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Paul Ramírez Jonas’s Key to the City unlocks secret doors in NYC

Paul Ramírez Jonas’s Key to the City unlocks secret doors in NYC

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What if a government ceremony, like the bestowal of the key to the city, suddenly became a civic artwork? And rather than a formality between Mayor and visiting dignitary, you personally could award this key to anyone of your choosing. Key to the City, by artist Paul Ramírez Jonas, invites New Yorkers and visitors to our City to recognize each other with a key that will lead them on a citywide scavenger hunt of back doors, front gates, community gardens, and cemeteries, and more. This Key to the City gives us an opportunity to reflect on common space and makes us aware that the city consists of a series of spaces that are locked or unlocked.

This summer, Creative Time is pleased to present Key to the City in cooperation with The City of New York. This project by artist Paul Ramírez Jonas reinvents the civic honor of bestowing keys on luminaries as a master key able to unlock more than 20 sites across New York Cityʼs five boroughs—such as locks within the Brooklyn Museum and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Members of the public will award thousands of these custom-made keys to each other in one-to-one ceremonies. The keys will be distributed from a kiosk in Times Square, open daily from June 3 to 27.

For centuries, the key to the city has been used to honor a city’s heroes and visiting dignitaries. Now, artist Paul Ramírez Jonas has created a Key to the City that is not only a symbolic award, but also a functional key—opening spaces across all five boroughs of New York City. This Key to the City is intended for everyday citizens, who will award one another the key for reasons large and small. Once in hand, the key launches a citywide exploration of back doors, front gates, community gardens, graveyards, and museums that suggests that the city is a series of spaces that are either locked or unlocked.

Curated by Nato Thompson, with curatorial assistant Shane Brennan. Produced by Gavin Kroeber with production assistant Elissa Goldstone.


Key to the City by Paul Ramírez Jonas
A FREE public art project presented by Creative Time in cooperation with the City of New York.
June 3 to 27, 2010
Get your Key in Times Square
Broadway between 43rd and 44th Streets
Open M–F 2p–8p; Sa–Su 12p–8p

6p to 8p

Born in California and raised in Honduras, Paul Ramírez Jonas currently lives, works, and teaches in New York City. In his practice, he challenges the boundaries between artwork and spectator by asking participants to contribute something—such as a penny, wish, or key—in order to fully engage with his projects. Key to the City is not the first time that Ramírez Jonas has explored the creative possibilities of the key. In Mi Casa Su Casa (2005), he delivered a series of lectures about how space can be defined as either locked or unlocked, before inviting the audience to exchange keys with him and one another. The same year, he created a permanent work of public art, a small park called Taylor Square, for Cambridge, Massachusetts. 5,000 keys to the park’s gate were mailed to the homes closest to the commons, symbolizing a shared sense of ownership. Finally, Ramírez Jonas’ project Talisman (2008) for the 28th São Paulo Biennial asked visitors to engage in a public agreement, leaving behind a copy of one of their own keys in exchange for a key to the front door of the iconic Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavillion that housed the biennial. Key to the City expands his longstanding interest in the key not so much as an object, but a vehicle for exploring social contracts as they pertain to trust, access, and belonging.

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Ramírez Jonas holds an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and a BA from Brown University. He has received numerous honors, exhibited internationally, and lectured at universities across the country.

Key to the City continues Creative Time’s tradition of animating and amplifying unique spaces in New York City’s urban landscape. Recent projects include Tribute in Light, which served as a gesture of hope and healing after 9/11, and Doug Aitken: Sleepwalkers, a film projected on the Museum of Modern Art, NY. Creative Time has worked with over 1,400 of the world’s most dynamic artists in its 35-year history. Creative Time: The Book was published on the occasion of the institution’s 33rd birthday, exploring each of its projects presented since 1974.

Online: http://www.creativetime.org

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