I was in Venice a couple of weeks back and managed to escape my post long enough to witness Bo Ningen (a London based Japanese psych band) playing live in a tiny, raked sand courtyard, open to the black night sky. It was good for so many reasons (Venice is rarely the place to hear music turned up to this volume; people were wandering around handing out beer; there was dancing to Japanese versions of 50's surf rock afterwards) but what really got me - apart from the mesmerising performance of the band themselves - was the mysterious and beautiful emblem of black hair that acted as a guiding principal for the event.
The band were there by invitation of Tim Noble and Sue Webster, who themselves embody a grease slicked, rock n roll aesthetic, cutting a lean, Gothic figure in the Venice sun. They had created an animation to form the backdrop of the performance, itself a love letter to the thing that really holds visual court when Bo Ningen play; four unreally perfect manes of waist length, mirror dark hair, straighter than straight.
As black as my boots, but shining like my boots never would, they shake and flick their impossible hair as the music swells. Smoke billows from the side of the stage, locks fly, and the filmed fragments of ebony flit over the screen like cuttings on a barber shop floor. The grey fog rises - smoke trails become hair and hair becomes smoke.
It got me thinking about the very particular beguile of this raven look. An amalgam of sadness, secrecy, assurance and dark quiet knowledge. Like the something shared and unnameable that's palpably going on here;
A curtain to shroud things and a point of passionate dissaray where, when entwined, you can nolonger tell whose it whose.
Black hair doesn't take blond as its opposite, that is left to brunette. It stands solitary and straight; poker faced and a halo for sorrows.
As deep as ink and black, black as the deepest sea.1
There is forbidden in black.2
1. Lyrics, Black Hair, Nick Cave,1997.
2. Derek Jarman, 'Black Arts' in Chroma,1994.
Bo Ningen image by Matthew Josephs.