n Image & Text : a Journal for Design - (Im)Materiality : on the matter of art

Volume 2008, Issue 14
  • ISSN : 1020-1491



If one of the leading media theorist of the twentieth century, Marshall McLuhan's dictum, namely that 'the medium is the message' holds true, how does it apply to the medium of art? Does McLuhan's statement reveal something of the matter of art by commenting on the complex relationship between the message and the medium through which it is sent? McLuhan (1994 : 17) explains the close relation between medium and message as follows: 'For the "message" of any medium or technology is the change in scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs.' According to McLuhan, it is therefore not only a question of how the content of the message interacts with society and brings about new ideas, but, more importantly, the revolution that comes through the medium itself. In terms of art, it means that we are advised not only to judge art in terms of its content (what it means), but that we should also take into account the vehicle or materiality through which it manifests itself (how it matters). If one were to change what art was made of, in other words change its matter, then it could be surmised that art's meaning or message would literally also change.

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