There’s So Much I Want to Say to You Favorite 



Jun 27 2012


Whitney, New York City

At the press preview for Sharon Hayes’s new full-floor exhibition “There’s So Much I Want to Say to You” at the Whitney Museum there was a podium and a microphone set up in the center of the gallery that would eventually be used by director Adam Weinberg and curator Chrissie Iles to introduce the artist and her restless work. But the show — actually a single, sprawling installation arranged on a central plywood stage (created in collaboration with artist Andrea Geyer) — is really an embarrassment of riches when it comes to speakers and pulpits to pontificate from. The gallery is filled with voices emanating from record players, audio speakers, and text, a cacophony of personalities and perspectives tied together by Hayes’s own.

Born in 1970, Hayes came of age during the rise of gay liberation movements and Third Wave feminism, twin currents that drive “There’s So Much I Want to Say to You.” In this tour-de-force solo show, the artist is equal parts activist, diarist, and journalist, charting her own individual upheavals even as she experiences the upheavals of her time and excavates the struggles of the past. A gay woman, Hayes integrates the personal and the political in a way that brings to mind the recent identity-based work of Simon Fujiwara and Danh Vo, but with a keener sense of the painful realities of the world and their impact on the individual. In formats ranging from her 1990s-era solo theatrical performances to her 2004 DJ set drawn from her extensive collection of spoken-word LPs, Hayes draws on lives and stories outside her own.

Much of the Whitney exhibition confronts the struggle for queer identity. Sixteen-millimeter film footage shot at the 1971 “Christopher Street Liberation Day and Gay-In” is voiced over by Hayes and activist Kate Millett, who was born in 1934, in a piece called “Gay Power.” Millett reminisces about the excitement of the day while the camera runs up and down young bodies lit by the yellowing setting sun. The nostalgic narration and sumptuous footage would be hypnotizing — if the trance wasn’t broken by a constant sense that the celebration was about to be stopped: “It was a very different parade in those days,” Millett recalls, comparing it to events, one assumes, like this past weekend’s Pride. “It was very scary.”

In “I March in the Parade of Liberty but as Long as I Love You I Am Not Free,” Hayes speaks a monologue out loud to an absent lover (the work was previously performed in public at the New Museum in 2007): “Nothing is real but you. The aim of love is to love, no more, no less.” But as sincere as Hayes’s impassioned pronouncements are, she is also attempting to convince herself that love might exist separately from politics, divorced from the hostile conditions of the society that surrounds it. An implicit argument of the artist’s work is that the best way to demonstrate love for another person is to fight for them, and yet that fighting sometimes drives people away rather than bringing them together.

An enormous banner emblazoned with the words, “Now a chasm has opened between us that holds us together and keeps us apart” welcomes viewers into Hayes’s exhibition. The first part of the sentence is crumpled together, nearly unreadable, while the rest unfurls legibly. Elsewhere, a floor-to-ceiling black flag reads, “My memory translates everything into something else.” Hayes’s frustration lies with society as well as with the self, and pushes at the anxious boundary between the two.

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