“Mail Polish” presented by Reinhuber

  • ©ISEA2016: 22nd International Symposium on Electronic Art, Elke Reinhuber, Mail Polish
  • © 2016, Elke Reinhuber, VG-Bild-Kunst, Bonn


Session Title:

  • Cultural Heritage and Preservation

Presentation Title:

  • Mail Polish




  • The Urban Beautician tries to improve neglected details in our urban environment with interventions in public space and performances to camera. Since more then a decade she takes care of things no one else does. In Hong Kong, her attempt differs slightly as she looks after a recently much discussed issue: the royal insignia on the islands’ letter boxes. To disremember their colonial past, these red remainders of Hong Kong’s days as crown colony were rigorously covered with the complementary colour. Now, it is even in discussion to conceal the royal cyphers with a plaque.

    Before this should happen, the Urban Beautician will give new life to selected letterboxes during her intervention. She polishes and emphasises a selection of the different royal insignia from 59 old post boxes (see hksearch.weebly.com) which remain in use or were turned into a decorative piece in Hong Kong; comprised of the following: GRV for King George V, GRVI for King George VI, a Crown of Scotland and EIIR for Queen Elizabeth II, the favourite of the Urban Beautician, bearing similar initials as her creator, EER (Elke E. Reinhuber). Two boxes from the era of Queen Victoria found their place in the Hong Kong History Museum and will be acknowledged and henceforth included.

    The world is as it is. Alone, I cannot change that. However, in all my performances I feel the environment is somehow improved, albeit for a short time. In these interventions I am usually clad in a beautician’s smock – as worn by professionals in the 1960s – referring to a branch of my life-story I decided not to pursue. I grew up in the midst of a beauty salon and my family always assumed that I would become a beautician myself. Indeed, one day, I found myself at a well-known cosmetics company, undergoing training as a beautician. During my studies, I spent some time behind the counter of a famous department store in Berlin, in its glittering parallel world, perfectly made-up, always following the latest fashions.

    But soon I considered it as much more important to beautify our urban environment than the faces of individuals. Today I am aware of the necessity of small cosmetic alterations in order to emphasise advantages and conceal disadvantages – the secrets of make-up artists. In extensive research I identify incongruous or overlooked details of everyday life and try to emphasise or even improve them by performance interventions. With the photographic collection of those minutiae, I develop site-specific installations with objects, videos or images, which might be presented in unexpected locations and new contexts.