Global Warning: Marshall McLuhan & the Arts Exhibition. Frankfurt


Museum of Communication, Frankfurt

Feedback #5: Frankfurt, Museum of Communication
Marshall McLuhan and The Arts: Global Warning!

“The artist’s insights or perceptions seem to have been given to mankind as a providential means of bridging the gap between evolution and technology. The artist is able to program, or reprogram, the sensory life in a manner which gives us a navigational chart to get out of the maelstrom created by our own ingenuity. The role of the artist in regard to man and the media is simply survival.”
 Marshall McLuhan in Man and Media, 1979

In the context of its important collection of objects and documentation of the history of communication, the Museum of Communication Frankfurt will present the 5th edition of the traveling exhibition and symposium project. Throughout his career Marshall McLuhan worked to warn the world of the overwhelming power being unleashed by new technologies, which, as he described ‘work us over completely’ from the psychic to social dimensions, relentlessly reorganising how we live, forcing us to reevaluate our prospects and design new strategies. The title ‘Global Warning!’ brings together important drives in McLuhan’s work, the artist as sensitive ‘DEW Line’ antenna alerting society to imminent transformation, understanding environment as a technical product, ‘the planet as a work of art’ and his urgent pleas to reform the institutions so they can better prepare populations for a world in which they may not recognise themselves.

Artists: Darsha Hewitt (CA), Stephanie Syjuco (US), Christof Migone (CA), Mogens Jacobsen (DK) and others.

The project ‘Feedback #5: Marshall McLuhan and the Arts’ at Museum of Communication, Frankfurt (2020) is the fifth station of the recursive exhibition program, which includes presentations in The Hague (2017), Leipzig (2017), Berlin (2018), Karlsruhe (2018), Windsor (2019), Detroit 2019 and Paris (2021) and Toronto (2021).

Feedback: Marshall McLuhan and the Arts is conceived by West Den Haag and curated by Baruch Gottlieb in collaboration with the Embassy of Canada Germany.

Addendum: Press Release About the Feedback Series of Exhibitions

Feedback brings artists, designers, scholars and thinkers together to probe, encounter and contest the light-speed electronic information environments we inhabit today.

Exploding out of the wreckage of World War II the early cyberneticists Norbert Wiener and Claude Shannon, sketched out a future where even thinking could be automated. In the electronic information of global instantaneous mass-communication of the satellite and TV age Marshall McLuhan saw the end of the rational tradition of enlightenment Humanism, and the emergence of a ‘Global Village’ and ‘Global Theatre’ where people would be caught up in their interconnectivity and develop new social art forms.

The pace of technological transformation, automation and globalization has resulted in massive human migration, precaritization, displacement and new transitional modes of existence. The Internet, built to maintain command and control of the US military in an extreme emergency has become a commercialized infrastructure where unprecedented new forms of communication and exchange are emerging. Publics are formed and dissolved algorithmically according to need, no longer at the level of opinion or knowledge, but according to advanced social cybernetics of politics and the advertising economy. The medium is the message.

Feedback is the second in a series of projects (first was Without Firm Ground, Flusser and the Arts, March 2006), which explore the potential for a synthesis of philosophy and theory in works of arts to fathom and understand the accelerating pace of social transformation brought on by technological and scientific progress. The exhibition will feature fourteen provocative and invigorating propositions from drawing to sound sculpture, from online performance actions to obsessive hardware hackery, which grapple with the substance of the information machine we live in.

Installed across two locations visitors will discover the series of Dew-line newsletter and Explorations journals, archive materials, video documentation of McLuhan and works by young artists from all over the world.

Marshall McLuhan (CA, 1911 – 1980) had already noted in the 1960s that the speed and pervasiveness of electronic communication was superseding the rational and reflective abilities of literacy. The technologies that brought us here are built through rational disinterested scientific method, but generate an immersive environment where we lose grasp of private identity and long for a pre-literate togetherness in a ‘Global Village’. His ‘Global Village’ came to exemplify the uncritical Summer of Love communality of the Hippies, but it was a misappropriation and misunderstanding of McLuhan’s meaning. For McLuhan the ‘Global Village’ was a place of violent terror, where there was constant surveillance and where privacy was ‘merely ignored’, as he frankly describes in a famous interview with Canadian talk show host Mike McManus.

McLuhan rose to prominence as perhaps the most famous cultural critic of his age with an analysis that directly engaged with the transformations emerging with the introduction of electronic technologies. His involvement was gestural, reason alone would not suffice to grapple with the contemporary conditions, there was a techno-cultural revolution afoot, which was completely disrupting how human beings had perceived the world for hundreds of years.

Curators: Baruch Gottlieb & Marie-José Sondeijker

DEW Line Newsletter exhibit co-curated with Graham Larkin
Explorations exhibit co-curated with Michael Darroch with additional documentation from Simon Rogers.

The project Feedback #1, Marschall Mcluhan and the Arts in The Hague is the first station of the exhibition symposia and workshops touring program, which will include programs in Berlin (2018), Paris (2018), Toronto (2019)

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