Ruth Ewan's projects often foreground obscure moments in history. She is particularly interested in grassroots protests and social movements. By choosing unfamiliar fragments of history, such as songs and slogans, and introducing them into contemporary society, Ewan revives their potential for impact, effectively turning the past into the present.
Anti-bell (2010) is a remnant of an event of the same name. In March 2010 Ewan had a 19th century English church bell smashed and melted in a bell foundry. Traditionally, the bell is an instrument for authorities to exert political and ideological control, and the destruction of bells used to be an iconoclastic act at times of upheaval. When melted, the mass of metal can be given a second life and re-cast into something entirely different, like weapons. In this instance the metal remains a heap of dysfunctional matter, but ironically it gains a new cultural value by becoming an art object encased in a glass vitrine.
Ewan's A Jukebox of People Trying to Change the World is an ongoing work started in 2003. It consists of a growing archive of over 2,500 songs, collected as a result of the artist's own research and other people's suggestions. Although they span an enormous range of topics, themes and musical styles, what holds these songs together is the fact that they carry a message about changing the world.
A Jukebox of People Trying to Change the World invites active participation in its own expansion through a section on Ewan's website, which asks people to suggest songs for the archive. Please feel free to use the jukebox to play songs from the archive.