Sharon Hayes
‘An Ear to the Sounds of Our History’, 2011
Vintage record covers

In ‘An Ear to the Sounds of Our History’, Hayes draws on her extensive archive of spoken-word vinyl records. The collection dates from 1948 to 1984, tracing a period when political speech was often recorded on and disseminated through vinyl records. Using the album covers to stand as symbols for various political movements throughout history, Hayes has arranged them in a grid to create “sentences” in which incongruent historical moments converge. In doing so, she invites viewers to draw connections between different political moments, and raises questions about the accessibility, dissemination, and preservation of free speech.

The work was initiated as a performance entitled ‘Spoken Word DJ’ at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2010 as part of the exhibition ‘Haunted’, in which Hayes mixed and sampled the original records.  An adapted version was subsequently shown at the 2011 Venice Biennial in the exhibition ‘Speech Matters’ at the Danish Pavilion - displayed as a wall installation of 110 record covers. The work has since been grouped into ‘sentences’ of varying lengths, looking at the systems of distribution that have determined whose voices predominate and whose have been all but forgotten to history. The series has been shown in Hayes’ recent solo exhibitions at The Art Institute of Chicago (2011); ‘Habla’, Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid (2012); and ‘There’s so much I want to say to you’, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2012).