Wednesday, December 19, 2012
"Does the interiorization of media alter the ratio among our senses and change mental processes?", a question posed and subsequently explored in Marshall McLuhan's "The Gutenberg Galaxy" (1962), one of the concepts central to McLuhan's body of work to which this project is a reaction and response.
McLuhan suggests that "when technology extends one of our senses, a new translation of culture occurs as swiftly as the new technology is interiorized." From the perspective, or lack thereof, experienced by people living in the present Age of Information, the implications of the interiorization of mass digital communication technology like the Internet seem to surpass anything conjectured during McLuhan's time, yet simultaneously confirm all his expectations. Writing in the 1950s and 60s, the technology he fully analysed was that of the printed alphabetical text, facilitated by the invention of the printing press, and the cultural and social transformations accompanying the transition from the oral tradition of manuscript-based media to the rational, codified and fragmented society with the book and the textual library of knowledge at its core.
Few individuals appear to have anticipated the Internet as fully (and as critically) as McLuhan, and very few still seem to be on the edge of grasping the interiorization and integration of these technologies as not just culturally significant but biological events; as paradigmatic shifts that radically affect humans at the level of our cognitive operational models. I am still fully shocked that in the near wake of the Sputnik launch, the earliest days of satellite transmission and television, someone was accurately anticipating that electric media meant the extension of the human nervous system into an "all-at-once" field of information, dissolving boundaries and uniting the globe, and the human family, on one stage; a pure prophecy encompassing Debord's spectacle, Baudrillard's simulacra/simulation, Virilio's dromosphere and Gibson's cyberspace.
I feel this idea of simultaneous and total involvement in each other – systems of exchange of information which facilitate a stage-like experience or virtual "presence" between people, however mundane – is perfectly exemplified by YouTube, a service most people in Western society are now at least familiar with. Through this project, I intended to capture something of the perspective I found myself in, watching recordings of Marshall McLuhan on a computer, through the Internet, in the YouTube window, describing phenomena which were, in fact, the exact things mediating the experience itself.
Through the combined use of print-based technology and modern, digital techniques, I produced a series of work that collides and superimposes models of media – appropriating a printed text which in turn is an appropriation of Greek history which once belonged to the hand-made manuscript and audile tactile tradition, and corrupting it and obviating it with the printed YouTube frame and temporality disrupting "pause" and "play" symbols, which are universal in our modern experience of media, a circumvention of time. The work is confusing and disjointed like the ever-accelerating and self-negating cultural media milieu in which we find ourselves; simultaneously a frozen video frame belonging to a dynamic visual system, a printed record of ancient history and a unique handmade manuscript, contexts and paradigms which make the past model obsolete and outmoded as we move forward without understanding the consequences of further and further extension of the human animal into a form of pure information. Images of a face, an eye staring into a grid of the electronic network, a communications satellite stamped in printed ink haunt the torn pages like the spectre of outmoded media and outmoded human perception haunting history, like McLuhan's cybernetic phantasm haunting cyberspace from the past, present and future simultaneously.