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Ruth Ewan researches communities, organizations, and individuals from the history of activism and alternative educational models. She then presents this research in a variety of interactive and experiential formats, ranging from a jukebox of political songs, to the development of socially-engaged magic tricks, to an installation of 10 decimal clocks that reference the short-lived time system of the French Republic. In both subject matter and approach, Ewan’s projects reveal the dignity and accessible reality of these discrete but profound social movements. She reminds us that revolution is here—and always has been here. Often it appears in humble yet thriving communities and circumstances—in Sunday schools, gatherings of workers, or collections of songs. Her understated style offers opportunities for learning about beautiful moments in the history of social resistance and the potential offered by alternative ways of thinking and organizing.
For the High Line, Ewan presents a monumental-scale clock on the park at 24th Street, also visible from street level. The clock is based on an illustration originally produced for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) labor union by the North American writer and labor activist Ralph Chaplin that reads “What time is it? Time to organize!” The illustration was one of many images that appeared on “stickerettes,” known as “silent agitators,” millions of which were printed in red and black on gummed paper and distributed by union members traveling from job to job. The stickers were advertised through publications such as Solidarity and the union’s newspaper Industrial Worker, and through events such as national “Stickerette Day” on April 29, 1917 and May Day of the same year. The clock nods to the round-the-clock organizing work of the IWW, and the ubiquity of the clock in labor struggles: both the ways that factory owners separated private and public time and the fights for the now-diminishing labor rights we have today, such as the five-day work week and eight-hour workday. Ewan intends for her clock to provide a gathering space on the High Line, evoking the private vs. public separation of space and time we experience in capitalism, and a possible future where people gather together for their reclamation.
Ruth Ewan (b. 1980, Aberdeen, Scotland) lives and works in Glasgow, Scotland. Ewan’s work has been presented in solo exhibitions at institutions including Camden Arts Centre, London, England (2015); Tate Britain, London, England (2014 – 2018); and Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, Denmark (2012). She has been featured in group exhibitions including Future Design, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England (2018); Incerteza viva, Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil (2016); and Station to Station, Barbican Art Gallery, London, England (2015). She has created public commissions for Edinburgh Art Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland (2018); Flood House and Focal Point Gallery, Southend-on-Sea, England (2016); and Artangel, London, England (2013/2007).
Project support for Ruth Ewan, Silent Agitator, is provided by Colby and Alberto Mugrabi, with research funding provided by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland.
Lead support for High Line Art comes from Amanda and Don Mullen. Major support for High Line Art is provided by Shelley Fox Aarons and Philip E. Aarons, The Brown Foundation, Inc. of Houston, and the Charina Endowment Fund. High Line Art is supported, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City Council, under the leadership of Speaker Corey Johnson.