On View: Sharon Hayes, Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) Screeds #13, 16, 20, 29, 2003. 4 channel video installation.
While an MFA student at UCLA, Hayes found a book that included transcripts of the four audiotapes that the radical Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) had newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst record after they kidnapped her in 1974. The tapes, which the SLA sent to a local radio station over a four-month period, communicated their ransom demand that the Hearst family feed all the underprivileged people in California, and addressed the family’s and FBI’s actions during the ordeal. In the last tape, Hearst famously renamed herself Tania and announced she was joining the SLA.
To make this work, Hayes performed and recorded a “re-speaking” of the transcripts over a period of several months. The four resulting videos tightly frame Hayes’ face, and we hear an off-camera audience correct or prompt her when she deviates from the transcripts. Hayes was intrigued by the tapes’ evidence of Hearst’s transformation during her four months of captivity. The distant look on the artist’s face, as she concentrates on reciting Hearst’s texts from memory and responds to the audience’s corrections, evokes Hearst’s indoctrination to SLA politics. Hayes was also interested by how Hearst, the later court case, was characterized as a young, easily impressionable university student who was susceptible to being transformed into a political radical.
Text by Heather Anderson. Bottom photo credit: Remi Theriault.