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In the near future last Wednesday
Nov 13, 08:59 PM by

From November 1-9, Sharon Hayes staged nine separate actions in Manhattan. For each, she stood in a public place with a protest sign. The signs ranged from funny to puzzling to thought-provoking, reading things like ???NOTHING WILL BE AS IT WAS BEFORE??? and ???ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS??? (so- which is occurring when someone holds a sign with text on it?). Sharon invited friends to photograph her actions, resulting in a profusion of images that were shown at Art in General last Wednesday night, November 9th. The images show the artist standing amidst crowds of commuters in places like Times Square or Washington Square Park, her face fierce and earnest. The photographs were shown as slides, and about eight different slide machines projected on the walls in the gallery simultaneously (we were invited to operate the slide machines ourselves). The photographs showed crowds passing her by, some looking on curiously, others ignoring her in classic New York seen-it-all style. Sometimes, she was shown engaging in conversation with curious strangers.
One particularly memorable image shows her talking genially to an older man while holding a sign that reads I AM A MAN. Her signs utilize a kind of ambiguous dead-pan language similar to Jenny Holzer??™s truisms, but there are different stakes at play ??“ the words are held aloft by the artist herself, who stands in public and takes responsibility for their perplexing meanings. At Art in General, Sharon Hayes gave a short talk on her project, explaining that she was interested in the intersection of the protesting body, the text, the time, and the place.
I wondered how the impact of having her friendly documentarians nearby effected her actions ??“ did it give her a sense of safety? Being constantly photographed certainly made her protests more like theater, a potent tactic used successfully by many political dissenters in the past. Titled “In the near future,” the signs also employ some ???potential??? language??”coulds and mights, as in ???THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT MIGHT HAVE TO CALL IN THE NATIONAL GUARD TO PUT THIS REVOLT DOWN.??? The strange mixture of irony and hope in the idea that one person could be a threat illuminates the uncomfortable sense of futility felt by many who disagree with today??™s politics. Furthermore, although her actions are in themselves compelling, her choice to have them documented so rigorously (dozens of shots were taken each hour) perhaps says more about how crucial framing and media dissemination are to the shelf-life of political action. – Lyra Kilston