There's a Newspaper Being Made, Right Now, in a Museum There's a Newspaper Being Made, Right Now, in a Museum
There's newspaper currently plastering the windows at the New Museum in New York City, but it's not papering over the preparations for an upcoming show—it's actually part of the exhibition inside. A new publication called the New City Reader is being produced as part of a show called The Last Newspaper, an exhibition that focuses on the way that artists interpret and remix the news. And an editorial team consisting of Joseph Grima, Kazys Varnelis, and Alan Rapp are working as artists-in-residence—or maybe journalists-in-residence?—inside the museum, to produce this weekly newspaper about public space.
Creative use of newspaper is actually seeing a renaissance—I wrote a piece last year about the efforts of groups like the Newspaper Club that are trying to reactivate the traditional medium. But despite the ominous name of the exhibition, the purpose of the New City Reader is not bemoaning the death of print, says Rapp. "The main ideas that Joseph Grima and Kazys Varnelis wanted to explore with this project are the intersections of urban space, public space, and information space," he says. "The newspaper traditionally has been where the city meets information flows, and papers both projected a city's identity out to the world and held a mirror up to its citizenry."
So each week, a different section of a traditional paper becomes an entire issue in itself, with everything from editorial meetings to graphic design (by Neil Donnelly and Chris Rypkema) to production to even some interviews happening within an "installation" at the museum. The first issue, focused on City, looked at urbanism through the frame of New York's 1977 blackout, which left the city reeling from riots and vandalism. The Sports section was just published as baseball season ended, with an examination of how sport shapes a city, and the way cultures interpret sport-related information. Right now Rapp and his team is hard at work on the Leisure section, where he's awaiting a particularly interesting assignment from a freelancer, he says. "Apparently they convinced a number of significant architects to open up their refrigerators and take a picture."
While New City Reader is a way to show how information can be produced, it's also an experiment in how it can be disseminated. Back in 19th century New York, says Rapp, newspapers were posted publicly, a practice that's still seen in many parts of the world. "We also wanted to revive the idea of the newspaper as a poster, or broadside—a document that is posted in public space for a collective reading experience, not just solitary reading in private." In a sense, they've activated the exterior of the museum by turning it into a cross between a well-written design blog and a well-curated bulletin board.
Those who are intrigued enough to enter the museum itself will be rewarded with this hybrid of journalism and performance art: watching the editorial team heads-down, hard at work. "Anyone is welcome to talk to us, and we end up explaining the project to all sorts of people from around the world, which is usually a very good experience," says Rapp. "It at least changes the traditional dynamic of the museum, which is still such a highly controlled space. But most people don't really know whether they are allowed to talk to us, and we get puzzled looks."
You can zoom in over at NewCityReader.net and read the last three issues. Or, if you're in New York, you can see the most recent issue across the museum or on front of the Storefront for Art and Architecture. Or stop by the museum to grab your hard copy and see the team at work, where you'll be rewarded by one of the most interactive experiences of the project: a Hermes Rocket typewriter where visitors can peck out letters to the editor, some of which will find their way into future issues. "People write some pretty funny stuff," says Rapp. "Though hardly anybody knows how to hit a strong manual keystroke, and even though the machine is in bad need of a new ribbon, for whatever reason, people love the typewriter."
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