Friday, May 25, 2007

Sharon Hayes

Sharon Hayes, seen above in her piece, "The Interpreter Project" (four-channel video installation, 2001), is a performance artist who came to Northwestern as a visiting artist this past week.

Sharon Hayes is perhaps best known for a series of projects in which she becomes a sort of intermediary, a human conduit through which information is passed. In the project pictured above, she is listening to a recorded tour of the estate of Eleanor Roosevelt. As each word funnels into her she tries to restate the tour aloud.

Hayes' insertion of herself between source and viewer is reminiscent of a project by Dennis Oppenheim. In Oppenheim's conceptual art project, he asked his son to draw on his back while he mimmicked the movement through feel, creating a new drawing on a piece of paper in front of him. Oppenheim's drawing on paper is one generation removed and therefore a somewhat distorted version of the image marked on his back.

Viewers of Sharon Hayes' don't have access to her source material, which is pumped into her ears alone. Yet the distortion is apparent. She stammers and uses odd inflections. Her words are at times awkwardly paced, playing catch-up to her ears. However, some image of the source is projected through. One continues to stare back at Hayes, standing flatly in front of bland houses and imagine a tour guide, walking adeptly through the former home of Eleanor Roosevelt. There's a chair here and a painting there, each with some detailed narrative. This is a historical voice and in moments there is a pronounced consciousness that the tour guide herself is not unlike Hayes; a relay between sources.

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