10 Min, Dv video. 2008

Dead Time (on Newsreel)
Suhail Malik

Published in catalogue Who Wants to Act Now, or Even See Acting, Depo Istanbul, 2010.

Television news is full of all kinds of urgency and imperative: the urgency of what needs to be told, the urgency of the limited time frame in which the most important global and local developments are to be summarized and reported, the urgency of the delivery itself. In many ways, television news just is the urgency of its own delivery – that it is, precisely, news. News becomes a style, shaping what it presents according to the velocities, pulses and pressures that convey a nowness, a ‘live’ that acts reflexively in comforting us that what is live is indeed of interest, that we are to be beholden to (the) live now. It is the news, frequently more so than anything reported in it. Old news, dead news, is no news at all.

Composed from out-takes and off-camera footage from a leading Swedish news programme, Emanuel Almborg’s “Newsreel’ presents a negative mirror of this super-abundant time and delivery, of this always full, necessarily interesting, live time and delivery. Bracketed by a theme tune based on the pulse of a ticking clock and the portentous countdown that it inevitably heralds – a signal dictating that decisions need to be made, that we are out of time even before the programme begins, that things are coming to a crunch – Almborg presents the obverse face of the hurried expression of the day’s digest (literally so since it is not action but remote faces that are front and centre in this remainder footage).

What is seen there is anticipation, boredom, thousand-yard-stares, thought, patience, self-preparation, nervousness, pre-occupation (perhaps with the director’s voice channeled through the newsreaders’ ear-pieces), relief – like videogame characters churning through the minor range of quasi-active movements they are programmed to repeat while waiting for their next instruction, for the new bolt of information. And it is not only the silence and readiness of the news anchors that is brought into view but also the listless camera shots, pointing down, up, sideways, wild pans from presentation point to point, their steady holding onto nothing much at all happening, or on some semi-random details of the set. All of which are the underside, what remains – must remain – unexposed if the news is to be delivered with full authority. The extranaeous footage exposes not only the anchors’ banality when removed of the command of their message, but also that the real-time live is in fact saturated and cloaked in a preparatory, self-conscious time of silence and withdrawal.

Presented, the invisible preparation and dead time that structures the ‘live’ urgency of news exposes that the urgency of the live, the indefatigable demand of news on our attention, is filled with inattention and a dead time, a pensive-idle moment poised on the edge of its delivery to the now.