Sharon Hayes. In the Near Future
Warsaw, 2008

Sharon Hayes. In the Near Future, Warsaw, 2008

Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw is proud to present "In the Near Future – Warsaw", a performance based work by Sharon Hayes, a New York artist and activist.

In her works, Hayes cites from historical protests using the language and strategy of performance art. The starting point, or actually research material, for her artistic activism are presidential and political speeches, key street protests and demonstrations, transcripts of the Guantanamo prisoner tribunals, or positions that we ourselves adopt towards important political and social events. Her performances draw on the activities of the anti-war movement, rooted in generations of non-conformists, the civil rights and emancipation struggles, and on the freedom of speech movement, born in the 1920s and culminating in the 1960s.

Using various media – video, photography, sound – to document her actions and performances, Hayes refers to the roots of the artistic strategies of performance art in 1960s and 1970s conceptualism. Pivotal to her practice is what she calls the document of the event, and the strategies of critical artistic methodology employed to determine its structure. Some of her pieces draw on early cinéma vérité films (Pasolini, Marker), or on Peter Watkins’ filmic re-enactments.

In Warsaw, Sharon Hayes continues actions from the In the Near Future series, begun in New York (2005) and Vienna (2006), in which she quotes slogans from historical protest signs. Hayes presents the viewers with slogans taken out of their original historical context, trying to reintroduce them to public-space circulation. She watches the viewers’ spontaneous reactions to protest signs dealing with social, gender, race, feminism, sexual minority or political issues, some of which sound outright anachronistically today (€˜We condemn USA aggression in Vietnam’). In her actions, the artist refers to the possible future and the hypothetical possibility of claiming the street, as well as to the pending debate on the role of protest in contemporary politics.

The places and slogans for the Warsaw actions have been carefully chosen by the artist – it’s in those places that important protests and events, attracting media and public attention, took place in recent years, whether it was the striking coal miners, nurses, doctors, teachers, students, sexual minorities, or right-wing organisations. Hayes’s actions on the streets of Warsaw draw from those protests and also from the historical tradition of worker, student, and Solidarity protests during the communist era. At the same time, they will represent an attempt to change the way history is perceived and understood, to make it more contemporary, and also to change the way we €˜live in history’.

Audience is invited to view the actions and also to document them on slide film. These images constitute the material of a slide installation that furthers the life of the piece.

Sharon Hayes has exhibited at the New Museum, PS1 Museum, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, and Tate Modern. Her 9 Scripts from a Nation at War, a collaborative video installation piece with Andrea Geyer, Ashley Hunt, Katya Sander and David Thorne, had its premiere at the Documenta 12 in Kassel and will be shown at the Tate Modern in June 2008. Sharon Hayes is a professor of film, video and performance at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, School of Art, New York.

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