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Sharon Hayes explores the power of the spoken word in exhibition at Moderna Museet
Sharon Hayes, In My Little Corner of the World Any One Would Love You, 2016.

STOCKHOLM.- From street protest to art spaces - Sharon Hayes highlights political activism on the art scene, and she is one of the most seminal voices in American contemporary art. The exhibition at Moderna Museet, featuring both early and entirely new works, is her first in Stockholm.

Sharon Hayes explores the power of the spoken word - from an entirely personal voice, to urgent social activism. In her performances, photography and sound and video works, she transfers the private tone to the public domain. A central element in her works is the relationship between language, history and politics.

Hayes was born in 1970 in Baltimore and is based in Philadelphia. She has a background in journalism and anthropology. Her work has been featured by major art museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid.

The exhibition at Moderna Museet, featuring both early and entirely new works, is her first in Stockholm. Echo explores the idea of the exhibition as an echo chamber, where Hayes lets voices and materials reverberate between historic events. It also references a feminist reading of the classical myth of Echo, the nymph who was cursed for her conversational skills and punished by forever only being able to repeat the last of what is spoken by others, words without meaning.

In her five-channel video installation In My Little Corner of the World, Anyone Would Love You (2016), which was recently acquired for the Moderna Museet collection, 13 people read extracts from letters to small journals focusing on feminist and lesbian issues. This archival material is from periodicals published in the USA and the UK between 1955 and 1977, and concerns homosexual liberation and the rights of trans persons. The work gives an idea of the emergence and the pivotal work done by an early queer grassroots movement.

The exhibition includes Everything Else Has Failed! Don’t You Think It’s Time for Love? (2007), in which Sharon Hayes reads love letters in the bustling street outside a bank in New York – a text coloured by desperate social commitment, entreating an unknown recipient to respond. The performance took place at a time when the US was increasing its military presence in Iraq, and the worst financial crisis since the Depression – culminating one year later with the collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank – was a fact.

In Gay Power (1971/2007/2012), with footage shot by the Women’s Liberation Cinema from the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade in 1971, the images from different periods are addressed by Hayes and the women’s rights activist Kate Millet, who took part in the march in 1971. From their respective vantage points, their spontaneous commentaries relate to community, hopes and progress. But also fears and threats, and never taking a right for granted.

A completely new work is being presented as part of Hayes’s evolving Ricerche project – made in dialogue with the interview film Comizi d’amore (1965) by Pier Paolo Pasolini – addressing the processes of group formation, and owning one’s identity.

“For many years, I have been positioned as an artist who engages public space. In response to this characterisation, I often clarify that my interest in the street came from an interest not in public space but in public speech.” --Sharon Hayes

“Sharon Hayes holds a singular position in activist art. She demonstrates how political intention and longing are given structure and direction, in a movement from the individual experience towards a larger forum. In her new works, Hayes builds living archives of voices with a radical, transformative potential.” --Lena Essling

The exhibition catalogue Sharon Hayes: Echo includes contributions by Sharon Hayes and Lena Essling. The catalogue is published by Moderna Museet in collaboration with Koenig Books, London.

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