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Sharon Hayes (b. 1970)


I didn't know I loved you (2009)

Born in Baltimore in 1970, Sharon Hayes studied anthropology at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, and performance art at Trinity/LaMama Performing Arts Program in New York in the early 1990s. Although she later pursued her studies at the Whitney Independent Study Program, New York, from 1999 to 2000, and received an MFA in interdisciplinary studies from the University of California Los Angeles in 2003, her early education had a pivotal influence on her later work. Though she was initially interested in journalism or anthropology as career possibilities, she was troubled by journalism's potentially reductive approach to complex issues, and the way that anthropology imposed a hierarchy between ethnographers and their subjects. A dance class opened her eyes to a new and completely different possibility: performance. "I realized that performance allowed me to entertain all the curiosities of journalism and anthropology without the limitations that I experienced in the practice of either," Hayes said in an interview.¹ Hayes practices a unique blend of performance and social engagement, often taking her performances outside of the gallery and into the street. She is known for reciting, or, to use the term she prefers, "re-speaking" political speeches from the 1960s and 1970s, such as taped messages from Patty Hearst recorded soon after she was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974. Hayes repeated Hearst's words verbatim in her four-part video Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) Screeds #13, 16, 20, & 29 (2002). In a 2004 performance that was ten hours long, titled My Fellow Americans, 1981–1988, Hayes respoke each of Ronald Reagan's 36 addresses to the nation. For In the Near Future, a piece she did initially did in New York in 2005, and then adapted for several other locations, including Brussels, London, Paris, Vienna, and Warsaw, before developing it into an installation, Hayes held up different protest signs in locations all over the different cities. The signs often dated from earlier eras, such as "Ratify E.R.A. Now!," which gave a sense of temporal dislocation to the work. Such disorienting gestures are Hayes's specialty: By plucking a slogan or speech from an earlier time, and reinserting it into the present moment, she keeps history alive.