The DKUK salon in Peckham, south-east London, is a hybrid space. Designed by Sam Jacob Studio and run by the artist and hairdresser Daniel Kelly, DKUK functions as both a commercial hairdresser and a contemporary art gallery that receives funding support from the Arts Council England. Salon chairs, hairdryers and sinks stand next to paintings, textiles and sculptures. “It undermines the idea of a gallery sitting outside of the everyday world,” notes Jacob.
DKUK featured in the pages of Disegno #14 as the location of ‘Joints and Joins’, a still-life editorial shot by the photographer Max Creasy. ‘Joints and Joins’ examined a series of five design objects that toy with and exaggerate everyday typologies: the USM ball joint by Paul Schärer; Soft Baroque’s Primitive Progressive Plinth; the Post-Couture Collective’s Tankdress; Daniel Rybakken’s 124° mirror for Artek; and Studio Bertjan Pot’s Melting Beads. Central to the story was the idea that simple objects can harbour complexity in their inner junctures.
Jacob’s salon design was selected as a complement to this idea – a functioning salon that nonetheless prompts questions over our expectations of such spaces. No mirrors sit in front of the customers during their haircuts, for instance; instead, they look at artworks hung in front of the salon chairs. “The space allows artists to work in a different way to in a commercial gallery,” says Jacob. “As a model, DKUK is exposing the problems of economic viability in this field.”
Throughout the space, the tropes of the salon are appropriated, chewed up and redeployed in new configurations. Mirrors are missing from their traditional position, but are instead placed at one end of the room so as to double the space. “You can use mirrors in a way which is not where they should be, but everywhere they shouldn’t be,” says Jacob. “The mirror is not an egocentric reflection of your head, but is instead operating on a spatial level.”
Similarly, the industrial aesthetic of a Slatwall wall display system is lifted out of its commercial context and instead used as a means of hanging art, as well as functioning as a graphical element. “Its about taking a material that’s one of the base materials of commercial retail spaces and repurposing it,” says Jacob. “Normally it’s covered up you can’t even see it.” Across the Slatwall system, art and hairdryers alternate in accordance with the dual nature of the space, set off by shelving that is painted in a lurid industrial warning yellow. “You’re making the frame of the salon and the frame for the cultural content visible,” says Jacob. “It’s a way of making them more visible than they could or perhaps should be.”
Central to both the DKUK salon and ‘Joints and Joins’ is a desire to examine the manner in which a space or object’s construction might impact the way in which it is viewed. Each of the ‘Joints and Joins’ objects is intended as a provocation towards its typology; the DKUK space is a provocation to both the salon and gallery formats. “It’s the act of looking that is really interesting,” notes Jacob of the space. “You spend so long looking at the art in the salon – way more than you would at a gallery. All of those architectural ideas of revelation and perception are to do with that heightened sense of looking, seeing and framing.”