Newsroom 1983
Collaborative project with Larry Sultan, 1983
Installation/exhibition at Matrix Gallery, Berkeley Art Museum

The following material is edited from a lecture by Mike Mandel and Larry Sultan at the Berkeley Art Museum, June 22, 2008


For Newsroom we rented AP and UPI wire service machines, and installed them in the MATRIX gallery at the Berkeley Art Museum. The news flowed into the museum 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, just as it does in any newsroom.

Newsroom was based on the idea that interpretation comes from context and presentation. We responded to the raw news, rearranged it and showed how these images and stories were treated in various newspapers, comparing them, graphing various aspects of the news, making murals and sequences. It was completely spontaneous, and very much a process-oriented show. We spent a lot of time in the gallery. Usually you spend your time and labor before you have a show. This show was created in the museum, the museum as studio. We were beholden to the world of events to generate interesting pictures. In a sense, the idea was that the museum show could generate itself. We didn’t know what was going to come over the wire.

Each of the wire machines would produce 150 pictures a day. So we had 300 pictures a day to look at and try to figure out what we might do with them. Of course, the daily newspaper might use three of those pictures in Section 1 and all the rest of them would’ve been thrown away. We identified that were all kinds of news images that, though they might never make it to the paper, had all kinds of metaphorical possibilities. We made large-scale murals. We would identify different kinds of gestures--journalistic tropes--and we would create sequential relationships with the gestures. The thousands of pictures that we collected eventually became detritus, a big island of stuff placed the middle of the gallery floor that kept piling up day by day.

It’s worth noting the technology of the moment. If you think about how this information is being communicated now, we couldn’t do the project in this form, because we’d simply be looking at computer monitors.

We invited news media to review the show. But the reporters expected that the show would be more analytic, more critical, that we would be trying to find the "hidden bias" in the news. The thing that we were very clear about was that the politics that we were interested in were the politics of representation. We didn’t want to make a political statement about the bias in the news, that would simply spoil the fun--it would just be didactic. It’s not whether or not we are getting an accurate portrayal of events, there is no such thing as accurate memory. We were looking at a different language, the voice of gesture, the voice of sequential relationships, the ideas of spectacular scale. We were an aesthetic voice that isn’t normally given instant access to news imagery. The show also included graphs and dates, actually, all fake information, to make it look important. Who really cares about how many pictures there are in the news? Gender and the news is a little bit more interesting, but we felt we ought to keep track of something, just to provide a false impression that we were involved in a project of journalistic significance.
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