Thursday, June 30, 2011
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Special Guest: Virginia.
The Tweets from this session follow in reverse chronological order:
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Kelvin High School
Neil Young, Musician (did not graduate)
Marshall McLuhan, educator, philosopher and scholar
McLuhan (right), Kelvin Grad June 1928,
in front of 507 Gertrude Avenue, Winnipeg
1928 Kelvin Yearbook, Home Room 36
Friday, June 24, 2011
1. spew of verbi/voco/visual imagery: "dark_matter" (Toronto, Canada)
2. spew of tactile mouth: "Bob" (Maui, Hawaii)
3. spew of mixed corporate-media: "BuzzCoastin" (Beijing, China) http://bobdobbstown.posterous.com
4. spew of tweets and twats: "chipbody" (Auckland, New Zealand) http://twitter.com/#!/chipbody
5. spew of Non-Physical: "iON" (Finn, HCE)
Forensics of the Environmental Hoods:
1. Global Village (1840-1900)
2. Solar Theater (1910-60)
3. Universal Membrane (1970-1990)
4. Mythic Erogenous Zone (1995-2010)
5. Millennial Ecstatics of 5-Bodied Expressions (2011...)
In this Quarterly Report for MuM, we celebrate the fact we have achieved our initial goal of BURYING the provincial aspirations of the McLuhan Centenary participants.
The fulcrum is now positioned for us to leverage the imaginations of the virtual janitors stranded in the vortexes of their archives.-- Bob Dobbs
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Sean Parker [Napster, Facebook, Spotify] : As for Apple’s upcoming iCloud service? Parker just doesn’t get it. ”It’s just not that significant,” he said. “All you really do is you take your music to this cloud and it’s there. I don’t know why anybody would do that. And they charge you for it, which is weird."
A new way to listen to music ? : http://www.spotify.com/
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Special Guests: Paul Farrelly, Scott Taylor, Michael Sheilds
The Tweets from this session follow in reverse chronological order:
MoM NOW: Signing off. MoM is still going strong.
MoM NOW: "Where" is censorship, the form of medium itself as creating the censorship, the user as content (and irrelevance of censorship)
MoM NOW: True Blood (as exploration of vampiric effect of Internet on chemical body)
MoM NOW: The coupland bio of McLuhan, services and disservices of. McLuhan on "the varieties of psychedelic experience"
MoM NOW: the cognitive process as map for history of media (to be found in lit criticism).
MoM NOW: Reading poetry out loud
MoM NOW: The Interior Landscape and writing that produces psychedelic effects.
MoM NOW: The inadequacy of cultural reference points for describing MM (e.g. pre-socratic)
MoM NOW: The stained glass at the end of McLuhan, the trickster and multi-leveled thing doing on with this guy,
MoM NOW: The in-breed and out-breeder, media as new out-breeders...FB using monster medium to in-breed and build own myth
MoM NOW: phases and kinds of information overload, the migration from Facebook, rock'n'roll will never die, p. 190 global village
MoM NOW: 1974..instant replay leads to the addiction to the thrills pattern recognition, and being overwhelmed by pattern
MoM NOW: The mythic as pattern recognition (the copernican revolutions). 1. copernicus, 2. Kant (inner space), 3. pattern recognition
MoM NOW: the archetypal resonance of the interview in the audile-tactile 60s. Gravity's Rainbow (american's Finnegans Wake as Ulysses)
MoM NOW: shaking hands with Warhol, returning to interview as artform, speech as artform (socratic dialogue), interview as retrieval
MoM NOW: Tim interview in 66' (remembered by Leary haters), orgasms and acid trips, Ginsberg, Babas, Ginsberg & McLuhan.
MoM NOW: Leary as alcoholic, his archives just been sold (see NYTimes), Leary's comments on MM's PLayboy interview & artform of interview
MoM NOW: Leary says the problem with MM was he was a radio man -- Tim had limited view of MM. Tim not a reader of McL's books
MoM NOW: Michael knew Leary closely for the last 10 years of his life. TL dies in 90s. declares MM as new Socrates. Tim's media events
MoM NOW: The multiple personalities of Leary. "Hanging out." Leary didn't want to talk theory.
MoM NOW: "Turn on, tune in, and drop out" also inspired post conversation with McLuhan. Tim not big on conversation with people.
MoM NOW: Michael Sheilds reflecting on Tim Leary's encounter(s) with McLuhan. McLuhan advised him to smile whenever on news media
MoM NOW: The O'Driscoll paranoia, now Tim Leary and McLuhan
MoM NOW: McLuhan on the assassination of JFK, Drucker on McLuhan's "prophecy" (1994), squelching the McLuhan revival
MoM NOW: Drucker (the acceptable public figure) as footnote to McLuhan, the scandal of Krammar and his influence.
