McLuhan Between Vertical and Horizontal




Posted November 13, 2017


"Because of today's terrific speed-up of information moving, we have a chance to apprehend, predict and influence the environmental forces shaping us --and thus win back control of our destinies."

-- Marshall McLuhan (1961)


"The arrow is flying so fast that there are moments when it is neither in motion nor at rest."

-- Hui Shih (380-305 BCE)


Englishman in Moscow

Kasimir Malevich, AN ENGLISHMAN IN MOSCOW, 1914. Oil on canvas. Stedlijk Museum, Amsterdam. 

Curatorial Record (Tate Modern, London):

In 1913 Malevich collaborated with the musician Mikhail Matyushin and the poet Aleksei Kruchenykh on a manifesto calling for the dissolution of language and the rejection of rational thought. Kruchenykh coined the word Zaum --meaning 'beyond reason'-- to describe a new language of sounds without meaning. 

Joined by the poet Velimir Khlebnikov, the three men staged a futurist opera, VICTORY OVER THE SUN, in St. Petersburg December 1913. The opera depicts the Strongmen of the Future who capture the sun, ushering in a new era in which time itself has been abolished. 


All the components of "war" are present in any environment whatever: the recognition war depends upon their being stepped up to high definition. 

-- Marshall McLuhan (1966)


October poster

Poster designed by Georgii and Vladimir Stenberg with Yakov Rukelevsky --for the film OCTOBER [a Sergei Eisenstein/Grigori Alexandrov film about the Russian Revolution], 1928. 

"Mountains produce mouths."

-- Hui Shui (380-305 BCE)


Monkey antiquarian

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon-Chardin (1699-1779), MONKEY ANTIQUARIAN. Oil on canvas, after 1740. San Diego Museum of Art.

"The eye does not see."

-- Hui Shui (380-305 BCE?)


Lily and bulb

Li Shan (1686-c. 1760), LILY AND BULB. Album leaf mounted as a hanging scroll --ink and colour on paper. University of Michigan Museum of Art.

Artist's Inscription:

     While its blossoms are pleasing 
     to look at, its bulb is pleasing to eat.
     Why aren't the vicissitudes in one's life
     [as delightful] as this? Regretfully,
     there are hypocritical village people ...


"The wheel never touches the ground."

-- Hui Shih (380-305 BCE?)


Supremist painting

Kazimir Malevich, SUPREMATIST COMPOSITION: WHITE ON WHITE. Oil on canvas, 1918.

Curatorial Record (MOMA):

Malevich viewed the Russian Revolution as having paved the way for a new society in which materialism would eventually lead to spiritual freedom.

Marshall McLuhan (1967):

Electric circuitry has overthrown the regime of "time" and "space".... It has reconstructed dialogue on a global scale. Its message is Total Change, ending psychic, social, economic and political parochialism.


Peter Kropotkin (1896):

Anarchy, when it works to destroy authority in all its aspects, when it demands the abrogation of laws and the abolition of the mechanism that serves to impute them, when it refuses all hierarchical organization and preaches free agreement --at the same time strives to maintain and enlarge the precious kernel of social customs without which no human or animal society can exist. Only instead of demanding that those social customs should be maintained through the authority of a few, it demands it from the continued action of all.


Silver broom

Joseph Beuys, SILVER BROOM AND BROOM WITHOUT BRISTLES, 1972. Broom (wood and horsehair) encased in 1mm silver sheet, 139 x 51 cm; solid copper broom (bristles replaced by thin sheet of felt). Edition: 20 plus IV. Publisher: Edition René Block, Berlin.

Curatorial Record (Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich):

In Düsseldorf in 1971, in a demonstration entitled OVERCOME THE PARTY DICTATORSHIP ... protesting the planned expansion of a tennis club, which would necessitate the felling of trees in a wood ... Beuys and a group of students used brooms to clean the trails of the threatened woodland. The following year, Beuys used a broom with bristles to clear away the rubbish left behind, in the wake of a May-Day demonstration by communist sympathizers. The action was a critical examination of Marxism, as Beuys himself explained: 'I wanted to make it clear that the demonstrators' ideologically fixated orientation also has to be swept away, specifically what was propagated as the dictatorship of the proletariat.'

Marshall McLuhan (1972):

Marx [1818-1883] shared with economists then and since then the inability to make his concepts include innovational processes. It is one thing to spot a new product but quite another to observe the invisible new environments generated by the action of the product on a variety of pre-existing social grounds.


Yellow flowers

" ... 'Surround'...". (Photo: M  Cynog Evans.)

Marshall McLuhan (1971):

Electric media literally translated us into angels. On the phone, "we are there" and "they are here", and so with Radio and TV. Angelism and the occult alike are the by-products of electronics. Ecology is incidental to that. 

"The wheel never touches the ground."

Hui Shih (380-305 BCE)



Chesterton text



Stanley Brouwn, STEPS OF PEDESTRIANS ON PAPER. Street dust on ten pieces of paper, 1960. Museum of Modern Art, New York. 

"Take a stick one foot long and cut it in half every day and you will never exhaust it even after ten thousand generations."

-- Hui Shih (380-305 BCE)


McLuhan text 76


Edward T. Hall (1976):

There are two related crises in today's world. The first and most visible is the population/environment crisis. The second, more subtle but equally lethal, is humankind's relatonships to its extensions, institutions, ideas, as well as the relationships among the many individuals and groups that inhabit the globe.

If both crises are not resolved, neither will be. Despite our faith in technology and our reliance on technical solutions, there are NO technical to most of the  problems confronting human beings. Furthermore, even those technical solutions that can be applied to environnental problems can't be applied rationally until mankind transcends the intellectual limitations imposed by our institutions, our philosophies, and our cultures. Compounding all of this is the reality of politics.



Posted September 16, 2017


Buffer plaque

" ... 'Buffer'...". (Photo: M. Cynog Evans.)

"The percept takes priority over the concept."

-- Marshall McLuhan (1971)


Laozi text


Looking North text

"VSI" [Visual Sensitivity Information]. Telex message sent by Iain Baxter (N. E. Thing Company Projects Department, North Vancouver) --via Simon Fraser University Library, Burnaby-- to Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, October 3,1969.


Quiet Work text


"When both the seeing and the seen are negated, the ground of quiesence will be found."

-- Kukai (774-835 CE)




[ N. E. THING COMPANY LIMITED, NOTHING PROJECT, 1969 --specifications submitted by Iain Baxter to the exhibition PLACE AND PROCESS, Edmonton Art Gallery, September 4-28, 1969. ] 




M. K. Morton

It is unfortunate that Huxley is remembered mainly for BRAVE NEW WORLD (1932), which is a minor work, and his early novels. But, as W. H.Auden said, the words of the dead are modified in the guts of the living. Probably 500 years hence he will be remembered primarily as a great essayist.

Whatever. He was concerned with function and interaction. Probably his key metaphor was that we are  (multidimensional) amphibians --that we live in several different elements simultaneously. We are not simply matter, or mind, or social beings, or intellectual, or aesthetically appreciative, or spiritual creatures. We are always at least two of those. Thus he offered an edifying alternative to the Aristotelian-Cartesian-Galileo-Newton-John Locke-Adam Smith world-view that suffocated so many good minds for centuries.

Of Sigmund Freud's reductivism he devastatingly noted that Freud saw only sick people and based his hypotheses on what is below the norm and thus is not much of a guide to behaviour. At the same time, going well beyond W. B. Yeats' rag and bone of the heart, he cautioned that truth can be found at the bottom of murky wells, and we should not be too hasty to pass by them with our noses in the air.

How things were linked stimulated him. He mentioned that he was not a genius because his neck was too long --his torso too far from his head, thus separating his mind and his heart by too great a gap. Someone with a short neck was likely to be a genius because heart and mind were close.

