The Broadcast

The Broadcast, 2019, video stills

News headlines and stories dominate our daily lives. We live today in societies oversaturated with public media output, the content of which is often tailored and delivered specifically to each of us through a wide range of technological devices. But with more information also comes more questions. In this era of hypermedia production, whose stories are considered newsworthy? Whose voices are represented? And who do these stories belong to?

Employing the politics of imagination and representation The Broadcast considers how media shapes and even produces our experience of reality. To create this exhibition, Chicago-based artist Kirsten Leenaars embarked on a community-based project with a group of young participants from the greater Lansing area. Organized as a three-week summer camp, the artist and participants considered the interplay of truth and distortion within forms of public address, media, culture, and politics, looking at how these forces impact and shape public perception and opinion.

With The Broadcast  Leenaars also continues her ongoing examination of storytelling, performativity, and documentary in contemporary video. Made in close collaboration with her participants, the featured works explore various vocally expressive platforms—interviews, show-and-tell, even song—that cultivate agency, creativity, and a multiplicity of viewpoints. In doing so, the artist subverts the conventional positioning of documentary as a purportedly impartial mode of representation.

Through playful yet detailed scenography, planned and impromptu actions, and the production of their own media content, the exploration by these US-born, immigrant, and refugee youth unfolds as a multimedia exhibition in the gallery of the MSU Broad Art Lab. Collectively, they relied on their own lived experiences and imaginations to represent the views of young people more broadly, who are largely absent from the stories spun by mainstream media.

The Broadcast is organized by the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University and curated by Steven L. Bridges, Associate Curator, with the guidance and support of the museum’s education team. Support for this exhibition is provided by the Elizabeth Halsted endowment fund.

The Exhibition

Overview Installation, The Broadcast, Broad Art Lab MSU, 2019

As a site for experimentation and community involvement, the presentation of The Broadcast in the MSU Broad Art Lab represents a new chapter in the life of this space. Conceived as a complete work of art, the exhibition is designed and intended to be read as a single work, with many of its elements inspired and co-authored by the project participants. As such, the exhibition is grounded in the local context, but also approaches larger questions around first amendment rights and protected civil liberties in general in the United States today.

 

Through research, discussion, playful yet detailed scenography, planned and impromptu actions, and the production of their own media content, the explorations between the artist and young participants unfold as a multimedia exhibition here in the gallery. Collectively, they relied on their own lived experiences and imaginations to represent the views of young people more broadly, who are largely absent from the stories spun by mainstream media.

 

All artworks produced by Kirsten Leenaars (Dutch, b. 1976), informed by the participants in the project, who deserve special recognition here: Jackson Byiringiro, Seoulena Ferreri, Stephon Edwards, Jayla Edwards, Julian Edwards, Emad Mayazumi, Isabella Croff, Sahlah Muhammed, Niah Cannon, Ethan Compo, Enele Malete, and Zinzile Malete. Special thanks as well to the Lansing Public School District and the College of Communications Arts and Sciences at Michigan State University, including Karl Gude, Brian Kusch, Andrew Acciaioli, and Brooke Striker for their assistance with the project.

 

The artist and MSU Broad would also like to thank production team members Ellie Hall, Orlando Pinder, Tonque Zhao, Mickey Gral, Carly Perkins, Jenny Schrider, Dan Bitney, Alexander Richard Wilson, Li Ming Hu, Todd Mattei, Jacob Fishman (neon) and Alex Inglizian & Experimental Sound Studio, Chicago.

The Production

(Voices, Noises, Melodies)

 

Duration 38:49 min, 2019

During the three week production period of The Broadcast summer camp, the artist and young participants co-authored a number of hypothetical television shows, critically and humorously playing with each format. From news reports to expert panel discussions to confessional TV, the participants move fluidly between their performed and authentic selves. They play the game of “two truths and a lie,” retell each other’s stories, and present in all earnestness the programs they would like to see on TV. Within this, many questions arise: how does what we see on TV reflect or mirror the world and consequently how we see ourselves? Who gets to tell the stories? And who gets to imagine what? The video is comprised of different segments, switching between them as if flipping channels on a television. In this overstimulating space, the different voices, noises, and melodies compete for the viewer’s attention.

I Am for the Truth, No Matter Who Tells It

Duration 3:23 min, 2019

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” 

“I'm for truth, no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it's for or against.”

“The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
—Malcolm X

Through her research and interest in grounding this exhibition in the local context, Kirsten Leenaars became interested in Malcom X as a key reference point for the project. A major force within the civil rights movement, Malcolm X (also known as Malcolm Little) lived in the Lansing area as a youth, where he spent many of his formative years. In 1930, the Little family moved to 705 Logan Street (now Martin Luther King Boulevard), and it is in front of this location that this video was filmed. The young participants who joined artist Kirsten Leenaars in this project recite quotes by Malcolm X, statements that still today ring true with the same sense of urgency and vigilance.

The Production

(“This is Not a Reality TV Show”)

Duration 18:21 min, 2019

In this video, the participants are documented engaging in different forms of protest in and around the MSU campus and the city of Lansing. Reacting in real-time over the course of the three week camp, the protests were conceived and designed as direct responses to events that took place in the summer of 2019, approached through the concerns and lived experiences of the performers. Often feeling that their own voices are not heard or represented, these actions are combined with interviews with the participants in which they reflect on issues in the media and their ideas for the TV shows that they then presented in a segment called “The Pitch” (included in the complementary video on the other side of the double sided projection screen, part of this video installation).

Front Page Challenge 

(Mr. X, I guess I’d call you that)

Duration 3:56 min, 2019

This video combines found footage along with newly recorded material, woven together by the artist. In 1965 Malcom X took part in a Canadian current affairs televised gameshow, titled Front Page Challenge. The host of the show was famed Canadian broadcaster Fred Davis, and Malcolm X was quizzed by a panel comprised of Pierre Berton, Betty Kennedy, Charles Templeton, and Gordon Sinclair Jr. In it, current events and news stories are presented, which the panelists attempt to decipher in order to name the mystery guest behind them (in this case, Malcolm X). This use of a gameshow format to engage questions around truth, current social and political realities, and public perception, is something Leenaars and the participants in The Broadcast adapt to their own ends in another video on display in the adjacent gallery at the Broad Museum of Art, MSU Art Lab in East Lansing.