MoM NOW: "The man who came to listen" (McLuhan and Nevitt getting back at Drucker). Drucker as father of management
MoM NOW: Drucker as figure who was very early exposure to McLuhan, MM and Drucker in NYC (and how he used it)
MoM NOW: Peter Drucker and McLuhan, Adventures of a Bystander, McLuhan, Bucky and FRitz Krammer (sp?), Drucker see's MM in 40s
MoM NOW: The history of the 80s and 90s at St Mics, DdK and the defection from UoT to Italy, and the priests lunch crowd at UoT
MoM NOW: The infiltration of decent societies, the underdogs--Catholics, Irish, The US South. John M. Kelly as McLuhan's spiritual advisor.
MoM NOW: Lanier on the retro/nostalgic impulse in McLuhan, Euripides (?), The Fugs, Ed Sanders, The 100th Monkey, MM as triple agent
MoM NOW: Rim spins around slower spins (formulae for collapse and disintegration), the erosion of the human, Jaron Lanier
MoM NOW: Theall as POB (print orientated bastard)? instant replay (the most metaphysical of technologies according to McLuhan).
MoM NOW: Farley says that McLuhan's work needs genetic analysis, p 614 of FW and Theall's fixation on key phrases, intentional repitition
MoM NOW: The UN's application of the vorticists breakthrough at a global level (cf "Catholic HUmanism and modern letters")
MoM NOW: Culture is our business, Harold Innis + Finnegans Wake, the Vorticists and key to creative process
MoM NOW: media as anesthetics, The people most affected by the atomic bomb is artists (& their egos), cliche ghetoization of creativity
MoM NOW: The citadel of consciousness, the effects of VR, social autism, can media studies operate as medicine? suave newfies,
MoM NOW: The Cray computer purchased by UoT from the CIA, O'Driscoll's take on it, The last night of club 22, O'Driscol has tenure revoked
MoM NOW: Michael Sheilds from LA turns up (former friend of Tim Leary).
MoM NOW: O'Driscol on the meaning of Nato and the Warsaw pack (on route to madness), Nelson Thall, last seen in Toronto running nude in st.
MoM NOW: Ireland and the table of modernism, Farley living the pre-history of digi-culture, celtic consciousness, retrieval of oral trad.
MoM NOW: The word that makes the market is the poetry (not interested in pop culture).
MoM NOW: William Irwin Thompson on McLuhan, Autism vs The Closet Recluse, Howard Hughes, high rise vs ghetto, Hughes is fate of everyone
MoM NOW: Booted from SKYPE, half way through letter from MM to Sidney Halpern, 9 Jan. 1974. McLuhan on Israel and the eschatalogical
MoM NOW: Bob recounts a story of Corrine talking to McLuhan, MM says he should have said more about Jesus, reflecting on old MoM's
MoM NOW: Mdme. Blatavatsky, electrical engineers of electro magnetic spectrum, McLuhan's Catholicism, the roots of the word/sacred
MoM NOW: The eleventh thunder (cyberspace), communicake (-ing), Father Peyton, the mystical body and the internet, the faith to probe
MoM NOW: Great Irish heroes, golf, impishness, the four factors in mass movements, blind spots of the literary person, the RISE of the Net
MoM NOW: ALL-for-a-bit, the devaluation of coinage, TV reportage on TWEETS, talking to an older medium vs human chemical bodies
MoM NOW: Social autism and audience engagement, mediums and audiences, the byzantine formulae of facebook, being h u m a n
MoM NOW: Mobiles and the sense of LANDING vs floating in the older TV landscape. Mobiles and a sense of RE-embodiment, discarnate as figure
MoM NOW: TV and the toy that shrank the nations chest, TV as active medium vs passive medium, the nature of TV, and now mobile
MoM NOW: 10 predicaments and the 10 thunders, the dissolution of universal discourse, reintegration, Eric's 10 thunders
MoM NOW: Mediumship and the radio, spirituality McLuhan and Joyce, FW vs. Aristotle's 10 predicaments, physics, metaphysics.
MoM NOW: McLuhan appears to know that language spoke him, the seance is where they find the ID of HCE, 30s brain-trusts/FDR
MoM NOW: correction: www.fweet.org.
