In a world where we are continually blasted with information and news demanding our attention with traditional newspapers, film and television now augmented with a myriad of social media platforms and blogs via twitter, instagram, facebook and the like, it becomes more and more difficult to discern what is true and what is manipulated in the news that we receive, especially it often contradictory. Will Brexit make Britain great again, or will we all be much poorer as a result?
‘Fake News’ has become the cry for what is embarrassing, not necessarily false. How much manipulation of social media has affected the course of recent history, whether in elections or referendums? For me, the finalist in the Turner Prize at Tate Britain that had the most impact was Forensic Architecture’s ‘The Long Duration of a Split Second’ with the its accompanying exhibition that set the video in context, relating to events in southern Israel on the 18th of January 2017 when hundreds of Israeli policemen raided a Bedouin town in order to demolish the houses and, in the course of the raid, in a split second, one of the inhabitants and a police inspector were shot, possibly un-necessarily.
Dara Birnbaum’s installations at the Marian Goodman Gallery have added impact as they reinforce the experience as they engage the viewer in the murky world of communications and political news reporting and how it is censored and manipulated to distort and hide the truth.
In the main ground floor gallery space, sections of a transmission tower soar up in front of you with 1980′s footage of Allen Ginsberg reciting his anti-war poem ‘Hum Bom’ and of George H W Bush giving his presidential nomination address running down the video screens like the arc of a falling bomb, while, in contrast, footage of a 1988 National Student Convention seeking to prevent Bush’s re-election runs up the tower – two different forces running in different directions. Alongside, different news clippings of the student protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989 are shown on differently sized monitors that connect with each other and the viewer, reflecting on the censorship imposed by the Chinese Government in reports of the protest and subsequent events, while a series of firing range targets in front of monitors showing the kidnapping and murder of Hanns Martin Schleyer by the Baader-Meinhof Group in Germany in 1977 are positioned so that when the viewer has them perfectly aligned, he or she then becomes the target.
In other rooms are graphic works relating to the Student Protests in Paris in May 1968, reminding us that people can achieve change, something the French have never forgotten and highly relevant today with current events in that city, and images and text taken from popular crime dramas in the 1970′s showing how the clever angle shots and dialogue can raise the atmosphere and sense of drama in such films, something which politicians today have also learnt to do.
The Turner Prize is awarded to a British artist, so American artist Dara Birnbaum (whose work perhaps reflects her studies in both architecture and fine art) would not be eligible for it, as she would be a worthy contender, with her work showing how the installation itself can enhance the viewer’s experience and the impact of the meaning behind the works, achieved in a relatively short visit rather than sitting through four and a half hours of film at the Turner Prize in Tate Britain.