SHARON HAYES

'Fingernails on a blackboard: Bella', 2014
Analogue video transferred to digital; colour, silent
16 mins
Edition of 3 + 1 AP
(HAYES-2014-0092)

‘Fingernails on a blackboard: Bella’ investigate how voice acts as the embodied medium of speech. Hayes takes the 1977 National Women’s Conference in Houston, TX as a historical point of departure. The 1977 conference was a result of an executive order to assess the status of women in light of the United Nations proclaiming 1975 as International Women’s Year. Following the well attended and highly publicized event, an extension was granted for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. But having only been ratified by 35 states by the 1982 deadline, the amendment never passed.

The video work uses the transcript of a meeting between politician Bella Abzug – the New York Congresswoman who was appointed to head the National Women’s Conference – and her vocal coach. During their meeting, the pair work at neutralizing Abzug’s regional accent and softening her tone – strategically altering her voice to something more universal and soothing.

‘Fingernails on a blackboard: Bella’ addresses the political consequences of gender and the specific limitations of power, communication and relatability in the specter of public speech.