MoM NOW: Theall on techno-poetics and layered discourses of the electric age, the reinvention of Finnegans Wake, Fweett.org (is sans MM)
MoM NOW: McLuhan's appropriations from Joyce, Gutenberg Galaxy as "Road to Finnegans Wake," a translation of Finnegans Wake
MoM NOW: Cultic Twallete, Joyce satirizing AND inventing/establishing, writing Finnegans Wake, the electronic age as discarnate spirit
MoM NOW: "James Joyce and the Invention of Irish History." Satirizing the Yeatsean quest, How Joyce created Irish historical base
MoM NOW: O'Drsicoll thesis on W. B Yeats, spectral memories of the past, The neurotic/psychotic idea that drove O'Driscoll mad
MoM NOW: James Joyce's interest in psychics, see "Dervla." Scott Taylor notes history of psychics in Joyce's family
MoM NOW: McLuhan as the man who is always irritated--he is the enemy. "Look at me as the enemy of society." How much did MM act.
MoM NOW: Havelock at the UoT in late 70s, Julian Jaynes & the origin of the bicameral mind, McLuhan's disinterest in the themes of Havelock
MoM NOW: McLuhan and David Greenberg (the unknown project and the move towards TV projects). The cult of the head. Performance.
MoM NOW: Books as anti-enviornment to the "irish" noise and jocularity in the pub that came to the fore in the 20th century. Strategy
MoM NOW: Telephony and discarnate state of man vs Joyce. wit, restoring the body to speech, Irish debate (and letting lose), bad manners
MoM NOW: Feidler, Kenner and McLuhan...MM subdued at the event. Kenner on Ulysses (on the ball).
MoM NOW: John Barger (sp?), as the lone nut with a grand design theory, Barger was inventing literary geneticism, L. Feildler, MM on panel
MoM NOW: The pre-history of cyber culture, through a Canadian lens.
MoM NOW: Marshall McLuhan and Cohen, The 82 Joyce Conference, Meeting Donald F Theall, The Internet, McLuhan + Joyce (leads to Theall)
MoM NOW: The spatial confluence of theatre and early computing engineering. SPAR brought by vulture capital fund. Robotics. McDonald-Dow
MoM NOW: The Winter of 82', a dark time for Canada, hi-tech success in Canada (and being colony of American empire)
MoM NOW: Farley talking about building the arm for the space shuttle (for NASA), Also ran a theatre company...this is 1982/Regan
MoM NOW: Beckett, Mediums, Paul as playing Joyce in a play
MoM NOW: We need to ask Paul if he every talked with Barry Nevitt. They have a similar matrix of interests: J. Joyce and tele-comp-engineers
MoM NOW: After some technical chaos ... we are back on "track." [This will be challenging for the listeners]
MoM NOW: The asoc. between M. McLuhan and O'Driscoll, and patterns of influence, Joseph Campbell also at conference, costumes by Etrog
MoM NOW: 1977 Feb "Canada and the Celtic Consciousness" conference by O'Driscoll. William Irwin Thompson, monumental conference
MoM NOW: Marshall McLuhan, the medievalists, McLuhan lecture in Dublin, Farley's relation to computer world.
MoM NOW: Ireland in 72', Toronto, Dundas West, Robert O'Driscoll, Abbey Theatre Group in Toronto, [setting the scene]
MoM NOW: We're recording. Paul Farley, Derrick de Kerchove, connected intelligence movement of the 90s
MoM NOW: Is underway! Guests are: Paul Farrelley (sp?), Scott Taylor, Michael Edmunds, Bob Dobbs, Scott Norris etc... Pre-conversation
WARNING: a TWEET deluge of topics and themes in MoMday 17, where we discuss the work of Marshall McLuhan, will follow soon.
MoMday 17 conference dial-in numbers are: USA: +1 760 569 7070. Canada: +1 559546 1500. Access Code: 929710# Other numbers are available.
McLuhan on Maui (2011) MoMday night seminar 17 will be starting in 20 mins (at 7pm NYC time). Details on how to join in: mcluhanonmaui.com
"The recombinant commodity has no (earthly) home, only an electronic sim/porium. A rootless nomad, it wanders restlessly through the liquid circuitry of wired culture. Renouncing its interest in property-relations, it yields fealty only to the empire of speed: the new polity of pure process (economy). Abandoning the tired dialectic of use-value and exchange-value, the recombinant commodity finally discloses itself as a fatal doubling of abuse value: process-abuse for the organic body, and a fatal register of the coming abuse of the standing-reserve of surplus flesh, surplus labor, surplus populations, and surplus states. The recombinant commodity must abandon use-value because the rest position of the referential signifier is death. It must renounce the (alienated) pleasures of exchange-value because recombinant culture occupies the mirrored world of recursive space. Refusing both the alienation of the laboring body in capitalist market exchange and the reification of the fungible body in the promotional phase of the high-intensity market setting, the recombinant commodity works the (fibre optic) vein of the ecstasy of disappearance.
