We Make the Treasure Explores Value of Lost-Then-Found Materials, History, Ideas
Paul Ramírez Jonas will break surface of San Francisco Bay with a new work, We Make the Treasure, debuting June 19, 2014 at the Exploratorium. The second installment in the Exploratorium’s Over the Water series of large-scale commissioned works for the public realm, We Make the Treasure invites participatory engagement to explore exchange values both above and below the water line. By traversing layers of present day experience and forgotten history, the work invites participants to explore what visible and invisible forces make something a treasure, and how value is added, or taken away, through action.
Ephemeral, pulsing lines of air bubbles break the surface of the water between Piers 15 and 17, suggesting the ghostly outline of the Beeswing, a schooner that sank on February 17th, 1863 as she returned to San Francisco from Monterey. Aboard the Beeswing when she sank were 100 barrels of oil and camphene, 40 steer hides, 15 cords of wood, 120 trees, four boxes of cheese, five boxes of merchandise and boxes of candles, all of which were lost in a gale off the San Francisco Bar.
Through We Make the Treasure, Ramírez Jonas invites the public to explore the value of objects—especially when they are lost and then recovered—and question how we assign value to the material world, and immaterial experience.
Near the bubbling wreck is a rowboat loaded with mysterious cargo. Visitors are invited to interact with the imagined treasure of the Beeswing by using a crane to find, exchange, and value a haul comprised of coin-sized objects of indeterminate value. The trove will be equivalent in color, diameter and shape; but their individual value will be derived from their function, intrinsic material value, symbolic value, and even by the way the salty bay water will transform them. By taking, trading, and exchanging these objects, the public ultimately assigns value to the treasure.
"Ramírez Jonas' project engages our imaginations by invoking ideas of sunken ships and sunken treasure to provoke larger questions about the value we place upon things,” says Marina McDougall, Director of the Exploratorium’s Center for Art & Inquiry. “The Exploratorium has recently been exploring questions related to social behavior through a project called `The Science of Sharing,’ and this work explores a different, but related, realm of social behavior. Ramírez Jonas’ participatory works in the public realm inspire us to ponder what we value and what we share in common."
We Make the Treasure is curated by the Exploratorium’s Center for Art & Inquiry in collaboration with advising curator Nato Thompson of Creative Time in New York, and inspired by the participatory engagement that is the hallmark of the Exploratorium. Ramírez Jonas worked closely with the Exploratorium’s Studio for Public Spaces in the development of the work.
“Paul's irrepressible curiosity is evident in both his artworks in both design and public reception,” says Thompson. “It is this same peculiar ethos of open-ended questioning that permeates the history and working method of the Exploratorium itself."
We Make the Treasure will be on exhibit in the Exploratorium’s public space at Pier 15 until January 2015.
About Paul Ramírez Jonas
Paul Ramírez Jonas' selected solo exhibitions include Pinacoteca do Estado, Sao Paulo, Brazil; The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut; The Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas; a survey at Ikon Gallery (UK) and Cornerhouse (UK); Koenig & Clinton (NYC); Nara Roesler Gallery (Brazil); Alexander Gray (NYC); Roger Björkholmen (Sweden) and Postmasters Gallery (NYC). He has been included in group exhibitions at the Gallery for Contemporary Art Leipzig (Germany); P.S.1 (NYC); The Whitechapel (UK); Irish Museum of Modern Art (Ireland); Künstlerhaus (Austria); The New Museum (NYC); and Kunsthaus Zurich (Switzerland). He has participated in the 1st Johannesburg Biennale; the 1st Seoul Biennial; the 6th Shanghai Biennial; the 28th Sao Paulo Biennial; the 53rd Venice Biennial and the 7th Bienal do Mercosul , Porto Alegre, Brazil. He has created permanent public projects in Cambridge, MA and the Hudson River Park, New York City. In 2010, his Key to the City project was presented by Creative Time in cooperation with the City of New York. He is currently collaborating on a large public project with the Exploratorium in San Francisco, CA; and a collaboration with the Education Department at MoMA in New York. His work has been profiled in ArtForum, Zing, ARTnews, New York Times, Art in America and others. His honors include grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Joan Mitchell Foundation, ArtMatters, the Howard Foundation, the International Studio Program in Sweden, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts, among others. He is an Associate Professor at Hunter College (NYC). He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Rhode Island School of Design and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University. He is currently an Associate Professor at Hunter College in New York City.