A Radical Updating of Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium Is The Massage


Hans Ulrich Obrist, Douglas Coupland and Shumon Basar discuss tomorrow via the spreads from their radical artist’s book, Age Of Earthquakes

April 6, 2015

“We see this as a kind of DIY manual.” Hans Ulrich Obrist, Serpentine co-director, and arguably his generations finest curator, is very excited. He’s describing his new book, a radical updating of Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium Is The Massage for our, frankly, totally insane world. “It’s also maybe a form of a cookbook – an extreme present cookbook”. He’s sat with two friends – and co-authors – Douglas Coupland and Shumon Basar. Douglas Coupland defined his age with a book twenty years ago, with Generation X. British writer, artist, theorist and editor Shumon Basar midway through a day promoting their new book Age of Earthquakes, overlooking a cityscape viewable from the 15th floor of a central London business hotel bar. 

Hans, Douglas and Shumon are friends: futurists by nature and artists in mind. Age of Earthquakes is equal parts self-help and art book, and, with its quotable slogan and rich imagery from artists like K_Hole, Trevor Paglen and even Michael Stipe, it’s like a very smart Tumblr, but made of wood pulp. Guidebook, map for today and mediation on the madness of our media, it’s an awesome, dizzying read. Over the course of an hour, the three thinkers talked us through 14 spreads from the book. 

Immediately underneath us are the satellite dishes and turrets of Broadcasting House and the dreamy spire of John Nash’s All Souls church. From the bar’s vast windows to the horizon, cranes are strewn across the landscape, steadily, ominously building London’s tomorrow. The bar feels like a first class waiting room in a second class airport, paused in 1998, and we’re all drinking Coke. It’s the perfect place to discuss how the terrifying and wonderful future came to be all around us.

Click on the images to expand them for closer scrutiny.

Douglas Coupland: You know what’s weird? That quote has been attributed to Bataille, to McLuhan, to Andy Warhol: it’s one of those.

Shumon Basar: It’s a meme quote.

Hans Ulrich Obrist: But it’s also the classic empty page, and in a way the book is a medium. There is a long history of that – from Tristram Shandy’s black page and throughout art history. For the avant garde of the 60s, the artist book is very much at the call of conceptual art: you need to credit Lucy R Lippard: she’s one of the great inventors of this idea that you are curating what happens within a book. She did this amazing exhibition in Vancouver – all roads always lead to Canada!….. Read the rest and see the page spreads at https://goo.gl/V89Ker

I have posted articles about The Age of Earthquakes before. See the following links:
From The Medium is the Massage (1967) to The Age of Earthquakes (2015) – https://goo.gl/TknXmS

Massage Received: From McLuhan to the Digital Age (More about The Age of Earthquakes) (2015) – https://goo.gl/Lwswq5

 Douglas Coupland

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