Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) Screeds #13, 16, 20 & 29

2003
4-channel video installation
9:50 mins to 20 mins

On February 4, 1974, Patty Hearst was kidnapped from her apartment in Berkeley, California by a radical political organization called the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). From February to April, 1974, the SLA and Patty Hearst made four audio tapes in which she addresses her parents on the subject of her kidnapping, the SLA’s ransom (that the Hearst family feed all the poor people in California) and the family and the FBI’s actions during the ordeal. In the last tape, Hearst renames herself Tania and announces that she is joining the SLA in their struggle.

From June 2001 to January 2002, I performed a respeaking of each of the four audio tapes. In each instance, I partially memorized the transcript of the audio tape and spoke the text in front of an audience to whom I gave a transcript of the text. I asked them to correct her when she was wrong and to feed her a line when she needed it.

The performances were staged for the purpose of creating a tape of each respeaking. The original installation of the work consisted of multiple copies of the four VHS tapes of the respeakings. The VHS copies were stacked on top of each other next to a sign that said, “Please take, watch and pass along.” Thus in the initial materialization of the work, the video image was never intended to be exhibited in a gallery or museum context but rather taken away by viewers and played on their own time in their own space. In the late 2000s as VHS declined significantly as a popular video format, I faced the decision of letting the piece die with the format or restructuring its formal container. I decided to rework the piece and in 2012, showed it for the first time as a work on view in an exhibition space.