June 27, 2017 - New Museum - Paul Ramírez Jonas: Half-Truths
June 27, 2017

New Museum

Paul Ramírez Jonas, Alternative Facts (detail), 2017. Installation and performance. Courtesy of the artist.

Paul Ramírez Jonas
Half-Truths
July 5–September 17, 2017

New Museum
235 Bowery
New York, NY 10002
USA

www.newmuseum.org

For his exhibition and residency at the New Museum, Paul Ramírez Jonas engages the mechanisms of bureaucracies and law as a starting point from which to consider truth. Half-Truths explores the contours of social contracts, without which institutions meant to uphold collective governance become arbitrary, yet remain powerfully consequential in people’s lives.

Continuing to pursue a body of participatory work focusing on aspects of trust, Ramírez Jonas presents two pieces defined by direct transactions between the audience and the artist, Fake ID (2017) and Alternative Facts (2017). The conditions of these encounters are devised by the artist and informed by the site, but also require the open-endedness of engagement with a voluntary public.

Fake ID invites visitors to empty their pockets of materials containing information that determines currency, credit, access, membership, and citizenship status. Through a process of exchange and inquiry with each participant, a facilitator deconstructs photocopies of their documents—school IDs, transportation passes, credit cards, and licenses—to create a new identification card. Through human exchange, Ramírez Jonas aims to enunciate the possibilities of self-determined constructions of identity within the datafication of state, corporate, and social systems.

Alternative Facts turns lies and fantasies into ostensibly truthful public documents. The first untruth designates the facilitator, often the artist himself, as a notary. Each subsequent certification process yields two documents, one for the viewer to keep and another to be collected in the installation. The cost of this legal transformation requires payment of a gold coin, which the facilitator will assist in creating by chemically altering visitors’ spare change.

The poetics of these works speak to a political climate in which authoritarian tactics seek to delegitimize the participatory checks and balances of democratic truth by pronouncing the media’s dishonesty and declaring the falsehoods of public servants to be “alternative facts.” Relative meaning, the plurality of truth, shared authorship, and the equal right to free speech were once more commonly employed to assert marginalized voices. But with such sentiments of alternativeness being co-opted by oppressive forces, Half-Truths asks: is it possible to collectively create and agree upon truth?

Paul Ramírez Jonas: Half-Truths is the second iteration of the Department of Education and Public Engagement’s annual R&D Summers, a research and development initiative that emphasizes the New Museum’s year-round commitment to community partnerships and public dialogue at the intersection of art and social justice. Each R&D Summer takes the form of a residency, an exhibition, and related public programs.

Members of the Teen Apprentice Program (TAP), a summer youth employment internship, will facilitate Fake ID and Alternative Facts during the Museum’s daily open hours. Ramírez Jonas will perform Alternative Facts on select Thursday evenings. Each R&D Summer includes public programs expressly concerning issues of social justice. Artists and activists will offer tools for understanding and protecting information online during “Digital Self-Defense and Empowerment,” an afternoon of workshops. “Manufacturing Truth: Machine Learning and Bias” will bring together presenters from different fields, including art, journalism, and coding, investigating how algorithms shape our lives in realms as disparate as criminal justice, online shopping, and social media. “Between Illegality and Personhood” will include artistic interventions that consider how legal and bureaucratic systems and borders construct misconceptions of personhood. In addition, the Fifth Floor Resource Center will present “Legal Fictions,” a collection of critical texts, historical facsimiles, and artists’ projects that explore the politics of identification.

The exhibition is curated by Johanna Burton, Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Engagement; Shaun Leonardo, Manager of School, Youth, and Community Programs; and Emily Mello, Associate Director of Education.

Public programs
See newmuseum.org for registration information

Digital Self-Defense and Empowerment
Saturday, July 22, 1:30–6pm
This afternoon of workshops extends the exhibition’s inquiry into the complexities of determining identity and truth to the online sphere. Addressing increasing vulnerability and participation in surveillance, artists and activists will offer tools to learn about how data is mined and fed back to us, as well as strategies for self-protection, particularly for members of vulnerable communities. Workshops will support the demystification of hidden processes through both tactile, hands-on experiences and analytic software.

1:30–3pm Handmade Computers with Taeyoon Choi

3:15–4pm Data Selfie with DATA X

4–6pm Digital Self-Defense with Equality Labs

Manufacturing Truth: Machine Learning and Bias
Thursday, August 17, 7pm
Bringing together presenters from fields including art, journalism, and sociology, this panel will investigate how algorithms shape our lives in realms as disparate as criminal justice, online shopping, and social media. Algorithms affect everything from healthcare and insurance premiums to job opportunities and recidivism prediction. How might we resist discriminatory artificial intelligence and become informed digital citizens? Panelists include sociologist and cultural critic Katherine Cross, artist and professor Stephanie Dinkins, and journalist Jeff Larson and artist and engineer Surya Mattu, both members of ProPublica’s investigative team for the Machine Bias series.

Between Illegality and Personhood
Thursday, September 7, 7pm
This panel discussion will consider how legal and bureaucratic systems construct misconceptions of personhood regarding race, citizenship, ability, and gender. 

Support for Paul Ramírez Jonas: Half-Truths

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Half-Truths
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