The “new level” of art

A 2012 film Nema Aviona za Zagreb (No Flights to Zagreb) by Louis van Gasteren includes a scene shot in 1964 in which McLuhan opens an exhibit of ‘tele-creation’ art by van Gasteren. The exhibit in Amsterdam was opened by McLuhan in Toronto via ‘tele-vision’.

A blurb for the film informs that “van Gasteren began filming Nema Aviona in 1964 but did not complete it until 2012, making it the longest film in production of all time.” Further: “The film includes the only professional color sound motion picture footage ever filmed of Meher Baba.”

McLuhan’s remarks opening the exhibit were featured on the cover of Tele-Creation, Auto-Sculpture by Louis van Gasteren, the catalogue for the exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. These remarks were captured on film and presumably were part of the ‘tele-creation’ exhibition in 1964.

In the film McLuhan stands in an elevator before television cameras and says:

Painting now moves from representation to a direct encounter with the environment. The environment itself is just as mobile as the old easel painting was at one time. As new environments form around old environments, the old environments become art forms.
The whole mechanical technology, including the motorcar on the road, the whole mechanical technology now has an electronic environment around it which turned these old forms into art forms.
The planet itself has a satellite information environment which turned our planet into an art form. The planet is now being programmed as a teaching machine, as an art form. This kind of revolution is reflected now in painting, too.  The direct encounter with the environment as art form, is a formal violence, that helps us to discover our identity.
The artist by his direct facing of the present environment creates a kind of interface that is somewhat startling and violent and this helps us in turn to develop a sense of identity, which we would otherwise not have a chance of doing.1

The elevator door then closes on McLuhan: he is moving on to ‘another level’ and another identity, leaving the exhibit he has just opened to the crowd.

  1. Aske Land, proprietor of Antiquariaat Gemilang in Bredevoort, The Netherlands, kindly provided a rare copy of the catalogue for the 1964 tele-creation exhibit at the Stedelijk Museum. Many thanks, Aske!