While reading a summer 1989 issue of Macleans magazine, Bruce saw a photograph of CTV
news anchorman Lloyd Robertson in an advertisement for the show. The headline read: "Reliable Source."
Reliable Source, original ad
Reliable Source, 1989;
artist Bruce Johnson
Bruce had been photographing images of anchor people from several locally broadcast news shows. His interest in the image of anchor people as icons had to do with their central role in the packaging of the news. They act as a medium, through whom information flows. Bruce had observed that no matter what the content, there was a consistently smooth presentation of the news. The Reliable Source anchorman is constructed from hundreds of pieces of colour photographs of images shot from the televsion screen, a mosaic-like colour replica of this advertisement. The reference to Byzantine mosaic seemed apt. It didn't seem too far fetched to make a connection to the disciple or follower, set with the task of conveying the "Word" to the "People."
Reliable Source, 1989, detail. Artist Bruce Johnson
Bruce began taking images off the television screen about four years ago. Content, at the time,
was not an issue. He saw it providing him with a ready source of images and it is these, cut up, that make up the work in the exhibition. It was through looking at the still pictures he had made that he began to see the irony that isn't so apparent as the images whip by on the television screen. He was also struck by the surreal effect of juxtaposing images - a Coke commercial and someone being shot. It seemed like there was no big difference. Once frozen, the images were ironic and suggested new meanings. First it was a question of identity: sexual, national and economic. From the images, he shuffled and edited, making new narratives - two images from Westerns are positioned on either side of the 10 centrally placed text/image, "You Know How it Ends."
Bruce is most concerned with focussing on the fact that the news relies on visual icons, that
television news places all information within an entertainment format, and that TV news is promoted as though it were both objective and true. The image became his source, a sort of paint by numbers map on which to build an icon.
[Excerpted from Fact or Fiction exhibition catalogue, curated by Cathy Busby, 1990]