Near the beginning of Hair Peace, Victoria Melody says someone once told her that wearing a wig made of real hair is like slipping on another woman’s knickers. No, Melody answers—it’s like wearing her old fingernails.
That image immediately gets to the intimacy of the subject at hand, which Melody tackles with a mix of economic investigation and armchair sociology. For her last show, Major Tom, both Melody and her basset hound entered beauty competitions. That experience—and the revelation that the U.K. is the world’s third biggest importer of hair—prompted the performance artist to trace her wigs back to their roots (heh). Hair Peace recounts that wigspedition (double heh). First, Melody jets to India, where she witnesses tonsuring rituals at a Hindu temple. Then she putters off to Russia, where she meets a man who buys hair—often belonging to people’s dead mothers—at a mall kiosk. And she accompanies her 25-year-old cousin, who’s been wearing hair extensions since age 14, to the beauty salon.
Melody dons a series of wigs during the show—everything from a towering Marie Antoinette updo to a dark brown helmet—and she pairs her documentary-style video footage with slow and deliberate monologuing. Eyes wide and smile broad, she’s earnest and enthusiastic, but also too much like an elementary school teacher. There’s the kernel of something great here: Melody notes how human hair is classified as a beauty product rather than a body part, and the industry is largely unregulated. (It’d make a brilliant Planet Money episode.) But her other questions—about the emotional impact of a new hairstyle, or our fetishization of long blonde locks—feel lacking in volume.