News Is A Hot-Dog Stand

November 5, 2008

Artist Charlotte Andrew modelled her C’art gallery on an old hot-dog stand she had shipped over from the States.

But instead of the usual (undeniably tantalising) buns, stuffed with emulsified pig intestines, fried onions and garnished with unnaturally bright yellow mustard, she sells conversation and creativity.

Charlotte muscles her way to her chosen destination with her C’art using National Rail and pure grit, and sets up shop, inviting passers-by to grab a piece of paper and paint, ink, draw or colour a picture. Then they exchange their picture with one that somebody else has left displayed.

The pictures they took home
The pictures they took home

When I had a go, I found it surprisingly difficult. I don’t think I’m alone when I look back to the last outing of my now scattered colouring pencils as a distant memory from primary school.

It made me sit still and really look at my surroundings, and after the initial awkward few minutes I quickly became absorbed with getting right the shape of a goldfish in a beautiful little garden just off Leicester Square – a seemingly impossible task considering they absolutely never stay still!

Charlotte’s creative instincts were rewarded by people’s enthusiasm. A few graphic designers who worked in Soho returned almost every day the gallery was open, loving the opportunity of a creative outlet and like-minded people to chat to.

People’s generosity also shone through. An eight-year-old returned with a new set of pencils for the C’art while she was doing a show at the Liverpool Biennial.

In part for survival and in part because of technology increasingly available to them, journalists too are beginning to appreciate the immediacy of capturing people’s attention using different mediums.

London

Psycogeography is an interesting concept which has been called upon by journalists and artists alike. It encourages the study of human emotions and behaviour to support inventive tactics exploring anything which excites people enough to stray from their predictable paths.

Charlotte’s C’art is a good example of using different kinds of multimedia to achieve just that. She has documented through photographs and video people of all ages – from five-year-olds to 90-year-olds – interacting with their city and other people through pictures, to create…what?

Twins in Londondscn29701

As the saying goes: ‘people is news’. Listening to voxpops on websites like Murmur demonstrates how individuals are far more likely to respond to cities they grew up in or have strong links to. People attach significance to the cinema where they had their first kiss or the bench the local drunk always sat; a sense of nostalgia surrounding places and people inspire responses which journalists can learn to harness.

Dan Meadows, a fantastically charismatic guy who gave an Online Journalism lecture at Cardiff University last week, helped to set up BBC Capture Wales. This project promotes the mantra ‘everybody has a story to tell’ and provides multimedia tools through which people can tell their own stories.

What Dan, Charlotte and increasingly, journalists, are trying to do, is to use the medium ‘as the message’. That is, to involve people using film, photography, pictures, the Internet, and so on, so they can see news (or art) as something which is relevant to them and their lives.

Words and images often carry great weight and are loaded with meaning, particularly when they are used together. The strength of feeling conjured up through nostalgia is a powerful tool that can be used by the media, but should be done so responsibly.

An extreme but poignant example: Irish Republican newspapers published pictures of Bobby Sands, a republican who died in prison after going on huger strike, which specifically conjured up embedded memories of folk law, religion, and symbolic iconology. This manipulated already heightened emotions and tensions and arguably led to many more deaths during the Troubles in Belfast. (For more info click here).

Journalists can use multimedia as an effective way to reach their reader, but they should be aware of the power of doing so.

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