Category Archives: experience

Blueprint for Counter Education Redivivus

I just received word that Paul Cronin, Rob Giampietro, Adam Michaels and Jeffrey T. Schnapp received a generous Graham Foundation grant for an exhibition analyzing and completing the inimitable Blueprint for Counter Education by Maurice R. Stein and Larry Miller, from which I quoted in this recent post. At the time I was writing a last-minute letter of support for the grant proposal, which I reckon it’s now safe to share with a new image and a few links. The fact that it fits 18 of my 30 subject tags indicates the project’s richness and its closeness to my heart! The Chicago-based Graham Foundation Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts is a wonderful institution that supported my first and last translation effort in the late ’90s.

Maurice R. Stein, Larry Miller & Marshall Henrichs; Blueprint for Counter Education, 1970, New York. Photo: Project Projects.

Maurice R. Stein, Larry Miller & Marshall Henrichs; Blueprint for Counter Education, 1970, New York. Photo: Project Projects.

23 January 2014 Dear Sir or Madam, I am writing in support of the project Blueprint for (a Media Archeology of) Counter Education, as presented to the Graham Foundation’s “Production and Presentation” grant category by Jeffrey Schnapp, Adam Michaels and Rob Giampietro. The proposed project as a natural successor to Schnapp and Michaels’ triumphant The Electric Information Age Book (TEAIB), an experiment intimately linked to the Blueprint project in form and subject matter. The book TEAIB defines the parameters of a short-lived and largely forgotten type of publication, variously described as the kinetic paperback, the inventory book and the experimental paperback. Beginning with The Medium is the Massage—the groundbreaking 1967 book written by Marshall McLuhan, designed by Quentin Fiore and ‘produced’ by Jerome Agel—these revolutionary little books rewrite the rules of style, layout and distribution. They also declare the irrelevance of divisions between highbrow and lowbrow, art and advertising, word and image, and (most crucially) form and content. This complicated mix of moves perfectly embodies McLuhan’s observation that the medium is the message. Continue reading

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remember your life up to this point, then forget it

Marshall Henrichs, Poster #3 for the “Blueprint for Counter Education”: Modernism as Meditative Environment / Post-modernism as participatory environment …

In honour of main man Phil Ford‘s latest spate of alt-pedagogical ramblings over at Dial M, here are some excerpts from a Norman Birnbaum review in Change, vol. 2, no. 5 (Sep. – Oct., 1970), pp. 69-74. Thanks Jeffrey Schnapp for alerting me to this. -GL

Before us is a Blueprint for Counter Education, described as “curriculum handbook, wall decoration, shooting script,” and prepared by Maurice Stein (age 44, formerly professor of sociology at Brandeis and now dean of humanities at the California Institute of the Arts) and Larry Miller (age 24, one of Stein’s students at Brandeis). Blueprint consists of a box with the following description:

Inside this box are three charts and a book, the tools for creating a new educational environment. This counter-university makes obsolete the traditional university process. Surrounded by charts, the participant will be confronted by ideas and issues that compel him to interact with everything going on around him—from movies, to riots, to political campaigns. There is no textbook, no syllabus, no final exam; and the “Faculty” includes Marcuse, McLuhan, Eldridge Cleaver and Jean-Luc Godard, The Revolution Starts Here. Continue reading

Reflections on My First Year of Blogging

My blogging career began exactly a year ago today on a hastily-assembled Tumblr page called Boring from Within. The unexpected catalyst was the tragic death of my friend Aaron Swartz, the great activist to whom I also dedicate the present post.

I ended post #1 by saying that “I feel compelled to grieve with this, my first really public pronouncement [in close to a decade]. I’m not sure what’s next, but under the circumstances being quietly bereft and outraged doesn’t feel like an adequate response.”

As it turned out I mainly used that site for agitprop that I made in an effort to learn Adobe Illustrator. The first and most popular of these quoted Philip K. Dick’s advice for surviving in a surveillance state. Most of the other posts were likewise centred around freedom of speech and consciousness.

