As we debate Facebook’s responsibility for spreading fake news in a “post-truth” world and actual journalism continues to be woefully undervalued, it’s hard to imagine a more appropriate time for the exhibition of photographs and videos currently showing at the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Breaking News: Turning the Lens on Mass Media,” which is on display through April 30, considers how artists have used, responded to and critiqued media and journalism in their work.
Among the 17 artists whose work is featured in the exhibition is Donald Blumberg, who photographed politicians as they appeared on the evening news in the late 1960s, and re-photographed images on newspaper pages for two years during the Vietnam War, scrutinizing the way the media represented the conflict. Omer Fast used CNN footage to consider how cable news networks manipulate words and images to influence audiences. Alfredo Jaar photographed the cover of Newsweek for 17 weeks during the genocide in Rwanda. Catherine Opie photographed her television screen with a Polaroid camera during 2004 and 2005, while the Iraq war unfolded and Hurricane Katrina drowned the Gulf Coast. Other artists in the show include John Baldessari, Dara Birnbaum and Dan Graham, Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Sarah Charlesworth, Robert Heinecken, Ron Jude, David Lamelas and Hildegarde Duane, Masao Mochizuki, Antoni Muntadas and Martha Rosler.
“Breaking News” offers viewers a chance to understand how artists have reflected on the use of imagery in journalism since the rise of mass-media, and perhaps to consider how art might help us understand the role of journalism in contemporary society. —Conor Risch