Sunday, August 17, 2008

Paul Ramírez Jonas: Abracadabra-I Create as I Speak at Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum


RIDGEFIELD.- Abracadabra translates from the ancient Aramaic language as “I Create as I Speak,” and represents artist Paul Ramírez Jonas’s desire to create work that will assert an interactive contract with the public, where one must give in order to receive.

Ramírez Jonas consistently utilizes pre-existing texts, including not only the written word, but also items as diverse as a walking trail and sheet music, in the service of creating new art. The artist considers himself a mere reader of such texts, interpreting the documents into forms such as performance, sculpture, photo, or video. Thus, a musical score may result in a sculpture, and a travelogue in a video, or the plans for a flying machine may emerge from a photo. Reading is the creative and free action that attracts Ramírez Jonas.

He says, “Being a reader, I have more in common with the public than with the author, and it is this commonality that I find so inspiring in working with pre-existing materials. My previous work also uses pre-existing texts; but my role is not as much to ‘read’ them anymore, as much as it is to present them for lecture. It is an invitation to read together, so to speak. Most pieces in this exhibition attempt, in their own way, to reassert a contract with their public. This contract stipulates that the works are here for you; but you must give a little to receive—even if it is just a penny, a wish, or a silent recitation.”

Visitors to The Aldrich’s exhibition can put that penny into a functional penny press machine entitled We Make Change. The viewer provides the muscle and the raw material; the machine re-engraves the penny so that it reads TRUST ME or WE TRUST, converting the coin, which has value in one economy, into an artwork that has value in a different economy.

A bit goofy, but at least the Aramaic etymology is plausible – as is confirmed, incidentally, by famed YouTube philologist Marina Orlova. (If bikini-clad women offend you, best not to click on that last link.)