In this episode of the Artelligence podcast (above), artist James Allister Sprang asks Sharon Hayes who her work is for. “At the heart of the work, it’s a conversation,” Hayes says. “I don’t want to limit that to queer art or to queer artists or to queer people even.”
Hayes is currently exhibiting her five-channel video My Little Corner of the World, Anyone Would Love You (2016) at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the show “New Grit: Art in Philly.” Hayes uses photography, film, video, sound performance and text to interrogate the intersection between the personal and the collective. She is also a professor the University of Pennsylvania, and has shown work in the 2010 Whitney Biennial and the 2013 Venice Biennale.
In the interview, Hayes recalls the first political—or what passes as political for a child—image she saw. “My father was reading a newspaper and the headline of the newspaper said, The King Is Dead. And I was like. Who is the king? And it was Elvis.”
That was her initiation into politics. Her awakening as an artist took a while longer. After taking a class with a performance artist, she recalls, “I moved to New York, became a rehearsal assistant for him.” Through that role, she “was immersed . . . fantastically and ecstatically in the downtown dance theater and performance scene in New York.” It was a transformational experience.
Sprang, whose own work combines elements of photography, sound, installation, and poetry to tell stories that draw from Black, radical and experimental traditions, asks Hayes to explain how she made her work on view at the. “It’s a five channel video installation,” Hayes says. “I shot basically thirteen readers and performers speaking this material [from queer feminist archives] aloud to each other, reading it in some ways to each other in five rooms of a single house in Germantown, Philadelphia.”
“I was interested in the tension and what I see as really the blur between sort of the so-called private and the so-called public,” she continues. “People are circulating through different spaces, but not in a narrative way, not in a plot way, not in a story way.” Hayes wanted to create tension between the duration of the work, its taking place out of historical time.
“Did this happen in 1977?” she asks. “Did this happen in 1962?”