Sharon Hayes, ‘In the Near Future, London, 2008′, Multiple-slide-projection installation, 3 actions, 3 projections; 243 slides, Courtesy Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin
As some of you might know, the Walker Art Center is a local partner, with the Unconvention, in Creative Time’s presentation of Sharon Hayes’ participatory performance project, Revolutionary Love 2: I am your best fantasy, which will take place at the State Capitol Grounds at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul on September 1, 2008. To organize this mass-effort, Sharon has made several trips to the Twin Cities to get to know our community and has been in contact with many of the individuals who have volunteered to participate in her performance. The conversations have been both insightful and inspiring. Sharon recently sent an email to people who have shown an interest in her project. I’m pleased to share this correspondence with you and encourage you to join us in this exercise of free speech, political and gender equality, and love.
Hi there. I’m Sharon Hayes.
Thank you for your beginning interest.
It is strange to be working in a city that is not my own, inviting people, from afar, to come out onto the street with me and speak a text that I’m writing. I hope that this letter will begin a conversation between me and you all and hopefully, begin to explain where I am coming from in this work:
Revolutionary Love 1 & 2: I am Your Worst Fear, I am Your Best Fantasy.
The practicals you may know already but in case not:
The piece is a two-part piece that will take place in Denver, Wednesday, August 25th on the occasion of the DNC (the Democratic National Convention) and in St. Paul, Monday, September 1st on the occasion of the RNC (the Republican National Convention).
I am inviting 75-100 people to come out onto the street and to speak an 8-12 minute text in unison. The text will be written by me and will address gay power, gay liberation, love and politics. I am asking people to “ dress their best” in the style of dressing up for Pride, dressing your most queer, your most outrageous, your most yourself.
This particular project comes, in part, out of the work that I’ve been doing recently. [See my website, www.shaze.info for more information. In particular, the two projects: Everything Else Has Failed! Don't You Think It's Time for Love? and I March in the Parade of Liberty but as Long as I Love You I'm Not Free.] In this recent work, I stood on the street in New York City and spoke a love letter to an anonymous “ you.” I stand on the street, in one piece, with a microphone and a small amplifier and, in the other piece, with a bullhorn. I look like I’m doing “ public speech” but I’m speaking to a lover who I’ve been separated from for some reason that the texts don’t quite explain. While I’m talking about love and desire, I am also bringing up the war and the way in which the war interrupts and doesn’t interrupt our daily lives, our activities, our desires, our love. For me, this work attempts to speak about certain intersections between love and politics that aren’t so often talked about.
It is a similarly complicated intersection between love and politics that I’m interested in in the piece I’m hoping you’ll be apart of.
In November 2007, MIX, the experimental queer film festival in New York City, asked me to put sound to 33 minutes of silent footage of the 1971 Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade and Gay-In. The footage was shot by the Women’s Liberation Cinema, a group that included Kate Millet, Susan Kleckner, Robin Mide, Lenore Bode and others, but it had never been cut into a film. Kate Millet still lives in New York and I contacted her and asked her if I could record her commenting on the footage she and the WLC shot over 30 years ago. The footage is familiar in many ways, a band of queer people walking together up a street, strutting, hugging each other, blowing kisses to the camera. But it was also very interesting to see the scene through Kate’s eyes. At one point she said, “ It was a very different parade then, in those days. I mean we were very afraid. We didn’t know what would happen to us.” They didn’t know if they would make it to Central Park, she said.
And I found myself thinking about “ Gay Power.”
It was reported that people in the crowd outside of Stonewall started yelling “ Gay Power”…taking up the language of resistance used in the Black Power movement. Weeks after the riots in June 1969, a group of activists came together as the group, Gay Liberation Front, describing themselves as “ a militant coalition of radical and revolutionary homosexual men and women committed to fight the oppression of the homosexual as a minority group and to demand the right to self-determination of our own bodies.” In the name Gay Liberation Front, the group aligned themselves not only with active liberation struggles inside the U.S. but also with the national liberation front in Vietnam. Gay Liberation began in the midst of the Vietnam War.
I always thought of “ Gay Power” as being about visibility and in that, it always seems a little “ power-lite”. I didn’t think about it in terms of the “ power” of Black Power or liberation movements, I saw it as pride and in that it seemed useful for the day but perhaps not too much longer. Black Power seemed to have teeth, Gay Power a kind of posing. But looking at that footage from 1971 made me understand more clearly that the nascent tribe of liberationists, gay liberationists, was also constructing new set of relations between love, sex and politics. Because the expression of love, sexual desire, queer sexuality was under constraint, love, sexual desire, the expression of queer sexuality was a tool of our resistance. Fucking was not ancillary to our politics, not a libidinal excess to the liberation work, it was totally integral to it. Living this queer love was a strategy toward being able to be and live as “ our true selves” and also a strategy toward overthrowing the violent oppression of heteronormativity. That is why those bodies taking to the streets in 1971 were so particularly threatening and vulnerable.
When I looked again at those images of that vulnerable becoming-tribe that wasn’t quite sure if it would make it to the end of the event, to Central Park, I realized how wisely they exerted their precise power to fuck and to love, to chant about loving and fucking, to dress one’s best, to look beautiful, to strut and twirl and shake and kick, to seduce the camera, seduce the public, seduce the homophobe.
It is this relationship between love and politics that I am interested in re-inserting into the current dialogue about queerness and politics in 2008.
SO…not the whole story but a beginning point so you know a bit more about where I’m coming from. Thank you a ton for being game to join a little band of queers to make/re-make a little revolution!
Sharon Hayes, ‘In the Near Future, New York’, 35mm slide installation, detail, 2005
To become a participant in Revolutionary Love 2: I Am Your Best Fantasy at the State Capitol Grounds in St. Paul, Minnesota on September 1, please visit: