The Continental Caper presents a collage of texts and images
including: an extraction of all of the sentences from Raymond
Chandler's The Big Sleep that refer to (frequently otherwise
unnamed) women by characteristics of their hair, interrupted by
the author's poetic commentary; reproduced clippings of sixty-
three women's hair, which evoke a diversity of texture and tone
absent in Chandler's text; instructional hair-styling diagrams;
and silhouettes of hair grooming tools.
This book remarks on the reductive use of hair as a signifier for
character types in mystery novels, and in opposition, observes
the richness of hair as material, and the complexity of the skills
and tools of the important popular cultural art of hairdressing.
I released this book during a gallery exhibition at the Hyde
Park Art Center in Chicago, dressed as I imagined the actress
Arlene Dahl might have appeared to sign her 1965 book,
Always Ask A Man--Arlene Dahl's Key to Femininity. The idea
was to draw attention to the book by virtue of the performance
of an ultra-stylized female character (as in Chandler), but
whose elaborate and fabulous hair refused stereotype.
Incidental to this event, I discovered a great feeling of agency
over the distribution and sale of the book, since, as the gallery
was not prepared to do so, it became my responsibility to
directly manage the monetary transactions along with the
signing. This has provoked an enduring consideration of the
entire operation of publishing, from concept to distribution, as a
series of potential events.