Most people have been to a notary for one reason or another. The "notary" is a presence that serves as a witness and evidence that a signed document is legitimate and, hopefully, truthful.
On Friday, October 18 at Kyriakides Plaza in MDC's Wolfson Campus, and on Sunday, October 20, at HARTVEST PROJECT at Pinecrest Gardens in Pinecrest, Paul Ramírez Jonas is going to stir the pot in a big way with "Alternative Facts," an interactive public performance that questions and explores the idea of truth. He is asking the public to lie and he is turning those lies to truth.
As a contemporary artist and arts educator, Ramírez Jonas creates exchanges that impose social contracts between artwork and the public. He takes everyday items and creates an experience.
"I specialize in public work that is interactive and available to everyone. I try to make the experience very intimate and one on one. The experience tends to do, or have an exchange with what people have on them, with what people have on them all the time. IDs, spare change, or often what people can do with their voice. Making promises. And the one we're doing in Miami…..is where people lie."
What does that mean?Ramírez Jonas will be setting up notary stations in public places for several hours. He
is asking people to come up with a false statement. To lie. It may be humorous, a personal statement or something totally random. Then, through the legal process of a notary, the lie will be turned into a true legal notarized document. There will be IDs shown, information exchanged, and all of the trappings that one would experience at a true notary's office.
Each person will walk away with a small pocket sized legal statement that validates "the lie" that they said, as truth.
"Everything in my work is an exchange, it's not free," Ramírez Jonas said. "We demand payment in a gold coin. Most people don't have a gold coin, but they do have spare change. So while we are notarizing, we chemically gold plate your spare change."
"It happens in front of people's eyes. Your pennies turn to gold as we speak." People are awed.
While the process is taking place, the performer or, as in the Miami scenario, Ramírez Jonas himself, interjects little comments about what is happening. His comments provoke the situation and make it as surreal as possible. Is it a real situation or is this all just fantasy?
As a physical art component, Ramírez Jonas takes the statements from each person, and the gold coins and glues them to a wall that becomes a living testimony. When others look at the statements, they start weighing in and offering opinions as to whether there is truth to the statement or not. What may have been a little lie becomes a big discussion.
It sounds like an innocent endeavor, but it reaches much, much deeper than that.
"Each document by itself is not amazing, but then all together they start to create a weird collective platform that can sometimes be funny, can be painful. People say things that can be really uncomfortable."
Ramírez Jonas thinks that we do things much too quickly in life. Decisions can be made in just a second. In social media, for example, we click to "like" something, you disagree with something, you comment on something. In "Alternative Facts," the process of making a statement, creating a document, having to endorse it, and the anticipation of waiting for the transformation of the coin, he is trying to slow us all down.
"If I can just slow everyone down and put them in contact with what other people are saying, then people just might be a little more conscious of what we're all doing together."
"We can all lie," he said laughing.
"Alternative Facts" is part of the Museum of Art and Design's (MOAD) A City of the People series, which will take place at multiple locations throughout Miami from April to December of this year. A City of the People will feature a wide range of art experiences, screenings, readings, and public programs that explore what it means to exist in, and as, an urban community. The cross-disciplinary, cutting-edge programming of A City of the People will contribute to a discussion on art's capacity to reimagine civic life.
"Alternative Facts" will take place on Friday, Oct.18, from 11 a.m.– 2 p.m. at Miami Dade College Kyriakides Plaza 300 NE 2nd Avenue Miami, FL 33132, www.mdc.edu and on Sunday, Oct. 20, from 11 a.m.– 2 p.m. at HARTVEST PROJECT at Pinecrest Gardens, 11000 Red Road Pinecrest, FL 33156, www.harvestproject.com.
The events are free and open to the public.