Using methodological and conceptual strategies drawn from spheres of discourse such as theatre, dance, anthropology, archival work and journalism, the projects of Sharon Hayes (Baltimore, Maryland, 1970) explore the sometimes tense relations between history, politics and language, and they dissect the symbolic and narrative mechanisms through which the collective imaginary is built. In her performances, videos and installations, Hayes shows how the process of documenting a historical event ends up conditioning the way we see that event. She also proposes a critical reflection on topics such as the frictions arising between the public and the private – the personal and the collective – in today's media culture and the cathartic and empowering effect of the act of using one's voice and occupying urban space.
In many of her pieces Sharon Hayes, who has always been interested in the performative nature of language, reuses the texts and public statements of different political agents linked to recent historical events, for example the presidential speeches made by Ronald Reagan or the communiqués sent by Patty Hearst after joining the Symbionese Liberation Army that had kidnapped her. By putting these texts (which she usually recites by memory and almost always in the first person) back on the stage, that is, by recreating them and performing them in a new context, Hayes is engaging in an act of what she calls "oral translation" that helps us to rethink and reinterpret both the historical moment in which in which they were formulated and also our present.
To find a title for this exhibition, which brings together ten of her most significant projects and includes a piece created expressly for this show in collaboration with the Mexican artist and writer Pablo Sigg, Sharon Hayes turned to the writing of Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics, which has been very influential in her work. The Spanish word habla is the closest equivalent to the French term parole ("speech" in English), a notion that played a key role in the theoretical developments of the Swiss linguist. Hayes plays with the polysemic potential of the word habla; besides designating the inherent capacity of each individual to make use of the language system, it alludes to the social dimension of the communication process and, in certain contextual conditions, it can have an imperative meaning.