By Mrinal Gokhale
At the corner of 80th St. and Lynx Ave was a large tour bus on the cloudy evening on Saturday, August 20. Just across the yard by the Latvian House of Milwaukee stood a gigantic inflatable speech bubble that read “TRUTH” in black bold lettering. People would go inside this large inflatable bubble where they sat in front of a camera.
They were given two minutes to speak on camera, and had to start their first sentence with “Truth is.”
On this day, the Increase the Peace Hip Hop Festival was held in the Latvian House to raise funds in honor of the violence that took place in Sherman Park on August 13.
The Truth Booth made an appearance in Milwaukee for second day in a row on this day. The day prior, they were at the Milwaukee Public Museum after having visited Chicago a few days before.
“Milwaukee is the fourteenth U.S. city we’ve toured. Our intent is to talk to people and reproduce the truths they tell,” said Will Sylvester, a self-described “social artist” who specializes in multimedia work. He is part of the Cause Collective, an effort that includes himself plus three other artists and designers.
“The Truth Booth is a collaborative effort that came from an idea to travel in search for the truth,” he said.
He said that this project was inspired by a smaller project they did in the past that was inspired by the Israel-Hezbollah war from 2006.
“The Truth Booth was inspired by our project from the past when we created and installed much smaller speech bubbles saying ‘The Truth is I Know You’ and ‘The Truth is I See You’ in many cities,” Sylvester said. Sylvester feels he picked the right time to visit Milwaukee, having come just a few weeks after the shooting of Syville Smith in Sherman Park by a police officer that resulted in a protest in which a Sherman Park gas station was burned.
As people were coming in and out of the inflatable bubble, filmmaker Jasmine Velez, who travels with the group, interviewed attendees on camera. She would ask each person “What does truth mean to you?”
Sami Giarattani, the tour coordinator for the project, said that the group plans to choose their favorite recorded truths that took place in the bubble and make a short film for each city for their website.
“We’ve created over 3,000 videos in the United States alone,” she said.
“We create art that engages with the public and we’ve already visited other countries,” Giarattani said.
Giarattani, who quit her job to tour with The Truth Booth, said that her favorite part is getting to meet new people as a part of this project.
“We have been traveling since June and being in Baltimore at the end of the month was exciting,” she said.
She added that the day prior to the Increase the Peace, the group held the Truth Booth near the Lynden Sculpture Garden at the Milwaukee Public Museum.
Sylvester said it is unknown when each city’s video will be available at their website www.causecollective.com, but hopes to do so in a few weeks.