It’s amazing all that you can miss when you are not looking.
Just down the road from my apartment, there was an exhibition going on at the Dock, a local art hub that I didn’t notice at all until its last day.
And really, it was pretty hard to miss.
On one of the windows, dressed to look like a pharmacy, there was a sober advertisement that read: “Hier werden Schamhaare gekauft.” They were paying SFr1 per pubic hair and I didn’t even notice!
What did get my attention was the little chalkboard sign outside propped up on the sidewalk outside of the Dock advertising the “Finnissage,” the last day of the expo, coffee and cake included.
The treats got me in the door. Once I was there, a kind soul got up from the table of artists to explain what the show was all about.
A few students from Basel’s School of Fine Arts were selected to do installations in the Dock’s artist windows. There were no particular requirements. No themes. The young artists were free to create whatever they wanted.
She explained that one artist removed the D and the C from the name of the hub, so Dock was OK for a month.
Another artist used a mirror, a mannequin and a red carpet, playing on themes related to body image, distortion and pressure.
But what really got my attention was Rosanna Monteleone’s pubic hair advertisement, which was as literal as it was figurative.
She paid for private hairs from 17 people. They were mostly groups of guys and some elderly folks.
It was a completely hygienic set-up. Small plastic Ziploc baggies, rubber gloves, tweezers. You could harvest your sampling there at the Dock’s restrooms or from the privacy of your own home. And Rosanna would pay providers one franc each.
As she went through the explanation and I saw all of the evidence, I was still shocked and kind of grossed out.
The pieces didn’t come together until she showed me a print of Gustave Courbet’s L’Origine du Monde (The Origin of the World). The very realistic rendition of the female sexual organ shocked its 19th century audience.
Rosanna wanted to see how the public reacts to the subject today. She said that most people took it with humour, some with confusion or contempt.
Many people, just walked by her window, and allowed the words to blend into the cacophony of advertisements that cover the streets.
It’s inspiring when you are reminded that when you take the time to look, you are often surprised by what you see.