Hank Willis Thomas Speaks the Truth in 22 Languages

Hank Willis Thomas, The Truth Booth, presented by the Public Art Fund for
Hank Willis Thomas, The Truth Booth, presented by the Public Art Fund for "The Truth Is I See You." Photo: v.gasymova, via Instagram.
Hank Willis Thomas and the Public Art Fund team with one of his sculptures in the Public Art Fund's "The Truth Is I See You." Photo: Hank Willis Thomas, via Instagram.

Hank Willis Thomas and the Public Art Fund team with one of his sculptures in the Public Art Fund’s “The Truth Is I See You.”
Photo: Hank Willis Thomas, via Instagram.

The Public Art Fund‘s newest project, “The Truth Is I See You,” has just opened at Brooklyn’s MetroTech Commons.

The show, which runs through next summer, is based on a poem written by artist Hank Willis Thomas and artist Ryan Alexiev, which was then translated into 22 languages.

Statements from the poem, which include the exhibition title and “the truth is I remind you,” are displayed inside thought bubbles affixed to lamp posts around the plaza, accompanied by English translations and a pronunciation guide.

Hank Willis Thomas, "The Truth Is I See You."<br /> Photo: Liz Ligon, courtesy the Public Art Fund.

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

The thought bubble motif is also featured in two new sculptural works. A large steel tree with branches with thought bubbles for leaves is joined by a pair of thought bubble-shaped rolled steel benches, filled not with words but with empty spaces for sitting and contemplating.

The show’s recent opening also featured Thomas’s world-traveling Truth Booth, a mobile interactive video recording booth that asks participants to look into a camera and finish the statement “The truth is…” The inspiration is the Nelson Mandela quote “The truth is we’re not yet free.”

Hank Willis Thomas, <em>The Truth Booth</em>, presented by the Public Art Fund for "The Truth Is I See You." Photo: v.gasymova, via Instagram.

Hank Willis Thomas, The Truth Booth, presented by the Public Art Fund for “The Truth Is I See You.”
Photo: v.gasymova, via Instagram.

The project, done in collaboration with Alexiev and Jim Ricks, debuted at Ireland’s Galway Arts Festival in 2011. It has since traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, Bamyan, Afghanistan, and Cleveland and Miami in the US (the latter for this past year’s Art Basel in Miami Beach).

“I think of it as a generosity project: People offer things to others who they’ll likely never meet or even see,” Thomas told the Wall Street Journal.

To date, more than 5,000 people have participated.

Hank Willis Thomas sitting in one of his sculptures in the Public Art Fund's "The Truth Is I See You." Photo: Hank Willis Thomas, via Instagram.

Hank Willis Thomas sitting in one of his sculptures in the Public Art Fund’s “The Truth Is I See You.”
Photo: Hank Willis Thomas, via Instagram.

The booth will return to Brooklyn three more times during the exhibition’s run, appearing at the Atlantic Center Terminal on September 26, at MetroTech on October 15, and at a to-be-announced location sometime in May 2016.

The MetroTech Plaza installation includes an outdoor screen streaming video from the Truth Booth project. As more responses from Brookylnites are amassed, that footage will be incorporated into the display.

Thomas’s work is also featured in the Public Art Fund’s summer group show at New York’s City Hall Park, and the Jewish Museum‘s “Repetition and Difference,” also in New York.

Hank Willis Thomas, <em>The Truth Booth</em>, presented by the Public Art Fund for "The Truth Is I See You."<br /> 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.

Hank Willis Thomas‘s”The Truth Is I See You,” presented by the Public Art Fund, will be on view at MetroTech Commons, between Jay Street and Flatbush Avenue at Myrtle Avenue, August 4, 2015–June 3, 2016.

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