Visitors are invited to drop-in to the museum engage with the artist and local performers to make a promise; their words are recorded in a drawing that is shared with them and published on a marquee board alongside similar pronouncements made by politicians, scientists, economists, and weather forecasters from the week’s headline news. Public Trust is one of many participatory works in the exhibition Atlas, Plural, Monumental.
About Atlas, Plural, Monumental
Atlas, Plural, Monumental features work by artist Paul Ramírez Jonas spanning a 25-year period. In his earliest works, Ramírez Jonas viewed historical references from a strategic vantage as he adapted early scientific experiments as “scores” inflected with his voice. Ramírez Jonas’s faithful reproductions of kites designed by inventors such as Alexander Graham Bell and Joseph Lecornu carried cameras into the air where re-engineered alarm clocks triggered their shutters, capturing images of the artist on the ground holding the kite’s string. In these works, Ramírez Jonas typically activated the scores himself; his later works extend this invitation to viewers. For His Truth is Marching On (1993) the public is invited to take up a mallet and tap a suspended circular arrangement of water-filled wine bottles; their successive musical notes offer a rendition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic.
In 2005, Ramírez Jonas shifted his focus toward decidedly public forms: the equestrian statue, the bronze plaque, the key to the city, and the like. The Commons (2011) is a riderless equestrian monument made from cork, and viewers are invited to affix their own messages to its base. With the action, properties often attributed to commemorative sculpture—the singular voice of the state, the singular identity of the memorialized hero, and the immutability of inscriptions set in bronze and stone—are all upended. Ramírez Jonas’s work democratizes time-honored civic forms. Manifested in a range of compelling ways, Ramírez Jonas’s work invigorates our cultural commons.
Image: Paul Ramírez Jonas, Public Trust (detail), 2016. Produced by Now + There, Boston, August 27–September 17, 2016. © Paul Ramírez Jonas. Photo: Paul Ramírez Jonas