of the editors:

  1. The installation was exhibited at the Venice Biennial in 2001. See the tour of the Biennale of Universes in Universe.
  2. The theme of the 2nd Singapore Biennale 2008 is Wonder - in its different meanings: to be surprised, awed, to be curious, to call into question, etc.

Fumio Nanjo

Curator, art critic, lecturer. Director of the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo. Artistic director of the 1st and the 2nd Singapore Biennials.

(Courtesy of the Singapore Biennale 2008. Text published in the event's guide.)

Hair Salon. 2008
Installation of two mirrored rooms

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