Huxley was fascinated with the interplay of ends and means, the sacred and the profane, the sublime and the absurd, ideals and practice. He said the criterion of reality is its intrinsic irrelevance. Which could mean the more far-off something is the more significant it is. Thus you never know what may turn up next.

His fiction is notable for juxtapositions --his putting together of things most people would never think of. He thus is perhaps the ur-precursor of those masters of the veer, delvers extraordinaire into the inconsequential, de luxe golden retrievers of the irrelevant: Anthony Powell and Alan Ayckbornne. With perhaps Ford Maddox Ford and George Meredith arch precursors of himself, all the way back to Laurence Sterne?

He sees all things interconnectively. About the time McLuhan was becoming McLuhan, Huxley taxed Arnold Toynbee [A STUDY OF HISTORY, 1934] for neglecting the basic causes of historical change, and mocked his index which features lots of obscure monarchs with unpronouncable names no one would ever look up (but omits totally such subjects as technology, agriculture, invention, etc.).

Context is vital. But self-regardingness did not suffice. His writings about eastern religions are most significant for pointing out the distinction between ego-projection and otherness. The latter recognizes, perhaps tries to contact the not-self. Ego projection is simply our desires transformed into something beyond us but within reach: thus, for example, much do-gooding however valuable is merely an extension of a person's need to help people; and however 'selfless' do-gooders may be they are still not reaching out to the non-self. Possibly Henri Bergson's THE TWO SOURCES OF MORALITY AND RELIGION (1932) a precursor. Is Huxley himself with this idea of ego-projections precursoring McLuhan's key idea of media as extensions of our central nervous system?

Huxley is as concerned with the failure to link up as with his extensions. He notes that many are called but few are chosen because few chose themselves.

In ALDOUS HUXLEY, 1894-1963, A MEMORIAL VOLUME (1965), it is impressive how many of his friends and colleagues emphasized how kindly he was. During his brief stint as a teacher he did not want his students to show him a mechanical, artificial respect. Rather, he expected the students to try and go beyond the teacher.

Even early on he was true to the transcendent. 


Sterne text


Aldous Huxley (1950):

A belief in hell and knowledge that every ambition is doomed to frustration at the hands of a skeleton have never prevented the majority of human beings from behaving as though death were no more than an unfounded rumour, and survival a thing beyond the bounds of probability.


Purple flower

" ... 'Acoustic'...". (Photo: M. Cynog Evans.)

Marshall McLuhan (1973):

Visual man cannot tolerate the study of the SUBLIMINAL and the non-visual aspect of his own life. Such is not the case in the Orient or in any other non-Western culture.


Office furniture

David Lamelas, OFFICE OF INFORMATION ABOUT THE VIETNAM WAR AT THREE LEVELS: THE VISUAL IMAGE, TEXT, AND AUDIO, 1968. Office furniture, telex, tape recorder, microphone, telephone receivers, text, plexiglas partition, and performance. Dimensions variable. Museum of Modern Art, New York. 

Collection Record: 

First realized at the Finnish Pavilion of the 1968 Venice Biennale, this installation by Lamelas marks his departure from Argentina and the beginning of his career in Europe. 

Originally comprised of Olivetti office furniture and an Olivetti telex machine, OFFICE OF INFORMATION ABOUT THE VIETNAM WAR AT THREE LEVELS amassed news reports about the Vietnam War supplied by the Italian news agency ANSA, which were read intermittently by an attendant in Italian, French, and Spanish. When the news was not read live, recordings could be heard through the headsets. OFFICE presented records not of long-past events, but of news as it was unfolding. In contrast to the resulting sense of immediacy, the administrative setting mirrored the irony of an increasingly connected world experienced at a distance.


"The basic changes of our time lead us towards confronting the environment as artefact."

-- Marshall McLuhan (1969)


"Let me remind you, the perceived cannot perceive."

-- Ch'an/Zen master Huang Po (d. 850 CE) 


Interval photo

IAIN BAXTER&, Information Mural --Digital Conversion Code [stencilled paint] with [scavenged/altered] 'idylic landscape' painting (detail). Installation view: North Vancouver Museum, 2012.

"The INTERVAL is where the action IS."

-- Marshall McLuhan (1971)

If a fleeting thought conjures the whole, 
how can I describe Reality in figures?
While empty moonlight on the water shows everything, 
the mirror of No Mind reflects Nothingness. 

-- Koen [Korean Zen] poet Baekoon Kyunghan (1299-1375)


Ch'an master Lin-chi I-hsüan (d. 866 CE):

If you want to be free get to know your real self. It has no form, no appearance, no root, no basis, no abode, but is lively and buoyant. It responds with versatile facility, but its function cannot be located. Therefore when you look for it you become further from it --when you seek it you turn away from it all the more.


McLuhan Stupid text



David Lamelas, LIMIT OF A PROJECTION, 1967. Theatre spotlight in darkened room (installation variable) --originally shown in the exhibition 'Más allá de la geometría' (Beyond geometry), Di Tella Institute, Buenos Aires.

"The idea of the piece came because I was in the process of getting out of the object."

David Lamelas (2010)


Henri Bergson (1932):

People do not sufficiently realize that their future is in their own hands. Theirs is the task of determinimg first of all whether they want to go on living or not. Theirs is the responsibility, then, for deciding if they want to merely live, or intend to make just the extra effort for fulfilling, even on their refractory planet, the essential function of the universe, which is a machine for the making of gods. 

"Undertanding is not a point-of-view "

-- Marshall McLuhan (1970)



Posted August 25, 2017


"The disincarnate TV viewer lives in a world between fantasy and dream, and is in a typically hypnotic state, which is the ultimate form and level of participation."

-- Marshall McLuhan (1978)


Hui-ssu (514-577):

By saying substance and function are  not different, one does not mean collecting the different functions of many particles of dust to form the one substance of the lump of clay. It merely means that within the level of worldly truth, every event or character is the total substance of absolute truth.


Eye image

Bruce Nauman, OPENED EYE [photographed by Jack Fulton,1968] -- inkjet print from INFRARED OUTTAKES portfolio, 2006. 

"The retina is only a door that you open to go further."

-- Marcel Duchamp (1966)


Lao Tzu (sixth century BCE):

Calamity is that upon which happiness depends;
Happiness is that in which calamity is latent.

Henry James (1889):

To take what there is, and use it, without waiting forever in vain for the preconceived --to dig deeper into the actual and get something out of that-- this doubtless is the right way to live. 

-- Henry James (1889)


Reduce Art Flights

Gustav Metzger, RAF poster initiative, 2013.

"At last year's ART BASEL I felt that something should be done in relation to the flights, both of artists and gallery people, and the transportation of works of art."

-- Gustav Metzger (2007) 

[ Note: 

Metzger's contribution to a 1974 exhibition --ART INTO SOCIETY/SOCIETY INTO ART (ICA, London)--  consisted of his call for 'Years Without Art, 1977-1980'. 

-- CAUSA Research Curators ] 

"The nineteenth-century consumer preference is not relevant to the electric age of quantum physics, even though our media bureaucracies continue to produce mainly consumer packages."

-- Marshall McLuhan (1971)

Ch'an master Niu T'ou Fa Jung (594-657):

There is neither unifying nor dispersing,
Neither slow nor quick.
Brightness and tranquility are just as they are;
They cannot be explained in words.


Barfield text


Ch'an master Seng Ts'an (?-606 CE):

The wise have no motives;
Fools put themselves in bondage.


Flower photo

" ... 'First Layer'...". (Photo: M. Cynog Evans.)


"It is by opposing to the experience of things the specter of another experience that would not involve things that we force experience to say more than it said."

-- Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1964)


Chan master on mule

CH'AN MASTER RIDING A MULE -- hanging scroll, ink on paper. Unidentified artist, China, active mid-13th century CE. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Inscription by Ch'an master Wuzhun (1238 CE): 

As rain darkens the mountain,
One mistakes a mule for a horse.


