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“Other Islands: recent video works by Sharon Hayes and Danielle Mericle”
September 13 – October 28, 2007
Two projects exploring the relationship between history, memory, and representation.
Exhibition guest-curated by Nicholas Muellner.
Conversation among Sharon Hayes, Danielle Mericle
and Nicholas Muellner
About the exhibition
Sharon Hayes’ 10 Minutes of Collective Activity (2003) documents an audience of 22 people watching footage from the 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention. Audible but not visible is the television news coverage of Senator Abraham Ribicoff's dramatic nominating speech for anti-war candidate George McGovern—and the ire it created in the convention audience—on a day when the National Guard and Chicago police clashed with protestors outside the convention hall. Filmed in the month that U.S. forces invaded Iraq, Hayes' piece employs the frame of history to provoke questions about our own political moment.
Danielle Mericle’s two-channel video from her 2006 project History Sighs presents fixed-frame landscape views from original, antipodal landing sites of colonial conquest. The sun sets over the Arabian Sea, (filmed from Gujarat, where the British first made contact with Indian soil) as it rises over the Atlantic Ocean from Salt River Bay, St. Croix (a Columbus landing site and setting of the first-known violent confrontation between Europeans and American natives). Mericle's exploration of these two locations prompts speculation about history's ability to manifest its theoretical and material legacy within the physical landscape.
The pairing of Hayes’ and Mericle’s video projects strives to open a unique space of reflection regarding our ability to experience, interpret, and respond to political history. The relative stillness of the video images contradicts the dynamic connections each work draws between ostensibly discrete moments in time. Both works play on the tension established by what is present and what is withheld. Mericle's animate, subtly shifting footage of the sun—continually poised between disappearance and emergence—serves as a poetic representation of the idea of empire, offering an infinite, world-encompassing time-loop that proposes a link between early colonialism and contemporary economic globalism. The layered consequences of this connection and the manner in which it marks the historic sites depicted are echoed by Hayes' investigation of individual and collective subject formation. In the 10-minute nomination speech that is the focus of her project, Ribicoff departs from his prepared script to declare "If George McGovern were elected president we wouldn't have the Gestapo-like tactics on the streets of Chicago." The discord this comment sparks in the convention hall is experienced not only in relation to the muted and resigned response of the group gathered by Hayes in March of 2003, but inevitably to our own. Consequently, both Hayes' and Mericle's projects strive to position their viewers in places of deeper historical attention and political potential.