Politically fascistic, culturally a cynic, relationally a sociopath, and psychologically an exponent of object-relations theory, the recombinant commodity is the operating system at the (algorithmic) centre of virtual economy. All the rest is a (computer) *application*: TV channels as abstract vectors of data entry-points into the electronic body; designer fashion as digitally coded applications of technology outreach by promotional culture; model body types (the 'waif look' so fashionably cachet in the 1990s) as bionic constructs straight off the shelf of wired culture; and sudden audience mood shifts as psychological registers of the channeled flows of the media sensorium.
As the operating system of virtual economy, the recombinant commodity functions as a *circulating medium of virtual exchange*. Think of Marx's (virtual) theory of the fetishism of the commodity-form in (re)combination with Talcott Parsons' perceptive, but as yet theoretically unappreciated, analysis of a full-fledged cybernetic system (Virtual America as the world hologram) consisting of dynamic homeostatic exchanges among 'symbolic media of exchange'. Here, the organic body vanishes into its electronic Other as the recombinant commodity works to impose a virtual system of *moral economy* as the new world cybernetic grid. Driven by the dynamic language of the will to virtuality, the cybernetic grid has as its underlying logic the enhancement of (its own) adaptive capacity by the continual redefinition and resequencing of virtual (value) patterns. Virtual debt, virtual populations, virtual labor, virtual money, virtual resources, and virtual wars result. The conquest anew of the disappearing zone of the organic is processed through the violent circulatory system of virtual exchange. Certainly not static, the medium of virtual exchange undergoes accelerated phases of radical expansion and contraction. Its *expansionary* phase comprises the will to virtuality; and its *deflationary* phase is marked by neo-fascist forms of direct action. Neither purely virtual nor essentially fascistic, the circulating medium of virtual exchange *is both, and simultaneously so.*" - Arthur Kroker and Michael A. Weinstein, DATA TRASH: the theory of the virtual class. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994, pp.72-73.
Monday, June 20, 2011
The Vienna in which Peter Drucker grew up had been a cultural and economic crossroads for centuries. It is only in recent years, with the discoveries of "quantum mechanics" and of "interface" as the principal of change and breakthrough, that we have begun to get adequate insights into the meanings of such cultural diversity. For example, the city planners have now recognized that blueprints would have been useless for creating the complex values that Vienna enjoyed and imparted to its citizens.
Among the many unique interfaces of Vienna is its peculiar situation as a "city in the country." One consequence of this feature is that Vienna has long been a kind of "country" itself. It was long the centre of the Holy Roman Empire. The recognition of the "ministate" as a major development in our century is stressed in Drucker's latest work, The Age of Discontinuity :
In 1900 there were fewer than fifty sovereignities in the whole world - twenty in Europe and twenty in the Americas, with the rest of the world having fewer than a dozen. ... Now we have more than one hundred and sixty, with new ministates joining the ranks almost every month.
Drucker implies, without asserting it, that the cause of this rapid decentralization and of the sudden creation of ministries is the speedup of the electric-information environment.
The Vienna in which he was born, raised, and educated included Byzantium and Germany, the East and the West, in its traditions. This is the reason why the perceptual training of the Viennese naturally includes awareness of the arts. To the usual range of familiarity with the arts, Drucker adds a special devotion to Japanese art. The Japanese are the great masters of "tactile space," the art of the interval. The Japanese art of flower arrangement is one of spacing rather than of connecting. The Japanese facility in the world of "quantum mechanics" and electronics is also most readily appreciated through their art. the every title of Drucker's Age of Discontinuity is thus an acknowledgment both of Oriental art on the one hand and of Western technology on the other hand.
It would be easy to dwell on the importance of this wide spectrum of sensibility and awareness as derived from Drucker's Viennese heritage. Son of a well-to-do and highly cultivated family, habituated to association with the great figures of that spheres - German, English, and American - with the easy assurance of a world citizen. It is important to recognize that an encyclopedic and international cultural background is indispensable for coping with life in the electronic age. Drucker, if anyone, is an example of the new relevance of ancient traditions in the present time.
His legal training was no digression from the banking and economic experience gained in his father's house. Even in the British and American worlds, law schools remain residual legatees of the oldest humanistic studies of the trivium and quadrivium. The Elizabethan man, or the encyclopedic humanist who is now returning to vogue in our time of new ecological awareness, originated in the Western world with the concept of the doctus orator.
King Spider Walks The Velvet Roof Of Streams
The concept of resonance invokes the principle of auditory or acoustic space and interval. It breaks away completely from Euclidean concepts of conncetion and from all ideas of the continuum as the reality of the physical world. E. A. Bott, the psychologist, who spent his life studying acoustic space, defined it as "a perfect sphere whose centre is everywhere and whose margins are nowhere."
