New York

News Room

American Fine Arts. Co.

News Room, 1990, is a three-dimensional sketch of sorts, a prototype conceived by architect Peter Fend, video artist Greg Lehmann, and computer artist George Chaikin, to bring us into an interactive relationship with the news media. Hampered by time and budget problems, the artists nevertheless managed to transform the space into a semblance of a hustling and bustling news room. Dominated by a table piled with newspapers and files of clippings, News Room was designed to encourage viewers to read and discuss the news—to use the gallery as they might a public library. A bank of video monitors broadcast tapes of various news programs and two walls of the gallery were hung with maps of the earth. Each week, different regions and different global issues were cartographically emphasized. During one week of the show, for instance, the most polluted cities of the world were tagged with black and red marks and the world’s rain forests with green marks. Theoretically, in its most evolved (and most well-funded) incarnation, News Room would be able to receive satellite feeds from around the world.

An ambitious concept, News Room simultaneously takes on the greedy and irresponsible news media, a suspicious and mercantile art world, and more indirectly, a double-talking, secretive government. Proposing a nonpartisan, civilian nerve center for the reception of international news, it aims to make us more conscious citizens of the world. Combating the media-induced torpor in which we all live, News Room suggests that we inform ourselves, that we think about the world in different ways, that we make connections between events that we are normally discouraged from making. The American news media is crisis-and trauma-addicted, but all crises and traumas remain disconnected in the media void. As media subjects, our adjustment to the world becomes more and more schizophrenic. News Room offers us another take on the world. The Museum Fodor in Holland sponsored a simultaneous version of this show and the artists involved envision a global network of such news centers. Even if that never happens, the project showed that it is possible to respond creatively, intelligently, and passionately to the media in a collective way.

Catherine Liu