W.S. Merwin (1958):

In its natural sense, of course, the question of survival has been with us since we were amoebas, or whatever we were. We may have developed ears, at first, to listen to it, and minds primarily to be haunted by it. For homo sapiens it has a peculiar meaning: one of the essential things that separates us from the other animals is our awareness of our mortality. 

In our time, however, the question has developed a special sense. Nearly as close and insistent as the old "how long will I survive," we keep hearing, "how long will anything survive?"

There are two important differences between the two questions: the old one, for example, is posed by the nature of existence, and there is finally nothing that can be done about it; the more recent one is a reverberation set up by human action, and the inference is that human responsibility might be effective in controlling it. I am not talking just about the Bomb. I go on the assumption, which I cannot avoid, that there is some link between a society's possibly ungovernsble committment to industrial expansion and population increase.

Ch'an master Seng Ts'an (?-606 CE):

The ten directions are right before you.
The smallest is the same as the largest
In the realm where delusion is cut off.


Barfield text 2


                               TWO POEMS 

                              by M.K. Morton 


             SETTLED DOWN TO WAIT, 
                  HOLDS ITS BREATH

Stars, executing well rehearsed retreat, have left no straggle of flank.

Beyond this roadside diner,

While the entire surround tries mustering a hover,

The immediate milieu absently cultivates extensive blank.


Omitted any hint of catching the upcoming by the shank

Daybreak untrusting hangs back:the horizon could be a prank.

Invisibility, vaguely tempted to come out of hiding,

Seems to feel distance is the better part of presiding,

But apparently signals no need the furtive stay under cover.

The closest it slips to coming on frank,

At least until cockcrow lays down a plank.

Not a question objects may be self-displacing;


The case simply implicating lax, haphazard self-misplacing.

The very stillness so all-enfolding,

As if shelved, waiting conveyance elsewhere.

When beauty is every excuse for with-holding,

(She keeping to the key of the subliminal,

The explicit practically criminal)

Blooms hesitate to ascend fixated unwinding stare.

Not even the first sunrise-jealous jay scolding,


No premature morning-glory on what she need wear 

A sun-dial consults. On counter or in drawer, expired discounts

Stick. Either way, at this milk-run stop, rain-checks start to stack. 

Total tact heavy with provocation-lack, 

A mildly actual now figures as neither creak nor crack.

Before this slender hour makes at dawn crawl dew allowance,

When the enterprising (including cheques) dodge near primal bounce,

Time doesn't seep or even drift. More accurately said to graze.


While, with psycho-babble--all the less inconsequential

For being ultra-incidental, nonsequential--

Close-on apologetic paraphrase,

The barely awake their slipstream-hammocked dreams de-maze.


               DON'T SLOW DOWN?

Gifted this patch? Unlogged. Provides no surface feature worth notice. 
ouldn't know to make of a solstice

What. Still, before skies clear, undeciphered, nondescript, not to miss.

Trees file mergingly past: sketch intent projecting juxtapose

As salient not likely convincing. Sense slows

In the branches' slight light. Dinge any hint of flair overthrows. 
The tax office bother to foreclose?
Probably the ownership of this passing indifferent wood

Doesn't rate the attention of a Robin Hood, The extent storm-blows its sluggish stretch has withstood


Who checks? But amazing, if there's nothing much to see, how much 

Can detain the eye when everything (not attempting levitation:

For no known box-store-bought lens any appeal;

It's a scene the biggest ham wouldn't want to steal)

Still is seen with, tug, mask every way, time-cupping touch.

Slackly pan this unambitious stretch--almost static its rippling, 

Restrained yet more its stippling--

The spirit is supplied with an epiphany-shy, modest (incubation

In denial) sprawled elevation

Implicitly, casually, undislodgably laid-back. Summer-invisibling,


Not even slops for emptying, dimly

It presents (except that would be too ambitious a term

For a prospect--another word over-the top--sporting of inspiration 

Not a germ--

Presents toneless repetitious atemporal recitation of vegetation.


Somnambulist-savvy, easily escapes a brush with incipient dimpling.

Stasis-achieving, thin breeze--gnarled root accompaniment--whistling? 

Regardless it prompts diction too firm,

Precious few deserts could match much this identity-belittling. 

Cloud-cover cramped, car windows almost slip off to sleep,


As skimming boughs toss a sluggishly drooped wink 

About secrets the forest wouldn't know how not to keep,

And only a Moebius ring would know how its sunken tracts up to link.

Anti-conspicuous the sun, even by its absence; shadows verge muted.

Such unrelievedly blurred homogeneity might be said to be cliquey.


Smudges on tap flatly, but certainly difficult anything outright streaky

To discern. Enfin, venue stays innocent of sneaky.  

Contrast keeping a low profile,

Distraction not here in style.

Nothing, where camouflage tucks all, is for protective colouring suited.


"Thought requires some sort of continuity."

-- Walter Ong (1982)

"A tradition is kept alive only by something being added to it."

-- Henry James (1875)

Ch'an master Niu T'ou Fu Jung (594-657):

Within mind there is no environment;
Within the environment there is no mind.
Use mind to extinguish the environment
And both will be disturbed. 


Duchamp postcard

Marcel Duchamp, PHARMACY -- reproduction (hand-coloured by the artist) of a rectified readymade,  PHARMACIE (gouache and enamel on chromolithograph) dated 1914-- from VIEW, Series V, No.1, New York, March 1945. Edition of 100; signed, numbered and dated in pencil.

[ Note:

Numbered "17' (hors compte/aside from the edition), this unique version of PHARMACY is inscribed with a dedication to Bernard and Rebecca Reis --an accountant/financial advisor/art patron and his art collector wife.

PHARMACIE (1914) was 'realized' through Duchamp's addition of two drops of colour (one red/one green) to a mass-produced reproduction of an unknown artist's winter landscape print,  purchased in an art supply store. Three versions of this work were produced in a single year.

Duchamp's 'conceptual' use of colour  creates a ratio of interplay between  'rectified readymade' and 'recognizable symbol' --making reference to the formerly ubiquitous PHARMACY CARBOY (a transparent glass storage jar) and its red or green liquid contents. Traditionally, PHARMACISTS used the carboy as a 'marker' to distinguish themselves from APOTHECARIES (who used a mortar and pestle as an 'image' of their profession).

-- CAUSA Research Curators ] 

Third Patriarch of Ch'an Buddhism, Seng Ts'an (?-606):

Stop activity and return to stillness,
And that stillness will be even more active. 
Only stagnating in duality,
How can you recognize oneness?

Marshall McLuhan (1973):

When we are using only a small part of our faculties, we are working. When we are totally involved, we are playing. The artist is always at leisure, especially when most intensely engaged in making.


E. T. Hall (1976):

It is never possible to understand completely any other human being; and no individual will ever really understand himself --the complexity is too great and there is not the time to constantly take things apart and examine them. This is the beginning of wisdom in human relations. However, understanding onself and undertanding others are closely related processes. To do one, you must start with the other, and vice versa. 

Marshall McLuhan (1960):

Now that by electricity we have externalized ALL of our senses, we are in the desperate position of not having any SENSUS COMMUNIS.

Zen master Hakuin (1686-1768):

If you forget yourself, you become the universe. 


Buddha netsuke

" ... 'Syncing'...". (Photo: M. Cynog Evans.) 


Hotei monochrome

Kano Takanobu, HOTEI, 1616. Hanging scroll --ink and colour on paper. The Metropolitan Museum, New York.

[ Note:

Hotei (Chinese: Budai), is believed to have lived in southern China in the late ninth century; he became recognized as a manifestation of Miroku (Sanskrit: Maitreya), the Buddha of the Future.

The scroll's inscription [brushed by a leading Zen monk-scholar, Tetsuzan Sodon] is excerpted from a eulogy for Budai created by the Song-dynasty Daoist master Bai Yuchan. Bai (1194-1229) integrated Ch'an/Zen teachings into his philosophy --and this affinity is evident in the scroll's inscription. It concisely comments:

       Hotei's sack encompasses the Great Emptiness.
       Holding a staff, he tramps around 3,000 worlds.
       Miroku claps his hands and laughs --ha, ha!
       The bright moon shines, the wind disappears.

