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Man eats the Wall Street Journal in new exhibition

By Laura Allsop for CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • New York exhibition explores the relationship between art and the news
  • The show will include discussions and live performances
  • Weekly newspapers will be produced by resident artists with help from the public
  • Independent archive StoryCorps will take residency at the museum

London, England (CNN) -- A man eats the Wall Street Journal near still images of an ABC cameraman being killed in Nicaragua.

These are two examples of works being shown as part of "The Last Newspaper," at The New Museum in New York, which looks at the ways artists process and challenge the news and how they use the newsprint itself in their work.

Exhibits range from the 1960s to the present day and include an old Teletype machine hooked up to the wires and spewing reels of news onto the floor by German-American conceptual artist Hans Haacke, and a series of New York Post front-pages featuring Saddam Hussein, defiled by late New York collagist and performance artist Dash Snow.

The exhibition will also feature discussions and performances, including a restaging of American artist William Pope.L's performance piece "Eating the Wall Street Journal," for which actors will literally consume the paper.

A major theme of the show is deconstructing the news. Exhibits show artists using anarchic gestures to express their dissatisfaction with newspaper's presentation of events from Vietnam to Iraq.

"From 1960s onwards you begin to see artists using the materiality of the newspaper but also really beginning to attack who owns the rights to what the news is, and who has the right to set the agenda," curator Benjamin Godsill told CNN.

Godsill makes a connection between artists deconstructing the news in their work and bloggers today.

"Before you had bloggers, you had artists who were taking multiple stories from different papers, pulling them out and putting them together on one page, reacting viscerally and emotionally to them."

Accessibility of news, and how some is deemed significant and others not, is another key concern of the show. Artist Andrea Bowers looks at how certain voices are erased from current events reporting.

At its core "The Last Newspaper" is about people and their need to communicate.
--Richard Flood, Director, The New Museum
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Her 2006 work, "Eulogies to One and Another," is a "paper monument" composed of framed print outs of obituaries of American activist Marla Ruzicka, who was killed by a car bomb in Baghdad while conducting a census into civilian deaths.

Bowers' work looks at the way Ruzicka's life and death generated headlines while her Iraqi translator and partner barely got a mention.

Artists and resident curators will also be constructing the news during the exhibition, publishing free weekly newspapers with the help of members of the public. Written, edited and designed on-site, they will be used in place of an exhibition catalogue and document the various events going on at the museum.

The museum is also working with StoryCorps, an independent non-profit organization that has amassed an archive of interviews with ordinary Americans about their lives since 2003.

StoryCorps will make its New York City archive available to the public for the first time through a reference desk that they will set up inside the museum. Nick Yulman is a consultant for StoryCorps and helped organize the project with the museum.

"There are all these questions about the fate of print journalism and how information will be distributed," he told CNN.

"I think the New Museum was interested in us because we've distributed news and interviews via our own method, via oral history but doing it with the aid of digital technology," he added.

There may be a question mark over the future of newsprint, but the existence of organizations like StoryCorps suggests a timeless desire to keep questioning and recoding events as they unfold.

"At its core," said museum director Richard Flood in in the Fall/Winter edition of the New Museum Paper, "'The Last Newspaper' is about people and their need to communicate.

"If that need remains intact, then civilization stays alive."