Art at its most significant is a distant early warning system that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen. –Marshall McLuhan
Tonight, dozens of people gathered to celebrate the frightfully accurate vision of Marshall McLuhan. My first introduction to him was while completing my undergraduate degree in Film & Media. His name was amidst those of Laura Mulvey and Walter Benjamin, the sacred theorists of media and culture (or lack there of). Wearing many hats, McLuhan coined the term “the medium is the message” and predicted the creation of The World Wide Web several decades before its shaping.
McLuhan, Mulvey, Benjamin and I spent four years together–many late nights in the comforts of my bedroom. Their names reappeared in my mind as I typed furiously to meet countless deadlines. It wasn’t until today, in midst of eclectic haircuts and wine, that I witnessed his true reach in the art world, media, and my daily life.
(I will restrain myself from filling this word count with a decertation on McLuhan’s lullabiac influence, but I strongly encourage you to Google him, if not now then later.)
“Signals From The Dew Line” is an exhibit running from November 8th -13th on the second floor of the Gladstone Hotel. New media projects and paintings showcase the artist’s own takeaways from McLuhan’s theories and writings.
The work of Travis Shilling stood out to me; Shilling, a playwright and a filmmaker, extends his stories via several mediums. He is very aware of the importance of the construction of the message and its execution. Using medium-lenght and flat brushstrokes, Shilling uses the canvas to tell his stories. His works feature the utmost perfect color selection and composition. At approximately $10,000 a piece, they are guaranteed to start an in-depth conversation amidst your dinner guests. Dan Bergeron‘s work spoke to McLuhan’s visions more directly, with his “fauxreel” approach in which he re-contextualizes physical (often public) spaces. Reminiscent of a print/ billboard advertisement — through the works’ stylization — Bergeron draws our attention to contemporary cultural, social, and political issues.
The night was complimented by poetry readings. Intimate, profound yet light, Shawn MicAllef, David Bateman, Kevin Matthews, Bill Bissett, Alexandra Oliver, Lillian Allen, celebrated McLuhan’s ideas, sentences, and visions. Not losing their own literary genius, the poets captivated the room, unleashed laughter, and — in some instances — shocked the audience.
A hundred years later and we are re-living his words and thoughts. McLuhan believed that artists were a “Distant Early Warning system of our culture”; if this is so, our future looks anything but dull.