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Counternarratives installation examines bias in the news media
The Brooklyn-based artist urges viewers to think critically about the circulation and consumption of news and the patterns and politics of the narratives presented.

OBERLIN, OH.- Artist Alexandra Bell brings her Counternarratives project to the Oberlin College campus.

Since 2016, Bell has been utilizing walls in public locations to mount photo-based works that call attention to how issues around race and violence are reported, either subtly or explicitly, in the New York Times. Her diptychs and triptychs place blown-up pages from the newspaper side by side with alternate versions of the same stories—presented with her redactions, or changes to the text and layout of the original page. Bell’s dissection of news coverage, ranging from police violence to athletic competition, reveals biases and assumptions about race, gender, and power. The Brooklyn-based artist, who holds a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, urges viewers to think critically about the circulation and consumption of news and the patterns and politics of the narratives presented.

Bell’s 2017 work, A Teenager With Promise, has been installed on the façade of the Seeley G. Mudd Center (which houses the recently named Terrell Main Library), 148 W. College St., Oberlin. The work responds to the reporting of the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri.

A second work, Charlottesville, has been mounted on the Venturi Art Building, which conjoins the Allen Memorial Art Museum and the Oberlin College Department of Art, at 87 N. Main St., Oberlin. This diptych deconstructs a front-page New York Times report on an August 2017 march by torch-bearing white nationalists and the counter protests that ensued.

Both installations are on view at the library and art museum through December 21, 2018.

A number of other campuses have hosted Bell’s Counternarratives project, including Bennington College in Vermont, Pomona College in California, and the University of Kansas.

Counternarratives is presented by the Allen Memorial Art Museum and the Oberlin College Libraries in conjunction with Radically Ordinary: Scenes from Black Life in America Since 1968, an exhibition curated by Andrea Gyorody, Ellen Johnson ’33 Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. More than 80 works explore the complexity of black life in the United States in the 50 years since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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