July 2008, Pamela Bannos' Hidden Truths @ Lincoln Park

Bannos provides a map on the back of each marker showing participants the other installation sites.

Pamela Bannos
Lincoln Park, Chicago

If the journey of the abstract defines modern art and the search to say something that modern art cannot express is the basis of contemporary art, then the work of Pamela Bannos is the prototype of today's artwork. She uses the non-traditional media of the present rendered by space, time, and location to convey a hidden past of a common Chicago leisure spot.

When one is first introduced to the project of Bannos' Hidden Truths, which combines six natural installations in Chicago's Lincoln Park with an informational internet installation, one may ask "where is the art?" But, in actuality, the art that Bannos calls our attention to is everywhere, making both tangible and abstract connections.

Since her childhood, Bannos was intrigued by an unusual structure in the south side of Chicago's Lincoln Park. The structure is known as the Couch Tomb, and until recently the structure was covered by a fence and miscellaneous topiary. Thanks to the release of historic articles of the Chicago Tribune on the internet, Bannos began a fifteen month journey uncovering the truth behind the presence of the tomb and the history of the city cemetery that is now Lincoln Park. The project is realized in the completion of physical and digital installations.

A Sunday park-goer relaxing on the installation calls attention to the fact that there are skeletal remains below.

In addition to the mysterious presence of Couch Tomb, Bannos also heightens attention to the areas surrounding Civil War and Jewish burial grounds and a marker commemorating the death of the last survivor of the Boston Tea Party. The natural installations are now possible provided the new knowledge gained through the interaction with the historic markers as well as an intentional exposure to the website.

Technology acts as the catalyst for the project. Initially turning Bannos's curiosity into inspiration, the internet has now transformed into the soul of the organic being of Hidden Truths. She states, "As technology carries us into the future, it has also brought me into a hidden past." And the implementation of the project online has fed the growing being of fiction, folklore, and yes, a hidden truth.

The project is divided into two media: six site-specific installations in Lincoln Park recalling different accounts of the old cemetery and the internet installation narrating history, Bannos' methodology, the transformation of the past, as well as elements of fact and fiction. Whether one is introduced to the project by stumbling upon the installations in the park or by a link leading to the website, the impact of the project depends on one's exposure to both locations in the physical and digital world. Just as the pieces of Bannos' research have been pieced together over the past fifteen months, one's interaction with the work must be pieced together conceptually using both media in order to draw conclusions relating to the reasons behind the history, meaning, and presence of the buried cemetery as well as Bannos' seven installations.

 Historical marker noting the old Catholic Cemetery, now in the midst of a
 Chicago residential area.

Bannos states that her work is contemporary because it does not fit into any "ism." But in fact, the project is nothing but a conceptual masterpiece. The project is about the idea of the history and transformation of a site changing from a cemetery to a park. The works disregard the fact that the only art available is found around us at the sites, physical and digital, that draw our attention to the past. This idea is brought to our attention through the use of language found on the cast aluminum markers as well as in text online.

Hidden Truths provides an alternative to the traditional art object. By viewing and realizing the sites, we are each forced to find our own interpretation behind the presence and reasoning behind the remains of the old cemetery that are dispersed throughout Lincoln Park and are now dispersed on the world wide web, both places for unsuspecting visitors to stumble upon.

The Hidden Truths digital installation can be found here.

shiloh aderhold

Shiloh Aderhold, a recent graduate from Wittenberg University, is an art historian, critic, and artist from North Carolina and Georgia. She lives and works in Chicago. 

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