This designation of the physical properties of acoustic space concurs with the ancient Neoplatonic notions of God. The Logos idea of the Timaeus, or of the ancient world, East and West, took resonance for granted as the bond of being and the natural liaison between human speech and the entire physical world. It was resonance and the "logistics" of the Word that ensured to humanist studies absolute scientific priority in antiquity. Eloquence and wisdom were therefore synonymous to Greek and Roman alike - to mention only the Western world. It is this idea of unity in all knowledge and being that has suddenly returned to the Western world through such developments as quantum mechanics. The ecologist in all his manifestations today (the ECO crowd) is unwittingly repeating the ECHO world of then ancient Logos as well as of modern scientific resonance. The instant speeds of information in the electric age necessarily revive the characteristics of ancient resonance and harmony as the norm in all pursuit of knowledge and organization. No matter how fragmented the bureaucrat or administrator or specialist or institution or curriculum of our age, the overriding resonance of instant information pervades and permeates them all. With the most irrelevant intentions, the modern specialist is compelled to be integral:
The really significant fallout from the strains, traumas, and endless experimentation of Project Apollo has been of a sociological rather than a technological nature; techniques for directing the massed endeavours of scores of thousands of minds in a close-knit, mutually enhancive combination of government, university, and private industry.
Peter Drucker encountered the patterns of these ancient studies as latent in every area of his Viennese culture as well as in his economic and legal training. Paradoxically, it is in the forensic world of legal study that the encyclopedic tradition of Cicero's eloquent wisdom survives most vividly. It is thus perfectly natural that the preliminary of a political career in the Western world is still rooted in legal training. The encyclopedism of Peter Drucker was enhanced by many studies besides that of law; but mere addition can never account for a living core of vital principle. Drucker's comprehensive range and inclusive grasp of languages, philosophy, politics, and economic organization, or inclusive circle of learning, is not out of tune with the contemporary world. Such an eguklios paideia, the new education, may appear as a mere trend of out time, but is in effect as deeply rooted as our electric technology. The latter, with its recovery of the simultaneous and acoustic principle of organization, retrieves Cicero in the West, as the computer has retrieved the I Ching in the East.
Theodore Lipps pointed out long ago that the single clang of a bell includes all possibly symphonies and music. It is this inclusiveness and simultaneity of experience that reunifies the consciousness of our time. The same inclusive awareness is utterly at odds with the enormous backlog of fragmented studies and classified data accumulated over the recent centuries of visual organization.
It was easy for the widely versed Drucker to be a pioneer of contemporary business study as soon as business itself became deeply involved in the knowledge industries. As modern industries required more and more knowledge (as contrasted with mere craft experience), the Druckers became indispensable to the functioning and programming of business.
Drucker has called himself "an unlicensed psychiatrist" of modern business. His fellow Viennese, Sigmund Freud, applied modern psychiatry at a time when organization of the human family was collapsing under the impact of modern industry. (See E. R. Leach, Runaway World). Drucker has accepted the role of putting the outer structures in order, just as Freud attempted the same task for the inner life.
It could easily be shown that Drucker's activities and interests are representative of a much wider part of the Viennese spectrum of culture and organization than those of Sigmund Freud. Freud and his followers discovered that the world was full of people who had problems and no audience. They also discovered that these people were happy to pay very high fees to anybody who would listen to their problems.
M. McLuhan : He really dropped out. You know why: he was killed by the Establishment. He was executed. He was dangerous to them.
J. Pare : Because he did not want to drop out, he wanted to change things like his brother?
M. McLuhan : Yes. These men were executed by the Establishment. And they will be anytime they try anything like that.
[ Forces Magazine, Hydro-Quebec, No.22, p.67, 1973.]
See also : Umbrella Man
Letter dated June 21, 1978 from MM to the Toronto Star
In a reply to Fulford's article re 'Frances' Marshall McLuhan (R. Barthes), MM states, Barthes is a "phenomenologist" - that is, one who tries to see the pattern in things while also playing along with the dominant theory of the world. Personally I prefer to study the pattern minus the theory.
+ + +
In an earlier letter...
REEL H-2055 (correspondence)
Letter dated October 18, 1973 from MM to Gerry Stein
Context = Gerry has just asked MM to put a selection of his writings on
education together in book form.
MM replies...So far I have not had anything to say to educators directly. The gist of my approach is satirical - in so far as the satirical wrenching of the dormant perceptual life is educational, I might be squeezed into that category.
+ + +
"Here is another thought for you that is very controversial. I don’t
see any point in making anything but controversial statements.
There is no other way of getting attention at all. I mean you cannot
get people thinking until you say something that really shocks
them; dislocates them. That is the way the arts work; the painters,
the poets, all work like that. They work by dislocation of attention.