This excerpted passage inflects its presence as an immense and perpetually fluent concatenation. 

-- CAUSA Research Curators ] 



Posted July 30, 2017


Confucius Arhat Laozi

Ding Yunpeng (d. 1628), CONFUCIUS, LAO TZU, AND AN ARHAT. Hanging scroll --ink and colour on paper. Palace Museum, Beijing.

"The great square has no corners."

-- Lao Tzu (sixth century BCE)

'He who learns but does not think is lost; 
he who thinks but does not learn is in danger."

-- Confucius (d. 479 CE)

Hsüan-tsang (596-664):

The storehouse of 
consciousness is not 
affected by the darkness
of ignorance or by an
indifference to good and evil.

The same is true in the case 
of touch and so forth.
It is always like a torrent, 
And is renounced in the state 
of the ARHAT [a Buddhist sage 
who has achieved enlightenment].


McLuhan People text



Chu Hsi (1130-1200):

On the bathtub of T'ang [Ch'eng T'ang (c. 1675-1646 BCE), first king of the Shang Dynasty] the following words were engraved: "If you can in one day renovate yourself, do so from day to day. Yes, let there be daily renovation."


"The user of any technology is the content of that form."

-- Marshall McLuhan (1971)

"Renovate, dod gast you, renovate!"

-- Ezra Pound (1928)



M.K. Morton 

The climate reduced to fits and starts,
The Heritsge Society's donations vase fake Ming:
Even a survivor has to cut himself some slack. 
Given this year (picking up with a sleek mock squeak
From the fossil record gaps some seasonal smarts)

The sundial sphinx sprinkled spring 
Only a couple of times a week,
The equinox skipped the stone circle ring.
Dawn teaching dusk how to live in a crack.
Large corporations' mass followings innocence affecting,

Falling all over cloud nebulae distributing parts 
In contradictory keys, the music of the spheres bleak,
Symphony orchestras' status beyond pathetique. 
Philosophy relegated to rag-and-bone carts. 
The educated mumble, historically amnesiac.

Mindlessness even in resesarch institutes tabloid-abetted,
Reflection on an auspicious
Occurence (always regarded as suspicious) 
One of the unregretted 
Inconspicuously lost arts. 

Things so shallowed, little point worrying who may hack:
You can easily afford let egg-timers leak.
The world streaming to Pandora Fest,
The lottery guarantees Eldorado chest,
The more there's forbear tease

The carbon lobby to pretty up please. 
So, on your Atlantis-lore quest 
Than fluent re-cycle-bin Zoroaster-speak,
Better use asterisk-shy Xanadu-ese 
If you hope outlast going back to forest. 


Tan Sitong Text2


Wyndham Lewis:

The ideas of a time are like the clothes of a season: they are arbitrary, as much imposed by some superior will which is seldom explicit. They are utilitarian and political, the instruments of smooth-running government.

-- Wyndham Lewis (1926)


Philo Farnsworth telegram


Hsüan-tsang (602-664):

The various consciousnesses transform and change.

Both the discrimination (consciousness) and the object
of discrimination, are, because of this, unreal. 

For this reason, everything is consciousness only.


Snow Corpus photo

Still from *CORPUS CALLOSUM (2002), written and directed by Michael Snow. Video --91 min. (colour, sound).

Artist's statement:

The corpus callosum is a central region of tissue in the human brain which passes messages between the two hemispheres. *Corpus Callosum, the film or tape, or projected light work, is constructed of, depicts, creates, examines, presents, consists of, and is, 'betweens'. Between beginning and ending, between 'natural' and 'artificial,' between fiction and fact, between hearing and seeing, between 1956 and 2002. It's a tragi-comedy of the cinematic variables. *Corpus Callosum juxtaposes or counterpoints a realm of normal metamorphosis (two extreme examples: pregnancy, explosions) in believable, 'real' interior spaces with 'impossible' shape changes (some made possible with digital animation). First the camera, then we the audience, observe the observations of the 'real' people depicted in the obviously staged situations. What we see and what we 'see' is involved in shifting modes of belief. There seem to be (though there is no narrative) a Hero and a Heroine. However, from scene to scene they are different people costumed identically or altered electronically. The sound --electronic like the picture-- is also a continuous metamorphosis and as the film's 'nervous system' is as important to the film as the picture. Or: the sound and the picture are two hemispheres joined by the artist. *Corpus Callosum is resolutely 'artificial,' it not only wants to convince, but also to be a perceived pictorial and musical phenonenon.


"Don't keep looking in the rear-view mirror and defending the status quo which is outmoded the moment it happens."

-- Marshall McLuhan (1967)



Posted July 6, 2017


Woodgrain photo

" ... 'Particulars'...". (Photo: M. Cynog Evans.)

"When people ask, 'Is the object of sense mental or physical?' they seldom have any clear idea either what is meant by 'mental' or 'physical', or what criteria are to be applied for deciding whether a given entity belongs to one class or the other."

-- Bertrand Russell (1915)



Ch'an master Shih Wang Ming 
(sixth century CE):

Pay no heed to forms;
Do not listen to sounds.
Listening to sounds you become deaf,
Observing forms you become blind.


Gestalt vase faces


[This image was first published in  the Danish-language SYNSOPLEVEDE FIGURE (VISUAL FIGURES), a two-volume work by psychologist Edgar Rubin.]

"When two fields have a common border, and one is seen as figure and the other as ground, the immediate perceptual experience is characterized by a shaping effect which emerges from the common border of the fields and which operates only on one field or operates more strongly on the one than on the other."

-- Edgar Rubin (1915)

Marshall McLuhan (1977):

The interplay between FIGURE and GROUND is "where the action is".This  interplay requires an interval or a gap, like the space between the wheel and the axle. 


Contrary to a common misconception,  both FIGURES can be held in the visual field. This simultaneous perception is, at first, easier for some people than for  others, because it requires a certain amount of 'un-learning'. (Most of our training is directed toward keeping clear the distinction between FIGURE and GROUND.)


Ch'an master Fu Yu (497-569):

The empty hand holds the hoe.
Feet walking, riding the water buffalo.
The man walks over the bridge ... 
The bridge flows, the water does not flow. 


"The principle intellectual development of the past century or so has been the supplanting of linear perspective by a multi-locational mode of perception."

-- Marshall McLuhan (1947)


Brouwn send me

Stanley Brouwn, POSTE-RESTANTE LETTER. Card (distributed in galleries),  1971.


Ch'an master Seng Ts'an (?-606 CE):

Only stagnating in duality,
How can you recognize oneness?
If you fail to penetrate oneness, 
Both places lose their function.


"Without sensibility and perceptions trained to find awareness in one's own time, one cannot really enter into other times."

-- Marshall McLuhan (1971)


Ch'an master Niu T'ou Fa Jung (594-657):

Going, coming, sitting, standing,
Don't attach to anything.
Affirming no direction, 
Can there be leaving and entering?


"The stranger has become the guide; the passenger, the driver. This multi-role playing is inevitable in an electronic world."

--Marshall McLuhan (1971)


Ch'an master Yung Chia Hsuan Chueh (665-713):

Attaching to emptiness, denying cause and effect, 
Brings calamities beyond measure.
Rejecting existence and grasping is the same mistake.
Like jumping into a fire to avoid drowning.


Marshall McLuhan (1974):

Acoustic space, which differs entirely from visual space, is one whose centre is multi-locational --the centre is everywhere and the margin nowhere. Is not gravity of this nature? Visual space, on the other hand, is continuous, connected, homogeneous and static. It is the only sensory mode having these characteristics. Visual space is infinitely divisible, whereas all the other senses have spaces that are quite indivisible. This is possibly why the electric space of simultaneous information is transforming our entire outlook. That is, we are now using our eye as an ear, and vice-versa. 


