Somewhere between here and there : Sharon Hayes and Catherine Opie, picturing protest
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Both Sharon Hayes’s "In the Near Future" (2005-2009) and Catherine Opie’s photographs of assemblies and rallies (2007—) take protest as a topic of investigation. Hayes enacts solo protests in urban centers and documents her project’s iterations; Opie attends organized marches and demonstrations and photographs the gathered crowds. Yet while both projects perform or picture protest in the present-day, neither is wholly of this moment. In her staged actions, Hayes holds the signs and slogans of earlier social movements, and both she and Opie create and consider the images they capture in relation to experiences and visual records which predate them. This thesis considers the ways in which expectations and desires for present and future moments are rooted in understandings of social or political pasts, investigating the work of Hayes and Opie alongside the events of Occupy Wall Street and the histories of the movements these artists reference: ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), Queer Nation, and the Memphis Sanitation Strike of 1968. Focusing on the role of the documentary image in the creation and remembrance of historical events, the paper looks at how the longing to reinhabit a pictured past becomes incorporated within a desire to feel historical, and how fantasies of the past and future are absorbed into the charged space of present. Concentrating first on this temporal rearrangement (referred to by Hayes as an “unspooling of history”) and turning next to the reengagement and embodiment of symbolic imagery, this thesis explores how works by Hayes and Opie emphasize disappointment in the present scene while simultaneously endeavoring to establish alternative spaces of social and political possibility—both new sites and reimagined worlds of belonging.