From In the Near Future (2005) by Sharon Hayes
From In the Near Future (2005) by Sharon Hayes

Sharon Hayes wants to take Stonewall on the road

The artist wants to put a PA system on a vintage station wagon to commemorate the momentous protest

Few artists have done more to highlight the struggle for gay rights than Sharon Hayes. In our new book, the historian and critic Jeannine Tang highlights Hayes’s “deeply affective and queer approach to history and politics, which spans over twenty years of work with video, performance, speech and text.”

Hayes’s famous 1998 performance piece, The Lesbian, was a pseudo-anthropological investigation into “the Natural History of Lesbians’. For her series, In the Near Future (2005–09), Hayes repurposed slogans from a number of famous protests, including the ‘I AM A MAN’ placard - first used by black sanitation workers’ during their 1968 strike in Memphis – which Hayes waved outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, “an important location for AIDS activism during the late 1980s and early 1990s,” explains Tang.

Similarly, in her work Gay Power (1971/2007/2012), Hayes took footage from the 1971, Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade, and worked in both contemporary accounts from her collaborator, the veteran activist, writer and feminist Kate Millett, as well as her own reactions.

 

An Ear to the Sounds of Our History (2010–11) by Sharon Hayes
An Ear to the Sounds of Our History (2010–11) by Sharon Hayes

So, when the New Museum sought suggestions on how to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots next June, Hayes was an obvious candidate.

As the Art Newspaper reports, the museum, alongside the artist and video maker Chris E. Vargas “invited 12 artists to reflect on that history by proposing new Stonewall monuments for Christopher Park, where the rioting spread that steamy night in 1969.”

There were plenty of relatively conventional submissions. Yet Sharon looked beyond the brief, in an attempt to spread the word a little more widely.

“Hayes suggests a 1969 Bonneville station wagon with a public address system mounted on top that would drive around the country hosting readings and speeches that reflect on Stonewall,” reports the Art Newspaper.

 

Sharon Hayes
Sharon Hayes

Sounds like a great choice. These large, wide-bodied cars were hugely popular in the US during the late 1960s. The ’69 Bonneville used General Motors’ GM B platform – one of the best selling car platforms in history – and was favoured by suburban families.

If Hayes’ proposal ever hits the road, it may well get to address todays’ suburbanites, reminding them of the more varied lives some of those kids of the sixties went on to lead.

For more on Sharon Hayes’s art, get this book; for more on art and queer culture, get Art and Queer Culture.