That is why new styles are necessary for perception. The function of
arts is training in perception. It is not instruction. It is to train your
ability to see and use your senses."
McLuhan in “Education in the Electronic Age”
“If man by his ingenious extensions creates new dimensions and new environments
he also has another creative power for making himself aware of these new forms
and giving himself cognizance of their effects. This is the power of art. If technology
creates environments that brainwash man, art creates anti-environments that
heighten consciousness. Presumably this is why the artist appears as anti-social –
because he is creating awareness in place of adjustment – for adjustment
is brainwashing ...”
McLuhan, review of Cyborg: Evolution of the Superman, by D. S. Halacy Jr., MS., 3
left hemisphere (hot) controls right side of the body :
right hemisphere (cool) controls the left side of the body :
perception of abstract patterns
- Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
- The Codebreakers by David Kahn
- The Senses by Otto Lowenstein
- Theories of Personality by Calvin S. Hall and Gardner Lindzey
- The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzo
- The Human Revolution by Ashley Montagu
- Medieval Technology and Social Change by Lynn White
- Oliver Cromwell by John Morley
- Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke
- Robots, Men and Minds by Ludwig von Bertalanffy
- The Human Body and Its Functions by Charles H. Best and Norman B. Taylor
- Collected Poems 1909-1962 by T. S. Eliot
- The New Industrial State by John Kenneth Galbraith
- The Artillery of the Press by James Reston
- Art and Illusion by E. H. Gombrich
- Studies in a Dying Colonialism by Frantz Fanon
- The Life of Napoleon I by J. Holland Rose
- The Campaigns of Napoleon by David G. Chandler
- Report from Iron Mountain on the Possibility and Desirability of Peace with introductory material by Leonard C. Lewin
- Man and People by Jose Ortega y Gasset
- Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
- Walden Two by B. F. Skinner
- “The Human Revolution” from Current Anthropology, Vol. 5, No. 3 by Charles F. Hockett and Robert Ascher
- Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships by Eric Berne, M.D.
- History as a System and Other Essays Toward a Philosophy of History by Jose Ortega y Gasset, with an afterword by John William Miller
- I Ching, Book of Changes translated by James Legge, edited with introduction and study guide by Ch’uchai with Winberg Chai
- Propaganda by Jacques Ellul
- Two-Factor Theory, or How to Turn Eighty Million Workers into Capitalists on Borrowed Money by Louis O. Kelso and Patricia Hetter
- The New Science of Giambattista Vico by Thomas Goddard Bergin and Max Harold Fisch
- Animal Species and Evolution by Ernst Mayr
...but if you insist on pinning me down about my own subjective reactions as I observe the reprimitivization of our culture, I would have to say that I view such upheavals with total personal dislike and dissatisfaction. I do see the prospect of a rich and creative retribalized society--free of the fragmentation and alienation of the mechanical age--emerging from this traumatic period of culture clash; but I have nothing but distaste for the process of change. As a man molded within the literate Western tradition, I do not personally cheer the dissolution of that tradition through the electric involvement of all the senses: I don't enjoy the destruction of neighborhoods by high-rises or revel in the pain of identity quest. No one could be less enthusiastic about these radical changes than myself. I am not, by temperament or conviction, a revolutionary; I would prefer a stable, changeless environment of modest services and human scale. TV and all the electric media are unraveling the entire fabric of our society, and as a man who is forced by circumstances to live within that society, I do not take delight in its disintegration.
You see, I am not a crusader; I imagine I would be most happy living in a secure preliterate environment; I would never attempt to change my world, for better or worse. Thus I derive no joy from observing the traumatic effects of media on man, although I do obtain satisfaction from grasping their modes of operation. Such comprehension is inherently cool, since it is simultaneously involvement and detachment. This posture is essential in studying media. One must begin by becoming extraenvironmental, putting oneself beyond the battle in order to study and understand the configuration of forces. It's vital to adopt a posture of arrogant superiority; instead of scurrying into a corner and wailing about what media are doing to us, one should charge straight ahead and kick them in the electrodes. They respond beautifully to such resolute treatment and soon become servants rather than masters. But without this detached involvement, I could never objectively observe media; it would be like an octopus grappling with the Empire State Building. So I employ the greatest boon of literate culture: the power of man to act without reaction--the sort of specialization by dissociation that has been the driving motive force behind Western civilization.
