Since the spring of 2008 I have been working on a performance piece titled Trust. Trust is a mobile nail salon housed inside an army parachute, complete with everything required for a professional manicure. During the opening viewers are ushered into the tent out of curiosity to receive a free manicure in exchange for conversation. The Participant must be willing to commit 20 minutes or more to having their hands cleaned, massaged and sometimes polished. This intimate experience creates a space for viewer and artist to engage in a wide breadth of conversation topics ranging from world politics, social dynamics of the personal care industry to family ancestry. I use the parachute tent as a metaphor for resourcefulness amidst the omnipresence of war, natural disasters, temporary housing and our ability to be nomadic, alongside the idea of “home”, place and safety. A tent is also a space where we can go to fantasize; it’s a time machine to another dimension.
As the piece grows I learn more about others reactions to being touched, their apprehensions towards a free service and sharing 20 minutes with a complete stranger. And most importantly carrying on a continual open dialogue with manicurists, massage therapists and estheticians who perform a personal service on others and what it means to have to earn someone else’s trust to make a living. Each time the piece is performed I refine how to approach the logistics of the influx of visitors, how to adapt to different conversation styles and how to make people feel comfortable. After the performance is over a book with before and after images of the participant’s hands resides in the tent for exhibition visitors to look at, on the page in their own writing is their name, where they were born and anything that is on their mind at the current moment.