Stories of migration

Beauty Salon and Meeting Place

The Grand Beauty Salon | 2016 | © primate visions

It’s a delicate matter – placing one’s looks in the hands of a stranger, all the more so if this person comes from another part of the world. With her cosmopolitan art studio for beauty, artist Frauke Frech has created a platform for meetings between cultures.

All eyes are on Felix, assessing him: “My hair is different, so what would you do to it?” Felix tugs self-consciously at his thin hair. “No problem,” says Alaa Eddin. He speaks fluent English, had worked in Damascus and now lives in Dinkelscherben near Augsburg. “So how do you feel in Dinkelscherben?” During the encounter that comes along with a haircut, there’s time to start up a conversation about important things. The nomadic Beauty Salon is a space for transformation and discussion about our understanding of beauty, but also about the “whence and whither” of the other.

 
The actors – refugee beauty experts from a wide range of the world’s crisis regions – treat their customers as they would in their home countries: Esther from Nigeria manicures fingernails and gives hand massages; Mejghan from Afghanistan plucks eyebrows with a special threading technique and paints henna tattoos. Alaa Eddin and Masoud from Syria cut men’s hair.

Best Side Support

Frauke Frech conceives these alterations on the body as performative sculptural processes that she expresses through deliberately distorted descriptions:  “Fingerspitzenfeinübertragung” (i.e. “Fingertiptransmission”), „Entkratzbürsteln” (i.e. “Cheeks Unscratched”), “Haare lassen” (“Letting go of Hair,”) “vom Pfirsich zur Nektarine” (“From Peach to Nectarine”) or “Schokoladenseitensupport” (“Best Side Support”) are the names of the beauty treatments one can indulge oneself in here. 
 
The Beauty salon’s intimate meeting space is part of the Grandhotel Cosmopolis social sculpture – a place for community living and communal action by the artists and over 60 refugees in a former retirement home building in the Springergässchen 5, Augsburg. Here, cosmopolitan community living is being live-tested in a range of formats: in the 16 guest rooms designed by the artists, guests live in immediate proximity with people who have fled from crisis regions. The internationally staffed kitchen and Café-Bar provide a platform for exchange. The field of tension of this place of encounter has given rise to a variety of art projects. Frauke Frech’s beauty salon is one of them. “So, would you say that hairdressing is art for you?” Looking down from her stool and with scissors in hand, Frauke directs her query into the room. “Why not – yes,” replies Alaa Eddin.
 

The Grand Beauty Salon was founded in summer 2014 by Frauke Frech as part of her art project “Mein ganz privates Deutschland” (”My Own, Private Germany”), and springs into action in any number of places. It is sponsored by the Bavarian State Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts, the Augsburg Office of Cultural Affairs and the Heinrich Böll Foundation. The magazine Changing Heads, published by the Grandhotel Cosmopolis, documents the Grand Beauty Salon’s creative work.

 
 
Natalie Göltenboth
is an anthropologist, free-lance editor and author.

Translation: Edith C. Watts

Text: Goethe-Institut, Natalie Göltenboth. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Germany Attribution – NoDerivs 3.0 Germany license.
Creative Commons Lizenzvertrag
October 2016

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