The power of medium. (Flickr CC image by Mickipedia)

Medium Power

March 22, 2010 | Leave a Comment

Category: Art

The medium informs and guides the kinds of insight that the artist can experience. Directly related are the contexts that the artist creates within. If a writer writes alone in a closed-door room at hours when everyone else is asleep, there is a good chance that the experience of being alone will influence what is created. Compare a writer that types with both hands, both hemispheres contributing to what is produced, to a painter using only one hand and the possible influence that has upon what is painted.

As a comic artist working with the medium of newsprint, I produced work with no one else around. Many pieces would be viewed by more than one hundred thousand, yet I was receiving almost no feedback because the viewer was usually far away. Musicians produce work accompanied by an audience, usually a group of a hundred or less. The musicians are receiving feedback as an integrated part of the process of creating.

McLuhan made clear that the medium is the message. That insight operates on several scales. It is not only the case that the channels we receive information through influence the content of the communication, the medium we choose to send information through influences what we, as creators, are aware of.

An artist is drawn toward a particular medium because that medium complements what the artist has to say and how she or he wants to say it. It then becomes the case that the medium informs what the artist becomes aware of because a medium compels attention to only certain classes of detail. Producing video using exclusively imagery from the Creative Commons, exploring over 10,000 images and videos for each 5 minute piece, engenders a different awareness, suggests different insights than painting an illustration.

Perhaps someday there will be grammar school units on use of awareness when it becomes not only obvious that how we choose to exercise attention influences experience, but that particular kinds of attention are uniquely useful for particular goals. As we grow to understand how humans evolved split consciousness, school may become at least partly about teaching children how to direct the kind of consciousness appropriate for different paths or tasks.

Art, spirituality, sociality and science are four words for four different zones of consciousness direction. When we know the particulars of the different way that attention is directed in these four zones, children can be guided to learn by acquiring appropriate consciousness. If the medium is the message, we only need to learn the dance steps that juxtapose with each medium.

As an artist, one’s medium informs and guides the kinds of insight that the artist can experience. As a human, understanding medium is to understand how we understand.


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