Dieter Daniels

Dieter Daniels, Foto: Norbert Artner


Dieter Daniels is Professor of Art History and Media Theory at the Academy of Visual Arts (HGB) in Leipzig. In 1984, he co-founded the Videonale Bonn and has contributed to numerous projects, exhibitions, and symposia in the field of media art. He has extensively published on twentieth-century art, a.o. on Marcel Duchamp, Fluxus and media art. Between 2005 – 2009 he was Director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute Media.Art.Research. in Linz, Austria, and since 2010 serves as head of transmediale’s advisory board. 
Topic: An ear for an eye – Traveling visual, acoustic and tactile space with Marshall McLuhan, John Cage and Nam June Paik

According to Marshall McLuhan the dominant visual mode of our culture is an effect of the printing press: ‘The phonetic alphabet forced the magic world of the ear to yield to the neutral world of the eye. Man was given an eye for an ear.’ (Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage, Gingko Press 2001 edition. pp. 44) Accordingly, hearing is related to the associative thought attributed to the right brain, while sight is connected to the left brain’s rational structuring.

McLuhan himself contributed in great deal to reasserting the legitimate stature of associative thinking, linking it to hearing and touching. This can be seen and felt by browsing Quentin Fiore’s graphic design for the collaborative book ‘The Medium is the Massage’, and even more in the ‘audio book’ version McLuhan released in 1968 as an LP. His contentious notion that the television image is an „expansion of the tactile sense“ seems more understandable with todays touch screens than in McLuhan’s time. (Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1995, pp. 504). His emphasis on the ‘tactile’ surprisingly connects McLuhan with Walter Benjamin’s own theory of media.

However McLuhan’s media theory is much less a theory of machines, of communication or of information – but rather a theory of the senses and their multi-modal relationships to media. This made it so influential for the inter-media arts of the 1960′s. In their musical and artistic works John Cage and Nam June Paik explored the relationships between acoustic and visual space. Both make reference to McLuhan’s propositions. And that television is a tactile medium, as McLuhan always argued, was first put to test by Paik. At this moment in time, the art and the theory of media are two sides of the same coin.


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McLuhan in Europe 2011 is an initiative of transmediale in collaboration with the Marshall McLuhan Salon / Embassy of Canada Berlin, Gingko Press, and RIM. Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha