World-renowned artist Olafur Eliasson has published a new conceptual artwork to commemorate World Press Freedom Day, which took place on the 3rd of May. Weltlupe was designed in dialogue with human rights activist Kumi Naidoo, and focuses on the way we create — and consume — news today. Part magnifying glass and part mirror, the instrument confronts our ideas of objectivity and trust at a moment in history where both seem to be in crisis.
While the reader examines a text through a convex lens, he or she is reflected in the concave mirror in which the lens is mounted. With this artwork, Eliasson and Naidoo — who is the former head of Amnesty International and Greenpeace — draw attention to the fact that press freedom is a matter of trusting journalists and news outlets to bring urgent and accurate stories to the world. It is also about trusting the readers, to read, listen, deliberate, and draw conclusions as an active and increasingly influential part of the media landscape.
In a conversation published on the project website, Eliasson shares: “In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re experiencing an acute need for global collaboration and empathy. With hourly updates, health facts, and strategies for curbing the virus being shared across the world, unhindered access to precise information is as critical as ever.”
Emphasizing the particular challenges of our always-on, networked reality, Naidoo adds: “In the past, the reader, the listener, the viewer, were totally passive. But today, access to Social Media has changed this quite considerably and so in that sense I endorse the idea of [them being] co-creators.”
As a tool — poised literally in the hands of the reader — Weltlupe reminds us that information is both a right and a responsibility. And as a piece of art, it asks important questions about the erosion of trust in the media, and how we might repair it in the future.
The full transcript of Eliasson and Naidoo’s conversation can be read here.
Images: Olafur Eliasson, in collaboration with Kumi Naidoo, Weltlupe, 2020.
Commissioned by the BDZV (Bundesverband Digitalpublisher und Zeitungsverleger e.V) on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, 3 May 2020.