Sharon Hayes’s 2009 performance and installation In the Near Future virtually predicted Occupy Wall Street. The artist sought to investigate the figure of the protester and the contemporary conditions of public space and speech, all of which had to be seriously considered by Occupiers in the context of a digital public sphere that could be mobilized for disseminating the protest’s messages.
The artist’s work in video as well as performance and installation often speak to time periods past and to come. Her focus on the construct of gender, political protest, and public speech have long served as sites for discussion and will likely remain as such. The artist will have a solo show at the Whitney opening in June. Below are images of several of Hayes’s works accompanied by her descriptions.
We Knew We Would Go to Jail is a two-channel video installation which examines the present political moment through three quasi-fictional dialogues between pairs of 20 to 24 year-olds. Positioned side-by-side, facing out at the camera, each pair converses with each other through the filter of the camera/viewer. In this intentionally disjointed structure, the pairs discuss their impressions of ’60s and ’70s radical politics, their memory of the ’80s as well as the possibilities of radical action in a present moment. Directly opposing the image of the talking pairs, and synched up to it in time, is another video image, this one a structured montage of shots of the university. via
In a 10-hour performance, Hayes read all 36 of Ronald Reagan’s official “Address to the Nation” speeches, beginning with the Address to the Nation on the Economy, February 5, 1981 and ending with his Farewell Address to the Nation on January 11, 1989. The Address to the Nation speeches are a specific category of Presidential address. They are always given from the Oval Office and are presumably spoken directly to the American people. via
Parole is a four-channel video installation that is composed of semi-autonomous video “scenes” that string together to form a narrative without a story. Focused on a central character who records sound but never speaks, Parole teases out multiple relationships between politics and desire, intimacy and estrangement, speaking and listening, voice and body. The video installation is composed of footage of performed events in New York, London, Frankfurt and Istanbul, Turkey as well as staged footage of this sound recorder in various private and semi-public locations. via
Using a 1983 Ronald Reagan presidential address to the nation as an absent center, Communiqué investigates the collective authoring as well as the collective reception of the institutional rhetoric of the U.S. presidential office. Situated inside a 4-foot-wide corridor, the sound score bounces between a left and a right channel, between fragments of exit interviews with five Reagan speechwriters and excerpts of interviews with people asked to read the October 27th address on paper and then respond to questions about the text. via