Ch'an master Han Shan Te Ch'ing (1546-1623):

Self grasping another 
Is like mud entering water.
Self moved by another
Is like throwing fat on the fire.
While the outer realm is chaos, self is true.
When chaos is taken to be real, self is born.
If self is not born, 
Vexations, burning for aeons, turn to ice.


McLuhan Electric Revolution


Ch'an master Shao Liang Chieh (807-869):

As before a precious mirror,
The form and reflection gaze on each other --
You are not it,
But it is just you.



Posted June 15, 2017


McLuhan text


Absence photo

" ... 'Absence'...". (Photo: M. Cynog Evans.)

Seng-chao (384-413):

The sage moves within the thousand transformations but does not change, and travels on ten thousand paths of delusion but always goes through. This is so because he leaves the vacuous self-nature of things as it is and does not employ the concept of vacuity to make things vacuous.

"But what am I? A thing that thinks. What is that? A thing that doubts, understands, affirms, denies, wills, refuses, and that also imagines and senses."

-- Renée Descartes (1641)

"I would say act like a man of thought and think like a man of action."

-- Henri Bergson (1937)


Chou Tun-i (1017-1073):

One cannot penetrate subtlety without thought, and cannot penetrate all without profound thought. Thus the ability to penetrate all comes from the ability to penetrate subtlety, and the ability to penetrate subtlety comes from thinking.


Carr totem walk

Emily Carr, TOTEM WALK AT SITKA, watercolour on paper, 1907. Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (British Columbia).

In 1904, fourteen indigenous Alaskan totem poles --valued, at the time, as "anthropological" curiosities--  were conspicuously presented as part of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis.

The  U.S. had purchased Alaska in 1867; forty years later, the monumental carvings were returned to that region --being sited in a publicly owned "totem pole park" (part of  a surrounding Sitka National Monument landscape.)

TOTEM WALK AT SITKA records an occasion of what Emily Carr has termed "fresh seeing" --a probing towards the subtle "something plus" which the artist locates (literally, beyond surface appearances) at the extremities of visibility itself.

--CAUSA Research Curators


Marshall McLuhan and Barrington Nevitt  (1973):

Pushed to extreme, the fragmented figures of abstract Nature exclude the ground of actual nature. But always the action is in the gap. There are no "things," only processes.


Telex text

VSI / VISUAL SENSITIVITY INFORMATION --formula sent (via telex) by Iain Baxter (N. E. Thing Company Projects Department) ... from Simon Fraser University Library (Burnaby, British Columbia) to Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (Halifax, Nova Scotia), October 3, 1969.

"Both the past and the present exist permanently because they do not move."

-- Seng-chao (344-413)


Black Square

Kasimir Malevich, BLACK SQUARE (installation view), oil on canvas [fourth of five versions], 1923. Russian State Museum, St. Petersburg.

Artist's statement (1926):

In the year 1913, in my desperate attempt to free art from the ballast of objectivity, I took refuge in the square form and [in 1915] exhibited a picture which consisted of nothing more than a black square on a white field.


"Don't nail a stick into empty space."

-- Ch'an master I-hsüan (d. 867 CE)


Silk Foot


Artist's statement (1987):

Anyone who has touched these feet will have realised that hands feel; and anyone who has seen these feet will have realised that one can listen to stone. But anyone who is deaf will not have even thought about touching them, and will certainly not have looked at them with feeling.


Marshall McLuhan (1965):

Environments are not mere containers. They are active and pervasive processes.


The function of the anti-environment, whether in the arts or sciences or society, is that of perception and control.

Harold Rosenberg (1978):

The skills of the modern artist are the opposite of those of the craftsman: instead of acquiring techniques for producing classes of objects, the artist today perfects the means suited to his particular work.


"Although passing on and remaining are different, ultimately, they are the same."

-- Seng-chao (d. 414 CE)

"We must realize a commerce with the world and a presence to the world that is older than intelligence."

-- Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1945)


Buddha footprint


Site Description (Kyoto Prefectural Government Information):

Kozan-ji temple was established at the beginning of the 13th century, when the monk Myoe restored a mountain temple and gave it its present name. Lush with ancient cedar and maple trees, its precincts contain the oldest tea field in Japan. Myoe is said to have planted tea seeds brought back from China by the Zen priest Eisai [in 1191 CE].


Marshall McLuhan (1979):

I cannot see that the physical existence of mankind is compatible with the speed of light. There is no lack of evidence of both physical and metaphysical violence as a response to this.



Stanley Brouwn

4000 A.D.
When science and art are entirely
melted together to something new
when people will have lost their
remembrance and thus will have
no past, only future.
When they will have to discover everything
every moment again and again
when they will have lost their need for
contact with others ...
Then they will live in a world of only
colour, light, space, time, sounds and movement.
Then colour light space time
sounds and movement will be free
No music
no theater
no art
There will be sound


Pond photo

" ... 'Within/Without'...". (Photo: M. Cynog Evans.)

Chuang Tzu (fourth century BCE):

Do not take over the function of things. ... Personally realize the infinite to the highest degree and travel in the realm of which there is no sign.


T'ao Ch'ien (d. 427 CE):

                                                      Once you're

dead and gone, what then? Trust yourself
to the mountain's flank. It will take you in.

[ Translated by David Hinton ]



M.K. Morton

Don't ask me how I know
When my true under-oaths will be on show.
Who cares who said "No crime Tehranicide"?
Although nothing cannot be denied,
Inside the belt-way --nowhere to run, so much to hide--

These broncos can take you for quite the deride.
You can even end up fit to be tried.
I pointed out it is not my position to chide.
I didn't warn the president the law is not to be defied.
I didn't ask him how many bans he signed.

I didn't have the presence of mind.
Didn't even remind him of his Miranda
Rights. I sorely regret my remarks I hadn't confined
To a Prohibition era
Romanoff-run saloon being declassified

(Except for something about a --was it Anastasia's?-- tiara)
Where czarist unindicted co-conspirators still unwind
And neither Clintons nor Trumpers ever dined.
Perhaps now is the time to confide:
When an old mirror image dies

From what Zarathustra spoke
(That was one dude with presence of mind --
who cares if he lies?)
More than the smoke
Gets in your replies.


Marshall McLuhan (1960):

Accelerated change includes the gyroscope or vortex principles of rigidity. Also, to high-speed change no adjustment is possible. We become spectators only, and must escape into understanding. This may be why the conservative has an advantage in such an age of speedy change and is frequently more radical in his suggestions and insights than the progressive who is trying to adjust. The practical progressive trying to make realistic adjustments to change exhausts himself in minor matters and has no energy to contemplate the overall.

Ch'an/Zen master Dogen (d. 1253 CE):

The whole universe
shatters into a hundred pieces.
In the great death
there is no heaven, no earth.

Once body and mind have turned over
there is only this to say:

Past mind cannot be grasped,
present mind cannot be grasped,
future mind cannot be grasped.



Posted May 15, 2017


"Give me a few more years so that I can devote fifty years to study Change."

-- Confucius (551-479 BCE)

"Just as it is not from the roots or from the trunk of trees that one gathers fruit, but only from the extremities of their branches, so the principal usefulnes of Philosophy depends upon those parts of it which can only be learned last."

-- René Descartes (1641)


Chuang Tzu (c. 395-295 BCE):

In their own way things are so-and-so. [...]  There is nothing that is not so-and-so. [...] Let us take, for instance, a large beam and a small beam ... or generosity, strangeness, deceit and abnormality. The Tao identifies them all as one.


Jeffers quote text


Marshall McLuhan (1953):

The ordinary desire of everybody to have everybody else think alike with himself has some explosive implications.... The perfection of the MEANS of communication has given this average power-complex of the human-being an enormous extension of expression.


Palace Painting

THE ALCHEMY OF MASTER GENG, Ming dynasty, 16th century. Hanging scroll, ink on silk. National Palace Museum, Taipei.

