In a second floor gallery at San Francisco’s Minnesota Street Project, the trappings of a newspaper’s photo department spread themselves across the polished concrete floor in a strange mix of outmoded and modern-day technologies. Heavy wooden desks supporting laptops sit alongside a filing cabinet labelled “MORGUE.” Printed images crowd for floor space next to a paper shredder, while three clocks set to different locations (one always set to the central San Fernando Valley city of Van Nuys) oversee the room’s activity.
This is Fake Newsroom, an ever-evolving installation of photographs culled from the Associated Press, organized into categories, and published daily both online and in good old paper form.
Fake Newsroom is a re-enactment of and elaboration on Newsroom, a 1983 exhibition at the Berkeley Art Museum by photographers and frequent collaborators Mike Mandel and Larry Sultan, who died in 2009. In the BAM gallery space, they installed electronic news and wirephoto machines from AP and United Press International, and, playing the parts of news editors, selected material for new installations twice a week.
A floor-to-ceiling wall vinyl currently installed at Minnesota Street Project shows Sultan behind a desk, Mandel perched on the edge of one in the midst of their Newsroom installation. Both look serious while holding sheets of paper. To their right hangs one of their selections: a giant silver gelatin print of John Glenn at a podium, the eyes of the man behind him glowing eerily in the camera’s flash.
If Sultan and Mandel’s names sound familiar, it could be because of the recently opened Larry Sultan retrospective or the forthcoming Mike Mandel one (both at SFMOMA). Perhaps it’s Casemore Kirkeby’s exhibition of Sultan’s editorial photographs, or the display of the pair’s billboard projects in the gallery adjacent to Fake Newsroom. Take your pick; some have dubbed this “Sultan Spring.”