Allogrooming Lounge is an architecturally defined social space where hair grooming services are provided to willing participants. Allogrooming Lounge compares and contrasts human social interaction with that of our primate relatives. Primates engage in affiliative behaviors regularly spending up to 20% of their time on social grooming practices known as “allogrooming”. Allogrooming allows for the formation of new bonds and ensures the maintenance of established bonds. Allogrooming is widely used to reinforce mating pairs as well as friendships and it is a powerful tool for reducing group tension and diffusing aggressive outbursts from individuals.
Humans have evolved to develop relations in a comparable manner. Our brains are wired to expect familiarity, connection and cooperation with members of a small and intimately knowable community. It was not until relatively recently that humans have joined vast communities with populations beyond that which make it possible to know all of the members of the “tribe”, physically and in person. Due to these dramatic shifts in social norms that our new environ requires, we are becoming increasingly physically isolated from one another and are experiencing a new paradigm of touch-deprecation. Studies have shown that physical touch is an essential form of communication for us and that it is critical to our physical and psychological health, greatly reducing stress levels in individuals when administered as part of a care-giving regimen.
The exception to this norm of touch-deprecation in modern society is our experiences with hairstylists and massage therapists. These services are unique, allowing for touch to be administered. Allogrooming Lounge provides a time and a space to connect with one another in a safe environment. Through the known activities of hair grooming, touch becomes temporarily socially acceptable. Stylists have been asked to man each of the six stations developed for this work due to their skills of sensitively working with hair, as well as with interacting with strangers. Each station is comprised of a large rock-effect bench with built in planters and sheepskin mats for comfort, creating a sort of human playground. The goal is to allow for these touch-based benefits to positively impact the community that engages with the work in a social experiment, with the hope that these experiences and ideas will contribute to a wider dialogue. Allogrooming Lounge also allows me, as the artist, to share my own sense of isolation and desire for deeper bonds within contemporary culture while allowing for a temporary relief from this reality through the art-making process.