This Is Marshall McLuhan: The Medium Is the Massage
Ernest Pintoff, 16mm, 1967, 54 mins
Introduced by Alex Kitnick
This Is Marshall McLuhan: The Medium Is the Massage premiered in 1967 as one of the first installments of “NBC Experiment in Television,” an innovative series of Sunday-afternoon cultural programs that would later include such diverse offerings as an animated special by Harold Pinter, Jim Henson’s live-action teleplay The Cube, and extended profiles of figures like writer Scholem Aleichem, cartoonist Al Capp, and architectural visionary Buckminster Fuller. McLuhan’s episode appeared at the height of his notoriety within popular consciousness: 1967 also saw the publication of McLuhan and Quentin Fiore’s book The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects, the fourth issue of Aspen magazine edited by McLuhan and Fiore, and an LP recording of The Medium Is the Massage released by Columbia Records.
Shot on film for television broadcast and later distributed on 16mm for educational use, 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 the modern history of culture’s evolving relationship to media, this rarely screened film continues to resonate with our contemporary situation, its new technologies and their inventories of effects.
Alex Kitnick is a writer and curator based in New York. He edited the most recent issue of October (136). This past winter he curated the exhibition “Massage” at Andrew Roth.
Light Industry is a venue for film and electronic art in Brooklyn, New York, founded by Thomas Beard and Ed Halter. For the past several months, they have been organizing an ongoing series of events across the city while preparing to move into their new space, which opens in September.
Thursday, August 11, 2011 | 7:00 PM