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Contemporary Art Gallery

555 Nelson Street

Vancouver, Canada
Closed for installation
of our summer exhibitions

Reopening June 2, 2022
8 Apr 11until5 Jun 11

Sharon Hayes

In the Near Future

B.C. Binning Gallery

For American artist Sharon Hayes’ first solo exhibition in Canada, the CAG presents In the Near Future, her multifaceted and dynamic installation, incorporating thirteen slide projectors and 354 different images. The numerous photographs were gathered from audience members over four years as part of a series of performances Hayes staged in six cities.

Hayes is best known for her performance-based work, which uses public modes of address, from street demonstrations to letter writing, to analyse how political views are conveyed and represented. She is interested in examining recent historical events at a point when the language and structures that codify them are still in use. Her choice in subjects relates to the different ways in which political opinion in its most direct form is expressed. For example, in Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) Screeds # 13, 16, 20 & 29 (2003) Hayes re-spoke, as performances and later as video works, the four audio tapes the SLA had Patty Hearst record describing the conditions and reasons behind her kidnapping in 1974; for Everything Else Has Failed! Don’t You Think It’s Time for Love? (2007) she read aloud over five days an anonymous love letter for an hour each day outside the headquarters of the Swiss financial corporation UBS in New York City. In much of her work, she breaks down different forms of public protest by personalizing and dividing them into their essential components, thus analyzing the how and why of their currency and examining the ways they have been represented and distributed as text and images.

Most of Hayes’ work is dependent on audience interaction. While reciting Hearst’s audio tapes, from memory, she had the audience, who were given transcriptions of the original tapes, correct her when she made mistakes. For In the Near Future, Hayes invited onlookers to document her enactment of thirteen lone protests. In select public sites she picketed with placards bearing anachronistic and ambiguous slogans. Some she made up, altered or directly appropriated from bygone protests, such as “Who approved the war in Vietnam?” a phrase originally used in 1962 at the Charter Day Protest at the University of California and “I am a Man,” a slogan taken from the civil rights movement during the Memphis Sanitation strike in 1968. The origin of such sayings is not made evident in the final installation and the particularities of this information are not essential to understanding Hayes’ public performances, but the reference to recent events is clear. Her actions are not designed to make clear declarations, she has no direct aim and this is not activism. Each performance is a paring down of the basic strategies of street protest — the way text, body, place, and time go together to define subject and create a common language. Hayes’ discursive and aesthetic investigation in the history of protest chimes directly with the recent success of mass protests in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, and the worldwide support for the Libyan revolt. The slogan “the people want to bring down the regime,” first used in Tunisia was adopted by each of the countries. There is a shared purpose not only in the reasons and aims of each uprising, but also in the way it is collectively expressed.


Sharon Hayes lives and works in New York. She holds a MFA in Interdisciplinary Studio from the University of California, Los Angeles (2003) and also participated in the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program (1999–2000). Her work has been exhibited extensively across North America and Europe. Recent solo exhibitions include Andrea Geyer / Sharon Hayes, Göteborgs Konsthall, Göteborg (2010); Sharon Hayes: The Future is Unthinkable, Objectif Exhibitions, Antwerp (2009); We The People, Context Gallery, Derry, Northern Ireland (2009); In the Near Future, Warsaw Museum of Modern Art (2008); and I march in the parade of liberty, but as long as I love you I’m not free, New Museum for Contemporary Art, New York (2007). Hayes has also participated in numerous group exhibitions including Haunted: Contemporary Photography / Video / Performance, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2010); and the 2010 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.