Underground Film Journal

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Light Industry: This Is Marshall McLuhan

By Mike Everleth ⋅ August 4, 2011

Full exterior of the New Museum of Contemporary Art

Aug. 11
7:00 p.m.
New Museum
235 Bowery
New York, New York 10002

Hosted by: Light Industry

Before settling into their new home in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Light Industry presents this screening of the classic TV special from 1967 This Is Marshall McLuhan: The Medium Is the Massage. The special will be projected in 16mm and introduced by Alex Kitnick, a writer and curator based in New York.

This Is Marshall McLuhan: The Medium Is the Massage was produced for the radical TV series NBC Experiment in Television, which aired innovative programs on Sunday afternoons, typically profiling or spotlighting a particular creative individual.

This particular episode of the show was directed by Ernest Pintoff and tries its best to present McLuhan’s complex ideas of then-modern media to a broad audience. Light Industry describes the special as thus:

An attempt to articulate McLuhan’s ideas through the language of one of his paradigmatic subjects—television—This Is Marshall McLuhan intersperses observations by McLuhan himself with commentary from art-world figures like gallerist Ivan Karp, artists Malcolm Morley and Allan Kaprow, and Museum of Modern Art curator Inez Garson. As if to illustrate McLuhan’s dictum that “all media work us over completely,” these remarks are punctuated by rapid-fire montages of pop culture and the avant-garde, mixing performances by Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman, go-go girls, stand-up comedians, and Madison Avenue’s most countercultural ads into a Laugh-In-era attempt at televisual information overload. An evocative dispatch from a moment when culture’s relationship to media was in a state of profound transition, this rarely-screened film continues to resonate with our contemporary situation, its new technologies and their inventories of effects.

Just for a general taste of McLuhan’s thoughts, I’m embedding the below snippet of a CBC interview with him. This is a particularly interesting clip because, in it, he accurately predicts a world of the future where people could conduct their jobs at home through the television and over the phone, which of course we do now, more or less, over the Internet.

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