What messages are being modified by their mediums in the exhibition ‘The medium is the message’ at Dublin’s The Library Project? Can we get a little closer to their [mediumness] if we are made aware of Marshall McLuhan’s “The Medium is the Message”, a theoretical equation which posits how the “medium” (extensions of ourselves be it through technology or painting) influences how the “message” is perceived, shaped, patterned, sped up, scaled up….? In a way it is better to put McLuhan aside in order to avoid the artworks in this exhibition becoming mere illustrations of a theory. Do we care if something is handwritten or emailed today? Have we got over The Past, over intimacy, over each other? Got over our nostalgia for and fetishisation of obsolescence? It was just a tool to get the job done, right? Vinyl! Fuck the future when VR is like breathing and people jizz nostalgic over the dumb screens that people once screwed to their walls and groped with their palms. The past has privilege that the present cannot afford. New technologies will undoubtedly change us, are changing us, socially, politically, physically. We are moving forward, swiping across our handheld world while obsolescence rolls backwards with a cold and crushing O kicking up snowflakes as it rolls, r o l l s….. Get over it; it is done and dusted. An apathetic awareness of our contemporary world of dehumanising technologies is enough to move forward, move on. That is all we want—to move forward, onward. Yes? As the medium and message continually redefine their relationship to one another (and us) new arguments become old arguments recycled into forms more consumable and shitable. We can lazily philosophise and psychologise about our relationship to technology as one of distraction and distress, but we do not hear or act on criticism anymore because everything grows old very, very quickly, especially criticism. NOW or never. In a sense this exhibition invokes another 1960s clarion call by Susan Sontag, ‘Against Interpretation’—especially with Freud’s image plastered amongst the anonymous scribbles in Ermias Kifleyesus digital print found detached from its [mediumness] on the gallery window overlooking the distracted and distressed in Temple Bar. Come 1966 Sontag, a giant intellect, was tired of content in art. She was 33. Passionate and wishfully innocent (check out her use of the word “lame” in this seminal essay) her plea for an “erotics of art” for some is hard not to love and for others hard not to hate. In the essay Sontag is split between brain and body—the intellect and the instinct, content and form—where Jekyll sires Hyde night after day after night. Every time I read ‘Against Interpretation’ I imagine a drunken Sontag losing herself to the medium, to the senses, dancing with eyes closed, ears plugged, nose pinched in isolated sequence so as to embrace and experience each and every sense fully, wholly: One. More's the pity that this exhibition at The Library Project has a press release, forcing us to semanticly drift away from the medium to the message behind the exhibition. Press releases have a tendency of disembodying artworks, making the medium of art more manageable and administrational through the oversharing and shadowing of historical, social and biographical contexts. In this sense this exhibition is more illustrative of McLuhan’s equation, artworks entangled in an equation that needs proof, needs telling. But art in the gallery, once-removed from reality, from process, from the artist, from the medium—Don't Touch!—is always illustrative no matter how abstract or inviting or participatory. As viewers we can only ever imagine the artist holding and manipulating the medium. In the gallery the medium comes second-hand behind glass and formalities: intellect is our way into the medium. Art in the gallery is a jousting game of 10-metre poles and 10-inch plate armour; the press release an opening at the armpit—an armpit that does not smell. In the gallery our disembodied experience is projected onto an embodied activity that took place sometime, elsewhere. The gallery and its semiotics of display defines our experience of the medium in the gallery. We look. We smell. We hear. We read. We read again. We eloquently mouth (maʊð) Sontag’s plea for an erotics of art with words, with price lists, with biography, with reputation, with history. To maʊð—what a gloriously embodied word—is to mime speech or say nothing at all. All bite. No teeth. In Patrick Hough’s virtual and twirling sphinx we maʊð ‘How is it done?’ Its meaning and [mediumness] illusive. When we get past How? we notice one of the wings of the sphinx has been severed (Ever experience how the sight of a bird’s broken wing elicits the twinge of a phantom pain as if we once flew before words grounded us.) Chloe Brennan knows this, as she maʊðs verse from Virginia Woolf to form glass baubles that flirt awkwardly with a slip of timber; Lee Welch’s elevated painting of an angelic reader reading, hanging there whilst we read the artist is “guided” by a series of Tarot readings he performs on others (me included); Ciara Phillips’ image of a friend and fellow artist wearing her printed garment hugs itself in a constellation of screen-printed dots, the medium oscillating between dot and image, medium and message, and dependent on how close and how far you stand from the image, the printed dots produce a gravitational pull towards a greater intimacy with the medium. Primed, inked, stained, I fell and felt into Welch’s and Phillips’. Welch’s due in part to my personal experience of being Tarot-read by Welch in his studio, where I silently judged this painting while the upturned Tarot cards judged me to be both Jekyll and Hyde. These two works in particular say something significant about contact and art, and maʊð hope that the tangle between medium and message can breed an intimacy that is less illustrative of a message.

Curated by Alissa Kleist; through 29 SEPTEMBER.


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