Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Culture: Questioning the Truth; Newspapers and Advertising Are under the Spotlight in the Latest Exhibitions at Baltic, as David Whetstone Reports

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Culture: Questioning the Truth; Newspapers and Advertising Are under the Spotlight in the Latest Exhibitions at Baltic, as David Whetstone Reports

Article excerpt

Byline: David Whetstone reports

ANYONE fully wired to the modern world will be under constant info bombardment. People are trying to tell us stuff, sell us stuff, influence our thoughts, our choices, our emotions.

Sometimes we might not be aware it is happening.

George Orwell would have understood. But even the inventor of Big Brother had his own particular 'take' on matters. Who can we trust to tell us the truth?

This is a question that bothers Barthelemy Toguo, a Cameroon-born artist now based in Paris.

Heart Beat, his installation at Baltic and his first solo show in the UK, focuses, the gallery tells us, "on the use, abuse and excess of information in the era of global exchange".

In the fluster of applying the finishing touches to his installation, Barthelemy explained why the walls of the Ground Floor exhibition space are lined with pages from a reputable newspaper with the words blacked out and only the photographs remaining.

"I think they don't tell true things," he said in passionate but less-then-perfect English.

"In newspapers they don't say what's happening really. With this project I got students (from Northumbria University) to censor the newspapers. We just left the pictures because that's a universal language that all people can understand."

Transparent globes, each representing a continent, hang from the ceiling. The artist explained that they were meant to indicate the speed with which one side of the world gets to know what's happening on the other.

There is no doubting Barthelemy's ability to charm or persuade. In a performance element of his Baltic residency, he handed postcards to Gateshead people and asked them to write their views on the Iraq war before returning them to him. "They should give back the words to the people," he said, "they" being governments and media organisations.

With the supposed democracy of the internet and the vulnerability of photography to digital manipulation, Barthelemy Toguo's installation has the feel of a work that has missed the boat.

Then again, you are reading this in a newspaper and it could be wrong.

The CutUp Collective do collages and clever stuff with photos. I bet they wouldn't pretend photography tells the whole truth, but since they prefer to remain anonymous, I didn't ask.

Their work is displayed in the long, low-ceilinged entrance to Baltic which is now an exhibition space called The Street.

There are collages made up of pixel-like rectangles and one striking image drawn with holes punched in an expanse of board over a light box.

Up close the collages are fuzzy and indistinct, and you can't stand back far enough to pull them into sharp focus. But apparently if you photograph the works with a mobile phone they will appear clearly defined. …

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