A Manifesto of Hair

Ho Tam

May 17 - June 22, 2024
Opening Reception Friday May 17, 7 - 10pm

A Manifesto of Hair
A Manifesto of Hair
Hong Kong Barber Shop 19, Doyers Street
Lin Hair Salon, 78B Forsyth Street
Ting Ting Hair Salon, 302-306C Grand Street
MessLook Hair & Spa, 104 Bowery
A Manifesto of Hair
A Manifesto of Hair
Kelly Salon, 19 Pell Street
Hair Cuts
Ming Cheng Unisex Barber, 39A Henry Street
New China Beauty Salon, 15 Doyers Street
A Manifesto of Hair
A Manifesto of Hair
A Manifesto of Hair
No. 2 Beauty Salon, 84 Bayard Street
Haircut 100
A Manifesto of Hair
A Manifesto of Hair
Hair Salon Interiors no. 1-12
A Hair Salon, 135 East Broadway
A Manifesto of Hair

A Manifesto of Hair

A Manifesto of Hair , 2024
installation view

Ho Tam A Manifesto of Hair

The Manhattan Chinatown in the displaced homeland of the Lenapehoking (now known as New York City) is one of the oldest and largest of its kind for the diasporic Chinese and Southeast Asian population in the world. The densely populated neighbourhood also houses over one hundred barbershops and hair salons. These business establishments serves and profits from the locals as well as visitors from outside, often operating in long hours on cut throat prices. Only outnumbered by the food sector (restaurants and grocery stores), the barbershops and salons, with their high concentration, reflects the importance of hair and appearance in the immigrant community.

A Manifesto of Hair is a study of the significance of hair and hair cutting through looking at these business establishments in the mega-metropolis. The photographs (24” x 20” each, taken 2014 and printed 2023) depicts a selection of the colourful architecture, activities and individuals that occupy these spaces. Under the artist’s emphatic eyes, the camera picks up on the overlooked details and unfolds daily moments in this city within a city. Highlighting the working class within the marginalized community, the photographs explore how everyday individuals negotiate their identity in the larger social context, adapting to the norms while reinventing their lives. On one hand, the barbershops function as a refuge of self care and comfort. On the other hand, they evoke questions on the conformity under homogenized standard of beauty and societal expectation. In such a way, A Manifesto of Hair explores the relationships among race, class and commerce through looking at the care of hair.

Ho Tam makes art with a democratized approach and works across different disciplines. The topics of self reflection, visibility and representation are some of the common themes in his work. During his stay in New York from 1996 to 2003, Tam was an acute observer and an active participant — both an insider and outsider. He tirelessly documented the surroundings with photography and video in the seven years. The hair culture in the Manhattan Chinatown is one of his longtime focus of attention.

In additional to the newly produced prints, the exhibition A Manifesto of Hair will also include Tam’s two previous work of the same subject matter - Hair Cuts (video, 8 min, 1999), which can be watched here, and Haircut 100 (artist’s book, 60 pages, 2014), which a copy can be ordered here.


Born in Hong Kong, HO TAM is a media/visual artist who has worked in advertising and community psychiatry. He received a BA from McMaster University and an MFA from Bard College (NY). From 1996 to 1997, he was a participant at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. Tam has exhibited in public galleries and alternative spaces across Canada, including the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography (2001) and two survey exhibitions, A Portrait of the Photographer, Paul Petro Contemporary Art (2015), and Cover To Cover at the Richmond Art Gallery, BC (2018). Tam's work was also included in The Tin Man Was A Dreamer: Allegories, Poetics And Performances Of Power at the Vancouver Art Gallery (2020). Over 15 of his experimental film/video works are in circulation including screenings at Centre Pompidou, Paris, Toronto International Film Festival, Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival and the travelling exhibition Magnetic North: Canadian Experimental Video organized by the Walker Art Center, Minnesota.

Tam is a recipient of various grants and awards, including the Grand Marnier Video Fellowship (2003) from the Film Society of Lincoln Center (New York) and the Best Documentary Feature at Tel Aviv LGBT Film Festival. From 2004 to 2011, Tam taught in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Victoria. He recently edited and published Frontline: Interviews with International Photo-based Artists. He is also the publisher of Hotam Press, an independent press of artist books, and currently runs a bookshop and gallery of the same name. Ho Tam lives in Vancouver, BC and has been exhibiting at Paul Petro Contemporary Art since 2002.