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Interview with Headlines Curator Riva Symko

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Riva Symko, curator and WAG’s head of collections and curator of Canadian Art. Winnipeg Art Gallery staff work on installing a new exhibition, Headlines: The Art of the News Cycle, that will be unveiled on Dec. 3 about the Winnipeg Free Press and its 150 year anniversary. See Alan Small story 221124 – Thursday, November 24, 2022.

The Winnipeg Free Press is, in a word, singular. For 150 years, the Free Press has remained a staunchly independent news source and now, in celebration of this historic anniversary, WAG-Qaumajuq is hosting Headlines: The Art of the News Cycle, an exhibition exploring the news and how we consume it.

While the show is inspired by the 150th anniversary of the Winnipeg Free Press, Riva Symko, Head of Collections & Exhibitions and Curator of Canadian Art at WAG-Qaumajuq, cast a wider net as she began thinking about how to curate a critical exhibition. “Rather than starting with the history of the Free Press, I started with the idea of news itself, news media in the 21st century, right now – and what are artists thinking about in relation to this?” says Symko. “I looked to artists first.”

As it turns out, artists have been thinking about text and journalism for a very long time. The exhibition draws on these critical ideas, which include artworks made from the news and newsprint, as well as works that explore headlines and obituaries and, of course, fake news. These hallmarks of news media, some with long histories and others with recent origins, began to inform Symko’s approach.

Within this context, Symko began looking at the WFP and its history and mission. “The more I started reading about the Free Press, the more I saw it as pretty unique, and that alone is worth putting it into the conversation,” says Symko. “It’s one of the only remaining independent papers of its circulation in North America, if not THE only remaining.”

For Symko, Headlines: The Art of the News Cycle taps into something essential. As news media has an ever-increasing impact on the way that communities talk about the world, the lines between the media, the community, and the individual are becoming blurred.

“We can’t help but think about these things when we are consuming news media through our personalized social media platforms every day. Consciously or unconsciously, we are now choosing which news we’re going to follow, and which we are going to ignore – the news outlets we choose to consume act as both a mirror in which we see ourselves reflected, as well as a means by which we project our views to the world.”

Headlines will further contextualize the art on display with exhibition design that mimics a newsroom. “I have plans to pipe in 24-hour news stations – I’m hoping that it will feel in some ways like a newsroom, without looking exactly like a newsroom.”

Headlines opens to the public December 2.


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