Monday, April 12, 2010

McLuhanesque Monday: The Artist as Adjustment-Preventer

Lately I've been doing some research on Number 9 Art and the Environment's latest project involving Iain Baxter. In their educational materials, they pulled a favourite Marshall McLuhan quote of Baxter's, which I thought worth reproducing:

"One of the functions of the artist that is understood in recent decades is that it is, above all, to prevent us from becoming adjusted to our environments. The job of the artist is to upset all the senses and thus provide new vision and new powers of adjusting to and relating to new situations."

While this isn't a new idea, McLuhan articulates it very well. It made me think of the recent discussions in Toronto about Ryan Trecartin's work, for one, as Trecartin would seem to be an artist who falls into this sense-upsetting and new-situation-adjusting category.

It also made me think of an upcoming CONTACT project by Lewis Kaye and David Rokeby that will reconstruct McLuhan's presence in some of the classrooms he used to teach in at the University of Toronto. I'm curious to see how that effort does (or doesn't) work out. How do you reproduce the presence of someone whose influence is so wide-ranging already?

Image of McLuhan at the University of Toronto from CONTACT

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