Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Paradise Institute at the Corcoran

By Katie Tuss

Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s highly lauded installation The Paradise Institute has returned to the Corcoran Gallery of Art to join other ground-breaking modern and contemporary works of art as part of the Corcoran’s museum-wide exhibition redefined: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Collection.

On the outside The Paradise Institute is little more than a shed with stairs, but inside the set up is far from plebeian. Upon entering, the maximum audience of sixteen people has a choice of the first or second row in a balcony of a perfectly modeled, technically astounding miniature theater. Cardiff and Miller succeeded in fitting a full-scale classic movie house, complete with architectural molding, red velveteen seats, and a big screen into a one-room gallery space. But the illusion has only just begun.

Viewers don headphones and a thirteen minute film noir mystery starts rolling. Within ten seconds of starting, a latecomer scoots noisily along the back aisle. This disturbance is followed by a couple’s unsolicited commentary, popcorn crunching, and a requisite cell phone ring shrill in your left ear.

As the movie unfolds, the plot grows murkier and the separation between the action on the screen and the activities of the audience blurs. The rankling sense of inescapable narrative immersion is more palpable than the dark story told by the film projector.

For those who have experienced any of Cardiff’s acclaimed sound walks, including Words Drawn in Water, which was commissioned by the Hirshhorn Museum last fall, the female whisper in your ear may sound familiar. But it may also feel distinctly different. Both use binaural audio soundtracks to capture the texture of surround sound. Whereas Words Drawn in Water seemed to be an intimate stroll amongst friends, The Paradise Institute is an unnatural, sometimes disconcerting expansion of the viewer’s understanding of narrative.

Cardiff and Miller are married and work both independently and as a team. Their multimedia pieces are internationally recognized, but none more highly than The Paradise Institute, which rightly won the prestigious Benesse Prize at the 2001 Venice Biennale.

The Corcoran Gallery of Art is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm, and until 9:00 pm on Thursdays. The Paradise Institute every half hour daily, starting at 10:30 am with the last viewing beginning at 4:30 pm and at 8:30 pm on Thursday nights.

Washington Post reorganizes

Memo from Leonard Downie, Jr., the WaPo's executive editor:

Phil and I met yesterday with the newsroom's senior editors to discuss proposals and make decisions as we continue to transform our newsroom, the newspaper and our relationship with We have much more to do to maximize readership of the printed newspaper, build audience on the Web site and further reduce costs in the newsroom.

As you have noticed from developments at other newspapers, readership and economic challenges remain daunting. Our goal is to be the one newsroom that does this right. We must produce high quality, compelling journalism and carry out our public service mission while adjusting our cost structure to shifting advertising revenues.

We are not just cutting costs. We believe that everything we are doing will make the newspaper stronger and increase readership of the printed paper and

We are re-directing newsroom staff and resources to our highest priority journalism in print and on the Web. In form, our priorities include original reporting, scoops, analysis, investigations and criticism. In content, they include politics, government accountability, economic policy and what our readers need to know about the world plus local government, schools, transportation, public safety, development, immigrant communities, health care, sports, arts and entertainment.

We are moving reporters and editors within and among staffs to accomplish this. In particular, we are moving a number of reporters from general assignment positions to more specific assignments and beats. We also are centralizing reporting and editing of some core subjects across staff lines. Metro now has responsibility for all education coverage. We will build on the model of Sandy Sugawara's cross-staff coordination of immigration coverage to do something similar for that and other core subjects. This may lead to the movement of more reporters and editors around the newsroom.

In the process, we will continue to shrink the newsroom staff through attrition, as low-priority positions become vacant. We also are tightening up the paper's news hole, beginning with the reconfiguration of the financial market tables in today's Business section, which saves two pages of newsprint each day. Other newshole reductions will be scattered throughout the newspaper, so readers will not lose significant content.

We are continuing to renovate sections of the paper to make them more attractive to readers. The re-launches of the Health, Food and Home sections are scheduled for early next year. Work is also well underway on creating a new Style and Arts section in the Sunday paper. The revamped Outlook section is an example of the improvements we are seeking.

We will make more progress in presenting our coverage more effectively in news sections. We will take a new approach to story length, which remains an important challenge, despite the progress already made in some parts of the paper. We will soon publish story length guidelines for the staff, along with ways to adhere to them. Our goal is for the newspaper to be filled with stories of different sizes and forms, and to provide both reporters and editors the tools to better edit for length. Our philosophy will be that every story must earn its length, so readers will want to read and finish more stories.

As part of this approach, we will better coordinate the preparation of related stories, photographs and graphical elements, and the design of pages on which they will appear. Visual journalism will be given still more importance in the printed paper.

We also are working on ways to expand and increase the impact of our journalism on The re-launches of Health, Food and Home will be accompanied by the launch of a related section of the Web site. Our plans for coverage of the two-year 2008 campaign, which is beginning now, will include both re-direction of newsroom resources for expanded political coverage in the printed newspaper and significant initiatives on In her new role as editor of, Liz Spayd will help us think first about the Web site for all of our best journalism.

The senior editors will meet again early next month to take more steps to re-direct resources to provide high quality journalism on key strategic subjects that matter most in print and stand out on the Web. We will have another newsroom staff meeting on Thursday, December 14 to tell you more about what we are doing and answer your questions.

This remains a challenging time, but also one of great opportunity, the opportunity to transform journalism for a new era in The Washington Post and on Even as we reduce newsroom staff and costs, we will have amply sufficient staff and talent to make this transformation.

It is the most important change that I will lead as executive editor. It reminds me of my early days in the newsroom, when Ben Bradlee began boldly transforming the paper during the 1960s and 1970s. The newsroom was well less than half the size it is now, and we were underdogs. But we found our edge, produced original journalism and had fun creating The Washington Post all of you joined. Now, we're taking the next step.
I'm excited about the re-invention of the Arts section, and as far as the online version of the paper, I wish Liz Spayd and Downie would read this.