After splitting in June between Tumblr and this WordPress site I made a lot of what I called “meta-posts” on both sites—i.e. posts pointing to content on the other site. This strategy of being in two places at once is not unrelated to the PKD quotation imploring us to evade the state by way of various ruses.

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Borges, Duchamp and I

Mark O’Connell’s recent New Yorker blog review of two new books on Jorge Luis Borges opens by sensitively praising the Argentine master’s literary talents, and closes by deeming him politically incorrect. One big problem, in O’Connell’s eyes, is Borges’s failure to adequately appreciate women writers. Without letting us in on the joke, the critic informs us that he “laughed out loud” upon reading Borges’ remark that Emily Dickinson was “the most passionate of all women who have attempted writing.” Perhaps it’s the word “attempt” that O’Connell expects his reader to find so laugable. And perhaps he doesn’t fully grasp Borges’ understanding that this is no insult, since any communication is but an essaie.

As a lead-up to a second fit of pique O’Connell recounts the following conversation from 1980: Continue reading

Beyond Nerf Education

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In this evening’s blog post “Coverage and Exploration” my man Phil Ford laments:

Our students, products of the no-child-left-behind era of “accountability” and quantifiable results, expect a full reckoning of everything they will ever be expected to do in a semester. In the years I’ve been teaching, the typical syllabus has grown in size from a simple 1-3 page statement of aims and procedures to a swollen pseudo-legal document that assumes the character of a contract. The more suspicious or legalistic of our students come to treat every class like a drawn-out game of Simon Says and act like the prof can’t legitimately ask them to do anything that isn’t explicitly laid out in the syllabus. The syllabus-as-legal-contract suits the administrators, politicians, and parents who don’t trust the professors any more than the students do. And professors, including myself, go along with it, even if they don’t really like it.

Testify, brother! The biggest problem in this age of lawyers and helicopter parenting is that everything has to be *fail safe*. (I’m pretty sure it was Phil himself who hipped me to the wonderful term Nerf Education; he may have invented it.) In my risk-averse neck of the woods (Canada’s capital) I’ve been told on good authority that there’s little point in applying for government funding for academic projects unless you can demonstrate positive results in advance. Evidently the Age of Exploration is over. Continue reading

Video: My Berlin talk on McLuhan’s Media Practice

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Over on YouTube (scroll down for link menu) I’ve just posted a VHS-quality vid of myself standing up in Berlin on a Friday afternoon in late November 2011. It’s the only visible evidence of a few such talks that I gave in his centenary year, based on my researches into the McLuhan fonds here in Ottawa. Here’s the official announcement:

In a 1959 talk and a 1964 book Marshall McLuhan famously declares that “the medium is the message.” By 1967 the title of a typographically adventuresome book turns “message” into “massage.” In each case McLuhan is urging his audience to care less about the apparent content of communication (what happens to be “on” TV or “in” a book) and more about the psychodynamics of the particular medium (the effects of television or the book per se).

Although later interpreters have viewed the medium=message/massage tenet as central to McLuhan’s thinking, there has been little sustained attention to the practical role of inscription, publication and broadcast in his work. In short, it is time to pay closer attention to the media practice behind McLuhan’s media theory. This talk, based on extensive researches in the McLuhan fonds at Library & Archives Canada, surveys the evidence for McLuhan’s quotidian encounters with the very media that he investigates.

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You Had To Be There

I arrived at the Pressed Cafe in Ottawa as the summer sun descended at the far end of Gladstone St. As I neared my destination so did a compact, long-haired man pulling a silver rolling suitcase. Emerging out of a side street as if at random, the man crossed the street, smiled and nodded at the small gathering of people smoking and chatting, and went straight inside. This is the place.

For the next half hour I stood outside the door, watching the crowd file in. By the time my friend arrived with the tickets the music was underway, and the house was packed with about eighty people ranging in age from 20ish to 60ish. We had all come to see the man with the silver suitcase–the inimitable krautrock legend Damo Suzuki–in his second-ever jam with local psych rockers The Band Whose Name is a Symbol. The former Can frontman earns his living playing hundreds of gigs a year with members of the global consortium of “sound carriers” comprising The Damo Suzuki Network.

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