Ryan Alexiev, Hank Willis Thomas and Jim Ricks with “The Truth Booth” in Ireland. Photo courtesy Cause Collective.

On view June 8–23
Open daily, weather permitting, 11 am–4 pm

What is the truth? We all have our own definitions of and beliefs in “the truth,” and in this exhibition, the Hirshhorn offered visitors their own chance to express it. The museum hosted the DC debut of In Search of the Truth (The Truth Booth), a long-term global project by CAUSE COLLECTIVE artists Ryan Alexiev, Jim Ricks, Hank Willis Thomas, Jorge Sanchez, and Will Sylvester. Situated on the museum’s outdoor plaza overlooking the National Mall, the participatory installation was open daily, weather permitting, 11 am–4 pm.

The installation was composed of a 16-foot-tall tent shaped like a speech bubble where visitors were invited to enter and leave a video message in response to the statement “The truth is…” The recorded confessional-style videos were edited into two-minute-long clips and added to the project’s website, insearchofthetruth.net, which serves as a public archive of these video artworks. With the word “TRUTH” prominently printed on its side, The Truth Booth served as a visible, thought-provoking beacon on the National Mall, while simultaneously providing a meditative, intimate space where people could sincerely share their thoughts.

Since 2011, The Truth Booth has toured the world with the mission of building a diverse portrait of humanity by collecting perspectives, confessions, and thoughts on “the truth” from across the globe. Conceived of by Alexiev, Ricks, and Thomas and later joined by Sanchez and Sylvester, the project was initiated by the CAUSE COLLECTIVE, a team of artists, designers, and ethnographers who create innovative art in the public realm, exploring and enlivening public spaces by creating dynamic conversations among audiences, issues, and sites.

The Truth Booth was presented in conjunction with Manifesto: Art x Agency, the Hirshhorn’s exhibition exploring the art-historical impact of artist manifestos from the twentieth century to the present day, on view June 15–January 5, 2020.

About the Artists

Raised in Alaska by Bulgarian immigrants, Ryan Alexiev received a bachelor of arts in history from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master of fine arts from the California College of the Arts, where he currently teaches in the Graduate Design program. He has exhibited at galleries across the country, including the Andy Warhol Museum, Wadsworth Atheneum, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Armory Show in New York, and the Oakland Museum of California. Alexiev is cofounder of the CAUSE COLLECTIVE, which was commissioned to create The Truth Is I Am You for the University of California, San Francisco, and the video installation Along the Way for the Oakland International Airport, which later was featured at the Sundance Film Festival.

Jim Ricks is a conceptual artist who problematizes preconceptions about identity and value with a clever epistemology. His work is research driven, publicly engaged, and site specific. He has had solo shows at Casa Maauad (Mexico City), Pallas Projects (Dublin), the Hugh Lane Gallery (Dublin), and Onomatopee (Eindhoven, Netherlands), and he has shown in a number of group shows, including at the Imperial War Museum (London), Jack Shainman Gallery (New York City), Ulster Museum (Belfast), Temple Bar Gallery & Studios (Dublin), Royal Hibernian Academy (Dublin), Galway Arts Festival (Galway, Ireland), Art Basel Miami Art Public (Miami), the Limerick City Gallery of Art (Limerick, Ireland), and the Cranbrook Art Museum (Detroit).

Jorge Sanchez is an ethnographer born in Colombia and based in California. He is a researcher at the Cesar Chavez Institute (CCI) and the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality (CRGS) in San Francisco. At CCI, his work has focused on the Family Acceptance Project, a California Endowment-funded project looking at familial acceptance and rejection of queer youth. At CRGS, Sanchez’s work focuses on the Relations Study, a Ford Foundation-funded project focusing on the impact of class, race, and ethnicity on the lives of young adults. The data he collected at CRGS is being analyzed along with data from Brazil and South Africa and will be part of the Foundation’s upcoming publication on cross-cultural sexualities. Sanchez’s work has appeared in several publications, including the Journal of Urban Health and the American Association of Anthropology. Since the mid-90s, he has worked at the grassroots level as a health educator and community organizer for people at risk of contracting or transmitting HIV. He has served on the board of directors of several local nonprofit agencies and city commissions as well as review panels for San Francisco’s Department of Public Health. He is interested in contributing to the field of visual anthropology.

Will Sylvester received a bachelor of arts with a concentration on documentary film for social and cultural change from the University of Massachusetts in 2011. That same year, he went on to edit, build, and tour the Question Bridge: Black Males exhibition, including showings at Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontiers and the Sheffield Documentary Film Festival. As a member of the Cause Collective, Sylvester helped to create The Long March, a 65-feet-wide, 14-foot-tall, 27-monitor installation incorporating depictions of movement, migration, and marching from different eras in Alabama history. It is a permanent installation at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport in Alabama. Sylvester has served as supervising editor for several projects, including Am I Going Too Fast, A person is worth more than anything else… and We are not yet free….

Hank Willis Thomas is a photo-conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to identity, history, and popular culture. He received his bachelor of fine arts in photography and Africana studies from New York University and his master of fine arts/master of arts in photography and visual criticism from the California College of the Arts. His work is featured in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Oakland Museum of California. He has exhibited at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the High Museum of Art, among others.