Stephen Little, The Art Institute of Chicago (2000):

This painting of a Taoist female alchemist depicts a scene at the Tang dynasty court in the mid-ninth century. The female adept known as Master Geng was one of a long tradition of FANG-SHI ("magicians," or "technicians" --literally "method-masters") stretching back to the Bronze age.


Geng Qian could control the spirits. She  mastered the "art of the yellow and the white" (alchemy), with many other strange transformations, mysterious and incomprehensible.

In the Dazong reign-period (847-859) the emperor, being fond of the elegant and fascinated by the strange, summoned her to the palace to observe her techniques. She was not added to the pool of palace ladies but was given  special lodgings and called "Teacher [XIANSHENG].


On another occasion during heavy snow the emperor aked her if she could turn that into silver also. Saying that she could, she cut up some hard snow into the form of an ingot and threw it into a blazing fire. The ashes rose up and all was covered over with charcoal; then after about the time required to take a meal she said it was done, and taking out the red-hot substance, put it on the ground to cool, whereupon it brightened and took the form of a silver ingot, with the same knife-marks still on it.

Later on the Teacher made a lot of "snow-silver" --so much that she presented vessels made of it to the emperor on his birthday.

[ Note:

This National Palace Museum scroll presents Master Geng in the company of her patron emperor. Both figures are seated before a charcoal brazier --and several depicted vessels (resting in charcoal) remind us of a magician-technician's "snow-silver" capabilities.

-- CAUSA Resesrch Curators ]


Ensor skeletons

James Ensor, SKELETONS TRYING TO WARM THEMSELVES, 1895. Etching printed with tone on Japan paper.


Leslie Jamison, HARPERS MAGAZINE (April 2017):

In the shadow of the Washington Monument, my friend Joe said that for the first time since the election, he was excited to read the news. We were helping to write the story we wanted to live. But we would need to read about it afterward, to understand what we had been part of.

[Excerpt from the author's account of her participation in the WOMEN'S MARCH ON WASHINGTON AGAINST DONALD TRUMP, January 21, 2017.


Prismatic photo

" .... 'Constitutive Transcedence'...". (Photo: M. Cynog Evans.)


Capone drawing

Hugo Gellert, US FOLKS GOTTA STICK TOGETHER ... THE LAST DEFENCES Of CAPITALISM, 1932. Wolfson-Florida International Foundation, Miami Beach, Florida, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection.

Collection Record:

Chalk on celotex on plaster study depicting five men, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, President Hoover, and Al Capone; all but Capone have their hands on bags full of money while Capone has a machine gun.


Langston Hughes

All you beauty-makers,
Give up beauty for a moment.
Look at harshness, look at pain,
Look at life again.
Look at hungry babies crying,
Listen to the rich men lying,
Look at starving China dying.
Hear the rumble in the East:
"In spite of all,
Life must not cease."
In India with folded arms,
In China with the guns,
In Africa with bitter smile --
See where the murmur runs:
"Life must not cease,
Because the fat and greedy ones
Proclaim their thieving peace."
Their peace far worse than war and death --
For this is better than living breath:
Free! To be free!
Futile beauty-makers --
Work for awhile with the pattern-breakers:
Let beauty be!


Unjust woodcut

David Siqueiros, THE UNJUST, woodcut, 1930.


Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1964):

We situate ourselves in ourselves AND in the things, in ourselves AND in the other, at the point where, by a sort of CHIASM, we become the others and we become world. Philosophy is itself only when it refuses for itself the facilities of a world with one sole entry as well as the facilities of a world with multiple entries, all accessible to the philosopher [...] it abides where the passage from the self into the other is effected, at the crossing of the avenues.

Seascape projection

Agnès Varda, BORD DE MER, 2009. Digital HD projection, Blu-ray aspect 16:9 colour/sound video projection, sand. [Installation: one-third still photograph, one-third looped video, and one-third real sand.]

"I give myself a structure, and I allow my mind to go elsewhere."

-- Agnès Varda (2017)

Mencius (371-289 BCE?):

To act without understanding and do so habitually without examination, following certain courses all their lives without knowing the principles behind them --this is the way of the multitude.


Marshall McLuhan (1959):

How many thousands of years of change can we afford every ten years? May not a spot of culture-lag here and there in the great time-flux prove to be a kind of social and psychological oasis?



Posted April 18, 2017


Marshall McLuhan (1973):

Truth is something we make with all our senses in a conscious process of remaking the world as the world remakes us physically, psychically, and socially.

[ ...]

Anyone with enough vitality to confront the actual through perception can predict the future by noting what has already happened. For the future of the future is the present.


"Only the most intelligent and the most stupid do not change."

-- Confucius (551-479 BCE)


Monochrome Ink painting

Liang Kai, POET STROLLING BY A MARSHY BANK, early 13th century. Fan mounted as an album leaf; ink on silk. The Metropolitan Museum.of Art, New York.


"In the buginning is the woid."

-- James Joyce (1918)


Hausmann collage

Raoul Hausmann, ABCD (SELF-PORTRAIT). Photo montage. (Signed and inscribed on print: Berlin 1919-1923). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


Hsün Tzu (fl. 298-238 BCE):

There is a great difference between what is on the one hand, and what is able actually to be done, on the other. It is clear that they are not interchangeable.

Oswald Spengler (1926):

"Mankind" ... has no aim, no idea, no plan, any more than the family of butterflies or orchids. "Mankind" is a zoological expression, or an empty word.


Pond photo

" ... 'In the Gap'...". (Photo: M. Cynog Evans.)

Marshall McLuhan (1973):

Breakdown is the old cause in action, the extension of the old figure to the new ground. Breakthrough is the effect of understanding as the new cause.


Neon words photo

Joseph Kosuth, FIVE WORDS IN GREEN NEON, 1965. Neon tubing. 62-1/8  x 80-5/8 x 6 in. (157.8 x 204.8 x 15.2 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

"The 'value' of particular artists after Duchamp can be weighed according to how much they questioned the nature of art." -- Joseph Kosuth (1969)


Chuang Tzu (c. 395-295 BCE):

There was a beginning. There was a time before that beginning. And there was a time before the time which was before that beginning. There was being. There was non-being. There was a time before that non-being. And there was a time before the time that was before that non-being. Suddenly there is being and there is non-being, but I don't know which of being and non-being is really being or really non-being. I have just said something, but I don't know if what I have said really says something or says nothing.


                                    M.K. Morton

Academic budgeteers are trained dog-lovers who don't
Leashed realize when they've a cat on their hands.
Slow, despite so grand all-in-their-headstands,
To twig (or even bring back a stick)

That the finest canine legislation won't
Answer a feline personality's demands.
Although affluent a-plenty
Beyond more than enough,

Emulous of species unendangered glomming parasitic,
How much mistaken identity
Does it take for the constantly-moulting-fluff,
Projections-jaded body politic to strut the wrong stuff?

Eager to teach a new oil-slick an old trick
With a statistic, pet-show records downloaded
Dog-eared, indexed pensions nothing incommoded,
Environmental reviews the ultimate bluff.

And when a forest goes don't miss the wake
The fauna doth furnish forth. The paymaster gobbles,
While the cost-accounting expert coyly fondles
His latest development models.

Spread-sheets hang-glide. Graph-opaque,
Remote from the actual conditions a real town stands on,
Masters of the forecast switcheroo,
Every economic think-tank guru

Offers any and all a stratospheric overview
("Look IMF! No hands on!")
Persistently calculating, down-Hudson or up-Amazon,
A peso a day more than most locals make.

Their funny bone rarely known
To scratch, do net-debt gross deans intone:
"No Food and Drug Administration guidelines steak?
Then let them chow outsourced oat-cake".


"The future is not what it used to be; neither is causality, for thought travels much faster and farther than light."

