|It was early in 1990 that Nelson Mandela was released from jail. He walked from the grounds of Cape Town's Victor Verster Prison into the final hours of a three-year state of emergency and was greeted by ululating masses and a great jostling of international television cameras. A set of that footage would wind its way back to Johannesburg, to the CBS News library in the South African bureau, where it was Barker's job tosource and file material for international reports.|
The pictures that he sorted were harrowing. The country had embarked on a course of volatile multi-party negotiations; the right wing had unleashed a terror campaign, and he would be startled by previously prohibited archive material - of military activity in the townships and decades of police brutality.
For Barker, who had never even owned a television set, CBS brought greater insight into the inner workings of mass electronic media and their complicated modes of commercial production. If the pop in his art was presented from a position of compassion, then what he saw emerging on the videotapes was the real thing - hard product. Human suffering and political drama packaged into inserts for adspend on the international market.
"For the first time I saw the real power of the media," says Barker, "and it was really quite overwhelming."
He decided to hang on to some of the archival footage, certain that he would find a use for it one day.
Wayne Barker: Artist's Monograph