The Western world is being revolutionized by the electric media as rapidly as the East is being Westernized, and although the society that eventually emerges may be superior to our own, the process of change is agonizing. I must move through this pain-wracked transitional era as a scientist would move through a world of disease; once a surgeon becomes personally involved and disturbed about the condition of his patient, he loses the power to help that patient. Clinical detachment is not some kind of haughty pose I affect--nor does it reflect any lack of compassion on my part; it's simply a survival strategy. The world we are living in is not one I would have created on my own drawing board, but it's the one in which I must live, and in which the students I teach must live. If nothing else, I owe it to them to avoid the luxury of moral indignation or the troglodytic security of the ivory tower and to get down into the junk yard of environmental change and steam-shovel my way through to a comprehension of its contents and its lines of force--in order to understand how and why it is metamorphosing man.
- Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, p.227 (June 22, 1951), 1987.
"The Mechanical Bride is really a new form of science fiction, with ads and comics cast as characters. Since my object is to show the community in action rather than *prove* anything, it can indeed be regarded as a new kind of novel."
- Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, p.217.
[What follows employs a mosaic pattern of observations and probes. What follows does not, as yet, aspire to the status of hypothesis. FG.]
The Gutenberg Galaxy, shot through with primary references to Ruskin, Gombrich, Gilson, Panofsky and Kepes, among others, is testament enough to McLuhan's fluency with art historical ways and means.
In the meantime, the Mechanical Bride anticipates many appropriationist mix and match methods and technique. Its mix of burnt-out clichés matched with an exegesis of the early 50's oddments from advertising, book-jackets, cartoons, etc., is expressed in coy, hipster lingo, re-mixed with an astute pedagogical form. It is one frantic pedantic semantic antic. It is among the Conceptualist prototypes, a genuine Ursprache, an authentic original.
Thus, McLuhan and that sub-culture identified as the art-world are no strangers.
Freud's influence on the Surrealists, and McLuhan's influence on American art of the 60's are akin. Surrealism was informed and fructified by the looming rediscovery of the unconscious and it contents. While Pop art, Greenbergian formalism, Minimalism, and Conceptualism were in varying degrees, conscious and otherwise, wildly antipodean responses to McLuhan's take on the World. Each response being in main part a variance of "the medium is the message."
Both Freud and McLuhan, while busy frying other fish, provided ideational, even mythical, backdrops for visual culture, as well as for art praxis in their respective times. Each is essential to the descriptive lexicons typifying "art-speak" in their respective times. And both reputations have endured and survived a high variety of caricature, misattribution and debasement regarding their role and stage presence in their time.
The Surrealist mind's very activity ñ its picturesque posture and devotional irrationality ñ is, as if, a manifestation at one with the Freudian concepts of instinct, desire, and the dream. Its stupefying confidence in the liberation of desire and the exaltation of freedom is grounded in, and bracketed by, an outright catachistic embrace of psychoanalytic theories.
Likewise with McLuhanism and the mind-set of the 1960's; where notions of hot vs. cool, perceptual rations, linear vs. non-linear, and media as materia prima permeate, in distinctly opposing patterns. The discourse encircling Pop art at one end and Greenbergian formalism at the other ñ with Minimalism and Conceptualism allied as a counterforce to both.
But whereas Freud's influence was direct, McLuhan's was decidedly osmotic, passing through the art-world's semi-permeable membrane like some unacknowledged solvent. It was received within the art world's precincts as a particular strain of the overall "eschatological heave" (Mailer's coinage) which branded every aspect of 60-s culture ñ visual, political, theoretical and popular.
As to the specifics: or, five probes enumerated:
Pop Art and Popism in general emerged with a staggering blast in the same time frame (circa. ë61-'65) that McLuhanism takes root and begins to achieve celebrity. It is the late twilight of Abstract Expressionism, the pre-eminent and dominant movement of the prior fifteen years. Televised war in Vietnam is escalating, LSD is founding a sub-culture, the Beatles have arrived. The distinctions between high and low culture is collapsing. A dazzling discontinuity prevails.
In this dicey midst, nascent contra-stances begin to spring up. Chief among them are Minimalism, that paradoxical amalgam of Neo-Platonic and empirical interests, and polymorphic Conceptualism with its diverse and multiple embodiments of disembodiment.
Like a protractor, McLuhanism's ethos opens out in a 180 degree sweep, encapsulating while corralling all of the above, knowingly or not, into a common arch description of novel terms. Within such terms, these various moves and subsequent counter-moves of the 60's are merely the inevitably results of an epic transitive clash. Their recalcitrant differences merely stubborn evidence of that clash's profound, though ironically received, complexity.
Which is to say that McLuhanism's discourse ñ with particular salience on the medium/message equation ñ provided a fresh, even unexpected, way of encompassing the fragmentary contours of the four main contesting camps, which characterized the art world in the 1960's.