-- Marshall McLuhan (1973)


Posted March 23, 2017


Marshall McLuhan (1953):

Perfection of the MEANS of communication has meant instantaneity. Such an instantaneous network of communication is the body-mind unity of each of us. When a city or a society achieves adversity and equilibrium of awareness analogous to the body-mind network, it has what we tend to regard as a high culture.


Chang Tsai (1020-1077):

When it is understood that the Vacuity, the Void, is nothing but material force, then existence and nonexistence, the hidden and the manifested, spirit and eternal transformation, and human nature and destiny are all one and not a duality. Anyone who can apprehend  integration and disintegration, appearance and disappearance, form and absence of form, and trace them to their material force, penetrates the secret of Change.


Tree and Sky photo

" ... 'Fleeting Force'...". (Photo: M. Cynog Evans.)


"The immediate is at the horizon, and must be thought as such; it is only by remaining at a distance that it remains itself."

-- Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1964)

Bamboo grove painting

Guan Daosheng, BAMBOO GROVES IN MIST AND RAIN (section of a handscroll), ink on paper, 1262.  National Palace Museum, Taipei.

Chang Tsai (1020-1077):

According to principle nothing exists alone. Unless there are similarity and difference, contraction and expansion, and beginning and end among things to make it stand out, it is not really a thing although it seems to be. To become complete (to attain individuality), a thing must have a beginning and an end. But completion cannot be achieved unless there is a mutual influence between similarity and difference (change) and between being and non-being (becoming). If completion is not achieved, it is not really a thing although it seems to be.

Door photo

Marcel Duchamp, DOOR: 11 RUE LARREY, PARIS. 1927.

Memo to CAUSA Research Curators
from Gary Lee Nova
(March 2017):

Upon discovering Arturo Schwarz's photographic record of Marcel Duchamp's DOOR, I was immediately captured by a connection to the now-famous "either/or" dichotomy of Aristotelian logic.

At the time of first encountering DOOR, I was reading Alfred Korzybski (a renowned anti-Aristotelian who had located numerous logical flaws in Artistotle's discourse, including the "either/or" structure).

Duchamp's DOOR shows that "either/or" is flawed logic because the door can be simultaneously closed and open --in "both/and" situations.

I have long wanted to make a replica of the piece. It would involve electromagnetic technology that would function to slowly close a 'single' door into its frame before opening that same door and slowly closing it into its 'second' frame (closing, opening and repeating indefinitely).

Such a piece would not be on a sculpture pedestal. It would be made to be flush with the floor (and therefore a permanent installation somewhere).

Such a piece would be titled ARISTOTLE'S COFFIN/DUCHAMP'S GHOST.

This is my haunting by Marcel Duchamp. I ofter wonder which Duchamp works haunt others.


Ch'an/Zen master Dogen (1200-1253):

When one listens to what the worldly praise, one fails to get the truly wise. If one would get the truly wise, one should have the wisdom to illumine behind and see ahead.

Noh play photo

NOH actor in the "Kagami-no Ma" (Mirror Room). Photo: CAUSA Archives.


"The user of any medium or any technology is the content of that form."

-- Marshall McLuhan (1971)



Posted February 16, 2017


Marshall McLuhan (1968):

The content of any new environment is just as unperceived as that of the old one had been initially. As a merely automatic sequence, the succession of environments and the dramatics  accompanying them tend to be rather tiresome, if only because the audience is very prone to participate in the dramatics with an enrhusiasm proportionate to its lack of awareness.

Chuang Tzu (399-295 BCE):

Knowledge depends on something to be correct, but what it depends on is uncertain and changeable. How do we know that what I call Nature is not really man and what I call man is not really Nature?


Bertrand Russell (1917):

A philosophy which does not seek to impose upon the world its own conceptions of good and evil is not only more likely to achieve truth, but it is also the outcome of a higher ethical standpoint than one which, like evolutionism and more traditional systems, is perpetually appraising the universe seeking to find in it an embodiment of present ideals.


Hogarth Bedlam print

William Hogarth, IN BEDLAM (SCENE VIII FROM THE RAKE'S PROGRESS), 1735. Engraving on paper.

Marshall McLuhan (1968):

The world of the cliché is itself environmental since nothing can become a cliché until it has pervaded some world or other. It is at the moment of pervasiveness that the cliché becomes invisible.


"We should be considerate to the living; to the dead we owe the truth."

-- Voltaire (1719)


Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (1991):

The artist is always adding new varieties in the world. Beings of sensation are varieties, just as the concept's beings are variations, and the function's beings are variables.

Wuhai Cliffs

Dust billows out of a coal mine in Inner Mongolia --in a scene from BEHEMOTH, a documentary film by Zhao Liang (2015).


Set in the Wuhai area of Inner Mongolia, far from the smog-choked cities that dominate headlines, the film depicts the ravaging of the regions famed grasslands by coal mining companies. In one scene, sheep graze in a green pasture. Nearby, trucks and industrial machines swivel and churn in gaping pits of billowing, gray coal dust. Day and night, nameless workers sift and shovel. In the iron works, they stoke fiery furnaces in sweltering heat. They come home to scour faces caked with dust, but their eyes almost always seem lined with black soot.


Prajnaparamita Stupa


STUPA (gilded bronze), Monglia, 18th century CE.

"Gone, gone, gone to the Other Shore,
attained the Other Shore having never left."



Full Fathom Five Painting

Jackson Pollock, FULL FATHOM FIVE, 1947. Oil on canvas --with nails, tacks, keys, coins, cigarettes, matches, etc.  Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Museum Record:

The title, suggested by Pollock's neighbor, quotes from Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST, wherein Ariel describes a death by shipwreck: "Full fathom five thy father lies / Of his bones are coral made / Those are pearls that were his eyes."

Marshall McLuhan (1968):

The sighted person ... takes for  granted that he can have a point of view by the mere act of arresting his movement and holding a single position, sometimes even referred as "the correct position." By contrast, the world of touch, whether passive or active, creates a relation not of connectedness but of interval. [...] If the world of the sighted naturally leads itself to a lineal connection and interrelation, the world of touch dispenses with story lines as much as melodic lines. [...] Rationality itself often has the character of the merely connected and continuous, so that an untoward event, because it doesn't fit into an expected pattern, creates an involuntary arrest of tension, which is, as it were, irrational.


Marshall McLuhan (1968):

New environments reset our sensory thresholds. These, in turn, alter our outlook and expectations.

Seng-chao (384-414):

Since things [appear to be] nonexistent but are really not nonexistent, the nonexistent is not absolutely vacuous, and since things [appear to be] existent but are really not existent, the existence is not true (absolute) existence. Since the existent as it is is not true and the  nonexistent is not entirely obliterated without any trace, although they are called differently, their ultimate meaning is the same.

[ ... ]

If the existence of things is true (absolute) existence, this existence should be eternal by its own nature and should not depend on causes to be existent. If the nonexistence of things were absolute nonexistence, it should be eternal nonexistence by its own nature and should not depend on causes to be nonexistent. If existence is not existence by its own nature but depends on causes to be existent, we know that although it [appears to] exist, it has no true existence. Since it has no true existence, it cannot be called existence in the real sense although it exists.

Velocities photo

" ... 'Velocities'...". (Photo: M. Cynog Evans.)

"It seems that the one all-embracing time is a construction, like the all-embracing space."

-- Bertrand Russell (1917)


Whatever Nature has in store for mankind, unpleasant as it may be, men must accept, for ignorance is never better than knowledge.

-- Enrico Fermi

[ Note:

In a NEW YORK TIMES obituary --29 November 1954-- Enrico Fermi was identified as ARCHITECT OF THE ATOMIC BOMB.

-- CAUSA Research Curators ]


"If human beings had no clichés, they wouldn't need any weapons."

