From 7 January, Aleksandra Mir presents the Pre-Presidential Library in Hayward Gallery’s HENI Project Space. In this free exhibition, Mir displays for the first time a selection from her collection of NYC tabloid covers compiled during research into the news media archives of the New York Public Library, covering the 15 year period between 1986 and 2000.
In this exhibition Mir presents a selection of 32 of the 87 covers she found with headlines relating to Donald Trump, which have been photocopied from microfiche and enlarged to almost two metres high. The covers are dominated by stories about Trump’s business dealings, political aspirations or personal life, while world news, such as the possibility of nuclear war with the Soviet Union, are often given a tiny fraction of this space. Also notable is a headline from 1999 reporting Trump’s intention to run as Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party. Significant in its absence from the covers is the AIDS crisis, which claimed the lives of over 75,000 New Yorkers during this period, but made the headlines just 13 times.
Mir’s exhibition enables a close examination of a sample of tabloid covers and provides an opportunity to reflect on this relationship between value and attention which is so key to the production and circulation of news. The influence that this has on the formation of shared ideas, beliefs and attitudes is particularly relevant to today’s debate around ‘fake news’ and their socio-political effects. Via the medium of microfiche, which was once the gold standard for archival storage of news, Mir has captured this most ephemeral form of printed matter to enable a closer look at collective memories that have already been largely superseded.
This exhibition represents part of a larger collection, which was compiled by the artist in 2007 when she reviewed around 10,000 covers – the combined output of New York City’s two leading tabloids, New York Daily News and New York Post, over the course of fifteen years. Mir featured some of this material in her acclaimed 2007 exhibition, Newsroom, at Mary Boone Gallery in New York, where she and a team of assistants spent the duration of the exhibition producing a series of large format Sharpie drawings from a selection of the covers, live in the gallery.
Covering the years leading up to the turn of the Millenium and the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, Mir’s research focuses on a period before the predominance of 24 hour news, when the internet was not yet the primary means by which news was circulated and consumed, and in which headlines seem to function almost as proto-tweets. The exhibition allows us to reflect on the historical significance of tabloid print media and its distribution in public space. The New York tabloids, with their mass readerships and localised circulations, spread the city’s gossip but also formed its identity.
In stark contrast, Presidential Libraries are monumental and often spectacular buildings which hold the archives of a President and their administration, preserving documents and artifacts and making them accessible to the public for discussion and analysis. In designating her archive a ‘Pre-Presidential Library’ Mir proposes tabloid news covers as official documents and raises important questions about truth and value in the circulation of ideas and facts. With Aleksandra Mir Presents the Pre-Presidential Library, Hayward Gallery hosts the inaugural version of an open source project that – as the artist puts it – ‘anyone, anywhere’ can research, host or develop.