A 15-foot-tall, 23-foot-wide inflatable speech bubble will be appearing in front of the J. Willard Marriott Library August 25th and 26th. The balloon, known as the “Truth Booth,” is an interactive project inviting students and spectators to step inside and be recorded finishing the statement, “The truth is. . .”
The booth is the brainchild of artists Ryan Alexiev, Jim Ricks, Will Sylvester, and Hank Willis Thomas as part of the Cause Collective, an organization of artists, designers and ethnographers working together to create large-scale public art projects; this time in the shape of a giant cartoon-like speech bubble.
“It’s recognizable,” said artist Will Sylvester on the design of the booth. “Speech bubbles are iconic. We know when we see them someone is saying something, so we felt it would be a good way for people to recognize that this is a space for them to make a statement.”
The Truth Booth’s artists seek to transform public spaces into sites for candor and intimacy, allowing people to speak freely, without fear of judgement or persecution.
“The best thing about the Truth Booth is that people are able to go in and give a truth unconditionally,” Sylvester said. “We don’t censor. We don’t tell you what you should say. Some people come in and share very deep personal moments and others come and say, ‘You know what, the truth is Legos!’”
According to Sylvester, a crucial value of the Cause Collective is that it allows artists to hold true to creativity and staying uncensored.
“What someone says in the booth may not be good art, in my mind, but it’s what that person wanted to say in that point in time,” he said. “They have the right to that.”
The Truth Booth started in Ireland in 2010 and has been traveling around the world since. Utah Museum of Fine Arts Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Whitney Tassie, ensured the booth’s stop at the U.
“I experienced the Truth Booth in Miami a few years ago and was personally overwhelmed by the experience of recording my own truth and sharing it freely,” she said. “I was excited to jump on the chance to bring that to the university. The project embodies a lot of what the U is trying to do today – inspire dialogue and conversation outside the typical chatter that happens on a university campus. I think we all have our own versions of the truth. It’s important for us to be aware of the variability of truth.”
The booth has made 15 stops across the U.S. so far, including the Arab American National Museum in Michigan, Detroit Institute of Arts and now the UMFA, Marriott Library, Student Affairs, Colleges of Humanities and Fine Arts, Honors College and Office of Equity and Diversity have made the appearance of the Truth Booth at the U possible.
“I’m proud we can host a project like this,” Tassie said. “It’s really important work and it puts us on par with the other amazing organizations hosting across the country. I like that association — I think the U and UMFA really try hard to stay on that cutting edge to bring work like this to the students.”
On August 25th and 26th from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., U students have the opportunity to record their truths and become part of the eventual compilation of videos.
“We do get a lot of skepticism,” Sylvester said. “People don’t believe that we’re here to just hear what they have to say. Even if it’s something I don’t agree with, I still want to hear it. It’s something we all share, they may be different, but it’s a common thing for all of us to have truths. We’re here to find out what’s true for you. That’s it.”