-- Karl Kraus (1921)


Amy Goodman, DEMOCRACY NOW, 8 February 2017:

In Japan, scientists say the radiation levels inside a damaged reactor at the Fukishima nuclear power plant are at the highest point since the nuclear plant's meltdown six years ago. On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunamis hit the northeast coast of Japan, killing 20,000 people. Another 160,000 then fled the radiation in Fukishima. It was the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Experts are calling the radiation levels now detected at the plant "unimaginable."


Confucius (551?-479 BCE):

When a cornered vessel no longer has any corner, should it be called a cornered vessel. Should it?


Hiroshige Hawk Ukiyoe

Utagawa Hiroshige, HAWK ON PINE BRANCH, WINTER, c. 1840-42. Woodblock print --ink and colour on paper. Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Ch'an master Daowu [Jap., Tenno Dogo] (748-807):

When you see, see it direct. If a thought moves, it is gone.


Midwinter Light Photo

MIDWINTER LIGHT - SOLAR WIND. Gary Lee-Nova, 7 February 2017.

"We all have a light inside; but trying to look at it makes it turn black."

-- Ch'an/Zen master Ummon (862-949)


Marshall McLuhan (1968):

Modern art, whether in painting or poetry or music, began as a probe and not as a package. ... And whereas the package belongs to a consumer age, the probe belongs to an age of experimenters.



Posted January 16, 2017


"Popular and elite culture alike are consumer-oriented --based on a dichotomy of production and consumption which no longer obtains under electric conditions."

-- Marshall McLuhan (1960)


Horizon Photo

" ... 'First Sight'...". (Photo: M. Cynog Evans.)


Hanshan Deqing (1564-1623):

a hundred thousand worlds are flowers in the sky
a single mind and body is moonlight on the water
Once the cunning ends and information stops
at that moment there is no place for thought


"Propaganda is called upon to solve problems created by technolgy, to play on maladjustments, and to integrate the individual into a technological world."

-- Jacques Ellul (1962)

Chinese Propaganda Poster

A THOUSAND MILES IN THE WILDERNESS FORGE RED HEARTS. Chinese cultural revolution poster, 1971.

University of California San Diego Digital Collections Description:

A formation of civilians on military training exercises marches forward in three files along a windbreak of bare trees planted in a row. [...] A man in an army uniform stands to the right of the formation with a bull horn to his mouth while holding up the Little Red book in his other hand. In the background behind him a red sign bears in gold letters Mao's quotation, "Bei zhan bei huang wei ren min (Prepare for defence and prepare against natural disasters for the people)." The backdrop consists of another windbreak, power lines, farmers' fields, and rural residences..

Andreas Fulda, School of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham (2017):

In recent years, China has gained a global reputation for its juggernaut economy and breathtaking social change. Yet beneath that shiny veneer, an outdated Maoist institution continues to define the life chances of Chinese citizens: it's called "hukou".

Hukou is a kind of passport system, which limits access to public services, based on the birthplace of the holder. It was first established in 1954 to immobilise China's large rural population as China's Chairman Mao Zedong sought to contain any possible challenges to the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) new autocratic regime. The result was a highly segregated society.


In 2008, some Chinese citizens called on the CCP to abolish the system in its entirety. Signatories of CHARTER 08 --a progressive manifesto for the future of China-- said that an alternative system should be established, which "gives every citizen the same constitutional rights and the same freedom to choose where to live."

So far, CCP has ignored calls to abolish the hukou system. Some authors of the CHARTER 08 have been imprisoned.


"In the animal kingdom, the rule is eat or be eaten; in the human kingdom, define or be defined."

-- Thomas Szasz (1973)

Hanshan Deqing (1564-1623):

There is no beginning to what came before, and no end to what will come after. It is thought that interrupts the flow of time and calibrates it. It is thought that decides that night follows day, that death follows life, that somethings are tiny while others are huge. What, to the universe, is big or large, bright or dark, future or past?


Marshall McLuhan (1960):

Object as seen yields distortion.
Object as known precludes distortion.

Beuys Medusa Gorgon

MEDUSA GORGON, 1955. Ferric chloride and watercolours.

"For me it's the word that gives rise to all pictures."

-- Joseph Beuys (1988)

"A stepping up of visual values makes a new dichotomy between the spiritual and the material."

-- Marshall McLuhan (1960)


Burke Eloquence Quote



by Wang An-shih
(1021 - 1086)

It is midnight; all is silent in the house;
the water-clock has stopped. But I am unable to
sleep because of the beauty of the trembling
shapes of the Spring flowers, thrown by the
moon upon the blind.

[ Note:

Wallace Stevens copied this poem in a letter (to Elsie Hall) dated 18 March 1909. He remarks, regarding the Wang An-shih text, "I don't know of anything more beautiful than that anywhere, or more Chinese." "Curious thing," he continues, "how little we know about Asia, and all that. It makes me wild to learn it all in a night."

Earlier in the same month, Stevens had begun to read Kakuzo Okakura's THE IDEALS OF THE EAST (1903.)


Wallace Stevens (1921)

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine trees crusted with snow.

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves.

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not here and nothing that is.



Yang Wan-Li (1127 - 1206)

The tall tower rises into a spire. The short one doesn't.
One sports a brocade robe, and the other a silver tunic.

I ask them why it is they never say a word, but they let
Buddha go on talking in the voice of a tumbling creek.

David Hinton (2008):

Yang Wan-Li's poetic enlightenment seems to have been part of a fundamental Ch'an awakening that is reflected in his poems. ... And he could make poems out of nothing more than a crystalline attention to things themselves.

Reid Typographical Image

Robert R. Reid, TYPOGRAPHICAL IMAGE (digital design), 2017.

[ Note:

This poem is included in poet John Newlove's first book --GRAVE SIRS-- as published, in 1962, at the private press of Robert R. Reid and Takao Tanabe.

The present 'typographical revivification' (above) functions to augment a CAUSA curatorial research project at Simon Fraser University Library (Special Collections) ... ROBERT R. REID, 'ALLIED ARTS' AFFIRMATIVE ...  January - March 2017.

-- CAUSA Research Curators ]


"One is always in a weak position if one is speaking the truth."

-- Wyndham Lewis (1950)

"In the era of Donald Trump ... Oxford Dictionaries has declared 'post-truth' to be the international word of the year."

-- Allison Flood, THE GUARDIAN (15 November 2016)


Ice crystals photo

" ... 'Authentic Temporality'...".  (Photo: M. Cynog Evans.)

"Time is only divisible in visual space."

-- Marshall McLuhan (1960)


One thing Viet-nam

On Kawara, TITLE, 1968. Triptych, acrylic on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington,.D.C.

[ Note:

In early 1965 the United States had commenced an immense campaign of bombing in North Vietnam. Contemporaneously, Mao Zedong had initiated his Cultural Revolution (as enforced by the ubiquitous Red Guards). Mao's 'revolutionary' practice resulted in the monumental massacre of Chinese citizens throughout the ensuing decade.

-- CAUSA Research Curators ]

Ch'an/Zen master Dogen (1233 CE):

When you sail out in a boat to the middle of the ocean, where no land is in sight, and view the four directions, the ocean looks circular, and does not look any other way. But the ocean is neither round nor square; its features are infinite in variety. It is like a palace. It is like a jewel. It only looks circular as far as you can see at that time. All things are like that.


Kakuzo Okakura (1904):

A painting, which is like a universe in itself, must conform to the laws that govern all existence. Composition is like the creation of the world, holding in itself the constructive laws that give it life.


Ma Yuan Painting

SCHOLAR VIEWING A WATERFALL,  Ma Yuan (Chinese, active ca. 1190 - 1125). Album leaf, ink and colour on silk. The Metropolitan Museum, New York.


Buddha Video

Nam June Paik, TV-BUDDHA, 1974. Video installation, closed-circuit, 18th-century Buddha statue. Stedelijk Museum Collection, Amsterdam.


"The integral being cannot be a hero, or even tolerated, in a fragmented or specialist society."

-- Marshall McLuhan (1968)


"Mind alone has no opposite."

-- Chu Hsi (1130 - 1200)



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