301 We The People
To most Americans, the phrase We The People is instantly recognizable as the first three words of the Constitution. We the People commonly represents the idea of a shared set of values and rights common to all Americans that the Constitution is meant to outline. Nari Ward’s 2000s wrok We The People investigates the complexity of this phrase and the idea of a national identity that it is meant to convey. At first glance, it appears as though the title phrase has been written directly onto the surface of the wall, but upon closer inspection the words reveal themselves as being constructed from hundreds of brightly colored shoelaces. Ward has created serval works using this same method – rendering a variety of images, including stars and protest signs, and historically significant phrases such as We Shall Overcome, and “This is a beautiful Country” – the last words of the abolitionist John Brown.
When Ward produced this work in 2011, he was reflecting on the complex diversity that define’s America, especially in the urban context Ward typically works within. In recent years, the sentiment of the work has changed, as the optimisitic vision that the work initially had stands in contrast to the increasingly xenophobic rhetoric sweeping the country. At this moment in history, the work also seems to ask whether the rights afforded within the constitution are protected equally for every individual who is part of the national whole.
Audio guide: “Nari Ward: We the People,” New Museum, New York, 2019.