Pop Art's valorizing of the ubiquitous common image or object ñ best exemplified by Warhol's soup cans and Brillo boxes ñ dovetails with McLuhan's exploration of mass media. The mass image, prior to its appropriation by Warhol, Lichtenstein, Rosenquist, et al, was initially spread through the culture in a mass medium, advertising.
Thus, both undertakings (McLuhan and the pop-artists) share a distinct ìfamily-resemblanceîÖperhaps it was the zeitgeist.
McLuhan's notion of the receding mechanical age overlapping with an onrushing electronic one is, without a bit of stretch, analogous to the receding spirit of Abstract Expressionism and Pop's disarming arrival. McLuhan's actual words are apt here: ìThe partial and specialized view-point, however noble, will not serve at all in the electric age. At the information level the same upset has occurred with the substitution of the inclusive image for the mere view-point.î Abstract Expressionism, if nothing else, was and is certainly a specialized noble viewpoint. And with Pop, aesthetic practice is certainly expanded with its omnivorous inclusion of all and every sundry mass image.
Those dual, complimentary, hegemons, Popism and electric media ñ software and hardware in current parlance ñ flooded the collective psyche with the overwhelming force of nature itself. But success invites rebellion. And such rebellions were rife. In retrospect, Greenbergian Formalism, or color-field painting, is rather marginal among these ñ yet central to our present argument.
Cast in predicament, Greenberg's formalist aegis covers a narrow spectrum of exclusionary attitude, manifest in painting and sculpture both. Its gist is this: progress in the visual arts orbits around the core issue of material transparency. Ergo, increasing emphasis on the medium ñ that is, the physicality of pigment and the qualities of surface ñ is registered as liberation from the declared restraints of representation, inference, and pictorial illusion.
Greenberg and his coterie held Popism's world view in pitiless disdain, claiming that it had enfeebled demands made on the viewer; that it was antithetical to the putative rigors of authentic connoisseurship; that its mimicry of kitsch, advertising, cartoons et al, was nothing more than a wanton abandon of high motive.
The twisting irony here is, of course, that central and conspicuous attributes of McLuhanism can and have been implicitly drafted into the respective causa belli of these two camps.
In a sense that McLuhan would have appreciated, these rambling feud is just one of the more recent manifestations of that ageless contest between demonic and hieratic, vernacular and sacerdotal.
Panofsky has noted that we actually "read what we see according to the manner in which objects and events were expressed by forms under varying historical conditions." Thus what we read when viewing a classic untitled box ñ industrially fabricated according to the precise specifications of the master Minimalist Donald Judd ñ are the historical conditions affiliated with its presentation to the world as a sculptural event. Otherwise, such a box could reasonably be taken for a very pricey, very elegant, designer-dumpster. It is the conditions of its making that assign its' status as sculpture and the pleasure derived in viewing ineluctably includes a reading of those conditions.
In Minimalism our perceptual ratios are rearranged by a vertiginous oscillation of attentive focus, swinging to and fro between the qualities of the objects' physical presence and its idealist geometric properties. From the eye's mind to the mind's eye and back, such an object's medium empirical and ephemeral at once is its message.
Cutting to the quick, Conceptualism is a message without a medium, at least with a medium in any traditional sense. Its measure of merit rests in the free-floating character of its propositions. Evidence of a particular Conceptualist enterprise usually commences with the diagrams, instructions, or floor plans preceding its temporary embodiment, and/or the record of its having existed at all, usually manifested in photographs, videotape or the detritus resulting from the event.
Thus the installation or the event itself drops off into the void and we are left with its before and after, with its projection and trace. Often enough, these traces are fetishized, re-entering the domain of art objects and, subsequently, the economy of the art world. But since you can only have your tongue in one cheek at a time, this maneuver for having it both ways presents a novel conundrum. Should these photographs, tapes, drawings, debris, etc., be judged by their intrinsic aesthetic value in the Ding an sich, as the thing themselves, as entities with an existence independent of the installations which cause them? Or does their merit reside exclusively in the reification of phantom events?
I suspect there are questions that McLuhan himself would have enjoyed tossing around, inasmuch and since they represent the medium/message equation with a peculiar wrinkle.
In any case, the rhizome interconnecting McLuhan's explorations with the zigzagging tactics of 60's visual artists, of all vanguard stripes, is fecund with a shared motif index, logistical repertoire, and lexical invention. And this fortuitous confluence represents a critical juncture that, in retrospect, has set the reverberating tone of our current post-modern climate. For, in Wittgenstein's signifying phrase, "To imagine a language means to imagine a form of life."
Hence, through bend of bay and swerve of shore we return to McLuhan castle and environs once again. Where we fin again, only to begin again, for these environs posses a serious strength and their river runs very deep.