Suddenly it’s upon us; Marshall McLuhan’s centennial. Resonance: Looking for Mr. McLuhan demonstrates his timeliness. For anyone trying to make sense of the current media environment, McLuhan’s ideas from the 1960s have become both contemporary and pertinent. We read his words in his several books and hear the sound of his voice as recorded at conferences, business meetings, and on celebrity TV shows. Profusely productive, he wrote about all forms of media, language and speech: the printed word, photographs, the telephone, typewriter, movies, radio, television, computers. Among his plethora of themes, he also addressed the future of the media, and tourism as a “big industry“. He foresaw the technological future and had the prescience in l964 to see that sooner or later we would “transfer our consciousness to the computer world….”[i] This exhibition is inspired by some of his ideas which, 50 years ago, opened the Pandora’s box of a burgeoning yet uncertain mass media society. Yet even McLuhan did not truly anticipate the enormity of the coming changes: the hybridization of diverse media, instantaneous networks, and the transition from print and linear culture to a tactile and non-linear, electronic culture which surrounds us in 2011.
Resonance: Looking for Mr. McLuhan is a selection of works from the l960´s to the present which raise subtle questions about the mediation and proliferation of images and our digital present, including the transition from analog to digital culture.
Works created 50 years ago and those created today have connections with McLuhan´s ideas about the transition from print to electronic culture and the new languages which increasingly supplement writing and print. The world has caught up with his prophecy of an “instantaneous network,” which challenges common ideas about space and time and delivers an explosion of visual culture (which McLuhan could not really see, since he died on New Year´s Eve, l980, just six years before the Internet Protocol was created).
Resonance: Looking for Mr. Mchluan is a brief visit to the vast Planet Marshall. His writing includes many other ideas useful to understanding the current media environment, which made the selection process difficult. Art appears infrequently in his writings, though here and there he saw the artist as a creator of new environments and suggested that changes in the electronic information movement would deeply influence the role of the artist. Even though he was an outsider and not entirely up-to-date on what was happening with art in l960´s (although he had visited Andy Warhol), he also said that interactivity and the hybridization of the media will bring freedom. It took almost twenty years for interactivity and hybridization, or the meeting of two or more media, to arrive in the art world. Yet, when they arrived, the art world and role of the artist had changed forever.
Berta Sichel, curator
[i] Essential McLuhan. Eric McLuhan and Frank Zincrone, ed. (Basic Books, l995), 297