Marshall McLuhan – Remastered version of The Medium Is the Massage LP (2011)


The Medium is the Massage Side A & B digitally remastered for the 100th Anniversary of Herbert Marshall McLuhan; with Marshall McLuhan Long-playing Record produced by John Simon. Conceived and co-ordinated by Jerome Agel. Written by Marshall McLuhan, Quentin Fiore, and Jerome Agel. Columbia CS 9501, CL2701 (1968). This is the companion LP to McLuhan’s book with the same title.

Most characteristic of the interficial mode Higgins supported at SEP is, as Peter Frank suggests, The Medium Is the Massage (1967), which McLuhan coauthored with designer Quentin Fiore. By this point in his career, McLuhan was referring to these texts collectively as his ‘”non-books'” (EU 267), and the function of Fiore’s design is precisely to break down the linearity, sequentiality, and visual space values associated with the book. Fiore’s design of The Medium Is the Massage (and of War and Peace in the Global Village) draws on his training with George Grosz, who was influenced early in his career by Dada, Futurism, and Cubism, moving rapidly in the direction of satire with a number of portfolios whose drawings mocked the ruling classes and the military. Grosz was also among the earliest proponents of photomontage, and it is this element that is most powerfully present in the work of Fiore. As Klaus Honnef has written, montage is ‘a symptomatic formal and structural principle of artistic development since the end of the undisputed supremacy of perspective as “symbolic form.”‘ Montage was the creation not simply of a new space, but of the conditions for the production of new kinds of spaces. These new kinds of space lacked homogeneity, rationality, clarity, and objectivity (Honnef 50). For the fixed eye of perspective, montage substituted the moving eye, thereby introducing temporal elements into spatial representation. In addition to the influence of Grosz, Fiore’s work bears some similarity to that of Grosz’s student and collaborator, John Heartfield. As Heartfield’s work – much of which was devoted to book covers – demonstrates, the development of photomontage was inseparable from the rise of the mass media. In Heartfield’s particular case, it was also inseparable from Dada, and the combination, according to Walter Benjamin, ‘ “made the book cover into a political instrument”‘ (‘The Author as Producer,’ quoted in Kahn 46). In addition to work within the book trade, montage was employed in advertising, and Fiore drew on both of these areas of production in designing “The Medium Is the Massage.” That McLuhan should have been drawn to the book as art form when contemplating The Medium Is the Massage is no surprise, given the trajectory of his career, which consistently focused on the book as object, as medium of communication. Among McLuhan’s earliest intellectual interests were Blake and Mallarme, for both of whom the book was more than the mere container of text. Whereas Blake problematized the boundaries of textuality, Mallarme expanded the notion of the book into its own dissolution, theorizing, in a sense, the end of the book, the concept that has so often been credited to McLuhan. Mallarme’s Un Coup de des (1897) is a poem whose meaning is inextricable from its medium – indeed, it could be said that the material format of the poem was its meaning. Similarly, The Medium Is the Massage1 sought to realize what, in Through the Vanishing Point, McLuhan and Parker call ‘the interfaces of transparency and overlap’ (81). The book was published in two formats: Bantam issued a paperback edition, and Random House produced a hardbound version one-and-one half times the size of the paperback (fig. 5.3). … In that case he manages, as did Apollinaire, Marinetti, the Dadaists, Duchamp, to concatenate the verbal-visual with displacements of typographic energy that resemble architecture, that force the muscles of the body to work, that demand total kinesthetic responses.’
– Cavell, Richard. McLuhan in Space: A Cultural Geography. Toronto, ON, Canada: University of Toronto Press, 2003. p 127-8.

Hardcover – Random House – New York- 1967

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