What Does Trust Mean In 2017?

Artist Paul Ramirez Jonas challenges our perception in his latest work, "Public Trust."

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Fun fact: This isn't Paul's first time making fake IDs.

If you said you could count the number of lies you've told in your lifetime, you'd probably be lying. From little white lies to full-blown fabrications and everything between, lying is one of those things that's hard to avoid in certain situations and, in my experience, sometimes hard to resist. (My teenage years were filled with them. Sorry, mom.)

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But what does a tiny inaccuracy mean in the grander scheme of life, and why do we make promises we know we can't keep, even as we grow older? In his latest work, "Public Trust," artist Paul Ramirez Jonas examines this sociological question and attempts to find, well, the truth in everyday interactions.

Would you post your promises on Instagram?

Like all the works he's created over the past 25 years, "Public Trust" started with one thought. "I was interested in how our language makes meaning, and how our society is held together by our ability to believe in what we say," Jonas tells us in his Gowanus studio. It then evolved into a large-scale project that juxtaposed everyday promises with those made in the heat of the election cycle by politicians, pundits, scientists, and the media.

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Over a period of three weeks in September, Jonas collected promises from 959 people in Boston. Statements like "I promise to remember to live life fully" and "I promise to keep learning and don't give up" were posted on a board alongside pledges like "Wikileaks promises more Clinton leaks" and "U.S. companies pledge equal pay for women."

But what about when you run into an old friend and you say, "Let's definitely hang out soon"?

"You're always the most critical of the last piece," Jonas says. "But I probably love 'Public Trust' the most of all the works I've ever done. It was sort of perfect in the sense that when it worked, I wasn't really important. What was important was the experience."

"Everybody is an artist." – Joseph Beuys

Many promises will ultimately be broken over the next four years, but responsibility is key. Whether it's committing yourself to making promises come true, or posting them up on a public board for every passerby to see, form a system of accountability for yourself. And, when in doubt, create.

Just start.

To see more of Jonas's work, see paulramirezjonas.com. To learn more about Public Trust, visit www.publictrustboston.com.

Public Trust was produced by Now and There.

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