Hank Willis Thomas Wants to Send ‘The Truth Booth’ to All 50 States Before Election Day

People around the country are invited to weigh in.

Ryan Alexiev, Hank Willis Thomas, and Jim Ricks with The Truth Booth on its first trip, to Ireland. Photo: courtesy Cause Collective.
Ryan Alexiev, Hank Willis Thomas, and Jim Ricks with The Truth Booth on its first trip, to Ireland.
Photo: courtesy Cause Collective.

Hank Willis Thomas will take his search for the truth nationwide this election season, bringing The Truth Booth, an inflated speech bubble that invites visitors to share their thoughts with a video camera, on an epic coast-to-coast road trip.

The project, run by Cause Collective (Thomas, Ryan Alexiev, Jim Ricks, and Will Sylvester), has previously appeared in cities across the US, as well as in Ireland, South Africa, and Afghanistan. Now, with the help of Kickstarter, they are hoping to organize its most ambitious journey to date, touching down in all 50 states, ideally before Election Day on November 8.

Hank Willis Thomas, The Truth Booth, presented by the Public Art Fund for "The Truth Is I See You." Photo: Liz Ligon, courtesy the Public Art Fund.

Hank Willis Thomas, The Truth Booth, presented by the Public Art Fund for “The Truth Is I See You.”
Photo: Liz Ligon, courtesy the Public Art Fund.

The trip, which Thomas described as “pretty huge undertaking” in a phone conversation with artnet News, kicked off on Monday, April 11, in Boston, where the The Truth Booth was part of the festivities at the Red Sox’ home opener at Fenway Park.

Even though The Truth Booth has already been to Cleveland, New York, the Bay Area, and Washington, DC, “we’re going to be starting from scratch, essentially,” said Thomas of the new tour.

Next up is New York, where the project will make an appearance outside the UN General Assembly for Drug Policy conference from April 19–21. (It will also make an appearance at Brooklyn’s MetroTech Commons, in conjunction with Thomas’s Public Art Fund exhibition “The Truth Is I See You,” with dates to be announced.)

<Em>The Truth Booth</em>'s planned journey to all 50 states. <br>Photo: courtesy Cause Collective.

The Truth Booth‘s planned journey to all 50 states.
Photo: courtesy Cause Collective.

Thomas sees the upcoming election as the perfect opportunity to take The Truth Booth project to the next level. “I think it’s a very crucial time where we need to hear from the public and less about the public,” he explained. “We have the media pundits always talking about what the public feels, and what The Truth Booth does, it provides a platform to elevate their voices and for people to speak in their own terms about issues that are important.”

The Kickstarter project is seeking $75,000, but for Thomas, the appeal of crowd-sourced funding is also its ability to spread your message. “Who knows, maybe we won’t raise enough money to go to all 50 states,” he admitted, but “making an announcement to the public raises the likelihood that we’re going to do what we said we’re going to do.”

The Truth Booth has some of its stops lined up already, but Thomas is hoping to attract a number of partners to help host the project. The Kickstarter campaign will also help pay for an interactive website that will track the booth’s project across the country and allow people to watch the footage as it is collected. You can follow along on social media via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as well.

Participants in <Em>The Truth Booth</em>. <br>Photo: courtesy Cause Collective.

Participants in The Truth Booth.
Photo: courtesy Cause Collective.

In a politically-divided country, what the The Truth Booth is attempting to do is rare. “In a democracy, we need to learn how to acknowledge how we make space for people whose values conflict, some might say contradict, ours, because that’s what it’s really about when we say ‘United we stand, divided we fall,'” Thomas said.

Thomas is quick to differentiate The Truth Booth tour from his other election year project, “For Freedoms,” the artist-run super PAC he recently founded with Eric Gottesman. While, “it’s obviously not separate in my head,” he explained, the PAC, headquartered out of New York’s Jack Shainman Gallery with a group show opening June 7, will create opportunities for artists to show their work in public by buying ad space, “whereas The Truth Booth is about the general public, people who don’t necessarily see themselves as artists, participating in a creative practice.”

To date, 6,000 people have shared their thoughts with The Truth Booth.

If all goes according to plan, the tour will wrap in November in Detroit, where Thomas has an exhibition at the Cranbrook Art Institute. The question that he hopes to answer between now and then is “how do we get to all 50 states… in roughly 150 days?”


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