Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga

Interview

The idea for Breaking News came from my being with my young nieces and seeing how they were experiencing and perceiving the news. I realized that I wanted to investigate how children digested the news and at the same time create a media literacy workshop that gave young people some tools to better understand how the news was being delivered and sold to the consumer. I focused on the newspaper in the workshop, as opposed to television or other news formats, because the newspaper gave young kids a medium that they could look at, cut out, and paste. Using a local Buffalo newspaper, we looked at and talked about what was above the below the fold, the different styles of typefaces, and how a title might be written to make something more spectacular and seduce a potential customer to purchase the news. We also looked at lots of different images and then took the construction of the article and captions and picked it all apart. After deconstructing the articles, we made montages from all of the cut-up pieces and retold the stories.

 

It’s hard to tell how much the kid’s perception of the news changed from having been in the workshop because they were fairly quiet at the start and it took a lot of talking to get them started. It may be hopeful thinking, but based on the conversation through the length of the workshop, and mind you it was only about 4 hours, the kids did clearly understand what makes some new stories more news worthy than others. They appeared to understand the concept of sensationalism and that negative news is more likely to stir interest than positive news.  And as it seems with most kids, they appeared annoyed at that reality in particular - that stories involving death, crime and drugs are better news material than positive stories.  Some of them recognized this from the start, but these kids are from lower income families and growing up in dangerous neighborhoods.  Several of the participants also definitely filtered their parent's conversations about the news. On a technical level they definitely understood the structure of the news and that some stories are considered more important and therefore are above the fold.

 

My main desire with the work that I do is for it to have some relevance outside of me rather than just me exercising some creative energy. I have always felt very strongly that for art to matter its need to be socially relevant and exist outside of the gallery and museum amongst people at large. It needs to be publicly accessible and not just to a tiny elite audience.

 

One of the things that I have always disliked about the way that art is looked at in Western Society is that is it within the scope of the marketplace, art festivals, and the prestige of the collection that the work is in. What is the price? What is the value? Who is the collector? Is the artist represented? Is it in a blue chip gallery? This is how the function of art is put forth to young artists at the college and graduate level and even, in some cases, at the high school level. Students are taught that art is associated to the market place and that is one of the things that I have never liked.

 

My end product - the thing that I want out of my work - really depends on the project itself, but I do want it to be relevant to some people and ideally, non art-world people.  Generally, I do not feel all that comfortable within confines of the art world. That is why when I get an invitation to do a project I seek to produce a workshop where I can interact with other people as a part of the mode of production to realize the work. I try to have fun with people, and the work, while they are deconstructing an issue or issues that they might not otherwise think about. When there is a studio available, I absolutely love the time to be in the studio. To focus, reflect and make art, but I do not want the work to be about myself. I don’t want it to only be about how well it is crafted. I want it to have lots of different dimensions and one of the most important ones is the social interaction. I just want it to have some relevance with the world at large.

 

From conversations with Janeil Engelstad in July 2010 and July 2011