This summer, artist Sharon Hayes will gather 100 people at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions to read a text in unison addressing political desire and romantic love as part of Creative Time’s summer-long, national public art initiative Democracy in America: The National Campaign. To take back the queer agenda and forefront the personal in these fortresses of the political, Creative Time will join forces with Walker Art Center, The UnConvention, and Dialog:City in their respective cities.
Conflating grassroots political activism, performance art, queer theory, and national politics, Hayes’ two large-scale, public performances will include speakers drawn from the gay, lesbian, and transgendered community in each city who will become the medium of her work by reciting the text written by Hayes. The 10- to 20-minute texts will be read 3 times over the course of 2 hours. Drawing on both the history of the Gay Liberation movement, which forged a new and deep relationship between love and politics, and the current political moment, in which the war figures as a central element in the Presidential campaign, this performance challenges simplistic oppositions between love and war. Specifically, Hayes is interested in the militaristic aspect of groups that operated at the beginning of the gay rights movement, many of whom assumed aggressive, reactionary stances to culture at large. Where the classic slogan says, “Make love not war,” Hayes references the Stonewall-era Gay Liberation movement and their chant, “An army of lovers cannot lose.” Hayes’ performances are intended to be spectacles, and are designed to mirror the spectacular nature of the National Conventions. Reacting against the tendency of groups to polarize feelings about homosexuality for political gain, Hayes describes these performances as personal addresses to the power structure, or a group of people speaking their hearts as one.