Aleksandra Mir

Newsmaker: Aleksandra Mir

www.artinfo.com, 20 Sept 2007
By Sarah Douglas

NEW YORK - No news is good news, but don't tell that to Aleksandra Mir. The 40-year-old, Polish-born, Sicily-based artist is known for quirkily ambitious, time-consuming artworks that straddle the realms of object and performance, such as her creation (and utilization!), a few years ago, of an umbrella big enough to keep 16 people dry at one time. Her latest project, Newsroom 1986-2000, is no different. Over the next two months (September 15 - October 27), Mir, along with 12 assistants, will transform Mary Boone Gallery into a faux newsroom, complete with spartan, Mir-designed furniture. Over the course of the show, Mir plans to make 200 drawings based on the covers of tabloid newspaper from the late 1980s and '90s. It's a major undertaking, she acknowledges. "I will be using up many thousands of Sharpie markers."

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Sarah Douglas: What inspired you to create "Newsroom?"

Aleksandra Mir: I wanted to tap into the collective consciousness of New York. A very natural gateway for that is the mass media that have created the shared memories of its citizens.

The drawings depict old news. Do you think there is something romantic, or nostalgic, about old news? Does part of that come from these events having occurred before September 11?

I am interested in the relative small-town quaintness of New York before September 11, when the worst news was an attack on a random individual or a local scandal. It may all come across as romantic in retrospect, but the events were real and their effects tangible. And many of the people who experienced and read about them are still around today to remember them, and relate to them.

Did you look at other art that uses newspapers, such as Robert Gober's meticulously recreated stacks of newspapers, or Christian Holstad's partially erased newspaper photos?

I know these pieces, but their objectives are very different from mine. I am interested in self-publishing, ephemera, and other forms of popular distribution, things I have been involved in since I was 11 years old, before I even knew what art was.

You are working from tabloids - the Daily News and the New York Post - and not the city's newspaper of record, the New York Times. Why is that?

The tabloid formats offer more powerful visual sensations, and their headline copy is often poetic. I like to maintain a sensual relationship to my work, which I consider to be conceptual at heart, but visual in mind.

You have written that these newspaper stories "help spread the city's gossip." Do you have a particular interest in gossip? The poet W.H. Auden once said it was his preferred method for getting news...

News is gossip; gossip is news. I only differentiate them by their scale: Mass media reach millions; gossip spreads from person to person. But the effect is the same.

How would you characterize the articles that are most poignant to you?

They have acquired a poetic layer because of how they are treated by graphic designers and copywriters. Or they have developed over time into longer narratives, the outcomes of which could never have been predicted when the news initially broke. Or they follow certain specific New York themes, and feature words like Cops, Hell, or Hero.

Do you believe all the news you read?

Of course. But I get it from many, and often contradictory, sources, which makes things richer and more complex.