Getting Wiggy with Tomi Kono
office had the pleasure of catching up with Kono the weekend of his first ever exhibition, entitled “Wigs (Perruques)," located at the Community in Paris. In many ways, his exhibition can be seen as the culmination of the very quality for which ‘the wig’ is universally revered: Within snapshots of visitors trying on his wigs, we see the innate ability of these hand-crafted masterpieces to transform an individual into anyone they want to be, if only for a moment.
Kono curated an experience that is simultaneously both individual and ubiquitous, micro and macro. So naturally, considering our penchant for paradox, we had some questions for the dude.
Whose doo are you just dying to do?
Describe yourself as a wig maker in three words.
Meditation. Patient. Artisan.
What is the significance of the location of your first exhibition? I know that while you were making wigs at the Community for this exhibition, you welcomed people to come in and try them on. What was your reasoning behind this?
The Community used to be a barber shop, and its location is the Mecca of hair and beauty salons. This place has a story profoundly connected to hair, so it means a lot for me to do an exhibition of wigs here; It has long been a dream of mine to use this location for my exhibition, to be on this exact street, rue du château d’eau. Most hairdressers come to buy supplies in this area during fashion week. It’s a little bit doggy and rough here, but it has such a rich culture.
I wanted people to come in and try on wigs because I wanted the exhibition to be more interactive. I also wanted to document the experiences of people trying on the wigs, which may be included in my second book about wigs in collaboration with Konomad edition. Although they were initially very shy, kids were especially excited to try on my pieces. I like how this exhibition turned out to be kind of like an amusement park for people.
I’m happy that there was a greater degree of diversity than I was expecting to see in the crowd. I think that wigs have a universality that transcends age.
If you could choose an animal to be reincarnated as, what would it be and why?
Slow loris. I want to experience life at a slower pace.
How would people communicate in a perfect world?
People would communicate in a nice manner and have certain distance in between, respecting oneself and others.
What do you think the correlation is between hair and identity?
I think hair (wigs) have the power to transform people into different characters. You can transform into an alternate version of yourself by wearing another hair style.
Hair works as a social mask, or as Carl Jung puts it, a “persona." Jung defines this term as the social face that an individual presents to the world — "A kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and on the other to conceal the true nature of the individual".
Each wig you prepared for this exhibition is an art piece, and you are the artist. Are there any other artistic projects that you have been involved with or are currently working on?
I started my career as a hairdresser working at a hair salon in Harajuku. But I always wanted to express myself as an artist, so I started moving images, and making characters and photographs as a unit artist.
One of my favorite pieces is called “Neon O’Clock," and it’s in collaboration with my long-term partner and wife Sayaka Maruyama. Our basis has always been one sourced from an artistic background, so it feels organic for me to showcase my work at a gallery.