You are on page 1of 34

Two I Art and Materialism in the Beat Generation

be combined in any unthought ways. This means that each performance61


such a piece of music is unique, as interesting to its comPoseras to otherslis-
tening. It is easyto seeagain the parallel with nature, for even with leaves61
the same tree, no two are exactly alike. The parallel in art is the sculptrs.
with moving parts, the mobile.
It goeswithout saying that dissonancesand noisesare welcome in t\i,
new music. But so is the dominant seventh chord if it happens to put in 4
aPPearance.
Rehearsalshave shown that this new music, whether for tape or for in-
struments,is more clearly heard when the severalloud-speakersor perforrn-
ers are separated in space rather than grouped closely together. For this
music is not concerned with harmoniousness as generally understood,
where the quality of harmony results from a blending of several elements.
Here we are concerned with the coexistenceof dissimilars, and the cenhal
points where fusion occurs are many: the ears of the listeners wherever they
are. This disharmony, to paraphraseBergson'sstatement about disorder,ig
simply a harmony to which many are unaccustomed.
Where do we go from here?Towards theater.That art more than music
resemblesnature. We have eyesas well as ears,and it is our businesswhile
we are alive to use them.
And what is the purpose of writing music? One is, of course,not deal-
ing with purposes but dealing with sounds. Or the answer must take the
form of paradox: a purposeful purposelessnessor a purposelessplay. This
play, however, is an affirmation of life--not an attempt to bring order out of
chaosnor to suggestimprovements in creation,but simply a way of waking
ilt up to the very life we're living, which is so excellent once one Sets one's
mind and one's desiresout of its way and lets it act of its own accord.

York.N.y.
102 Three I Mass Culture, MassMedia, Pop Art Lichtenstein,Warhol,Indiana, Rosenquist) WhatIs Pop Art?

would hang it-everybody was hanging everything. It was almost accept-

N$ il ableto hang a dripping paint rag, everybody was accustomedto this. The
one thing everyone hated was commercial art; apparently they didn't hate
that enough either.

RoyLichtenstein,AndyWarhol, Is popart desPicable?


RobertIndiana,JamesRosenquist That doesn't sound so good, does it? Well it is an involvement with what
What Is Pop Art? (Interviews with Gene I think to be the most brazen and threatening characteristicsof our cul-
Swenson)(1e63and1964) ture, things we hate, but which are also powerful in their impingement on
us.I think art sinceC6zannehas becomeextremely romantic and unrealistic,
In the early 1960sthe groupof artistslater to be codifiedunderthe term "Pop" feeding on art; it is utopian. It has had less and less to do with the world, it
beganto maketheir presencefett in the art wortd. By imitating the took of mass-
looksinward-neo-Zen and all that. This is not so much a criticism as an ob-
producedimages-from comic books, newspapers. and packagingdesign-Pop
vious observation.Outside is the world; it's there. Pop art looks out into the
artistsbeganto blur the lines betweencommercialand avant-gardeart' In America
the precedentfor usingcommerciatty manufacturedobjectsand imagesasthe start- world; it appears to accept its environment, which is not good or bad, but
ing point for works of art can be tracedback at least to the 1920swith paintings different-another state of mind.
suchasLuclE Strikeby Stuart Davis.Themost recentartiststo focuson the objects "How can you like exploitation? How can you like the complete mech-
and imagesof consumerculture wereJasperJohns,RobertRauschenberg, and oth- anizationof work? How can you like bad art?" I have to answer that I accept
ers discussed in the last chapter.However.the Popartists pushedthis ideaone step it asbeing there, in the world.
further by diminishingthe visual recordof the artist's hand, therebydownptaying
the processby which the object was made.Warholwent so far as to mirror a
machineaestheticby silk-screeningimagesonto his canvas.The directnessand
Areyou anti-experimental?
uncompromisingmechanicallook of WarhoUs Campbell'sSoupcans,Lichtenstein's I think so/ and anti-contemplative, anti-nuance,anti-getting-away-from-the-
comicbooks,and Indiana'ssignagewasstartling to critics and other artistswho had tyranny-of+he-rectangle,anti-movement-andJight, anti-mystery anti-paint-
cometo betievethat truth in art wasto a large degreefound in the artist's ability quality, antt-Zen, and anti all of those brilliant ideas of preceding movements
to reveatprocess. which everyone understands so thoroughly.
TheAbstractExpressionists had given Americaits first avant-gardemovement We like to think of industrialization as being despicable.I don't really
by pushingthe principlesof Europeanabstraction.Their heroic canvasesand hu- know what to make of it. There's something terribly brittle about it. I sup-
manisticthemesexaltedthe painting processas a struggteof the individuat witt. poseI would still prefer to sit under a tree with a picnic basket rather than
Within three yearsof the triumphant Europeantour of TheNewAmericanPainting
under a gas pump, but signs and comic strips are interesting as subjectmat-
(the influentiat exhibition of AbstractExpressionist
works),a strongcasewasbeing
madefor the secondmajor movementin Americanart: Pop.The 1962 exhibition
ter.There are certain things that are usable,forceful and vital about commer-
catledlYewXealufs at the SidneyJanis Galleryin NewYork helpedto codify the cial art. We're using those things-but we're not really advocating stupidity,
ideassurroundingthis burgeoningmovement.In a two-part seriescatled"What Is international teenagerismand terrorism.
PopArt?" pubtishedin Art Newsin November1963and lebruary 1964.GeneSwen-
son interviewsthe major proponentsof this new style. Were did your ideasaboutart begin?
The ideas of ProfessorHoyt Sherman [at Ohio State UniversityJ on percep-
tion were my earliest important influence and still affect my ideas of visual
unitv.
ROYLICHTENSTEIN
Whatis popart?
I don't know-the use of commercial art as subjectmatter in painting. I sup- Roy Lichtenstein, 'nVhat Is Pop Art?" @ 1963 ARTnews LLC. Reprinted by permission of the
publisher.
pose.It was hard to get a painting that was despicableenough so that no one
-l

tO4 ThreeI MassCulture,MassMedia,popArt Lichtenstein,Warhol,Indiana,Rosenquista Wat Is PopArt! 105

PerceptionT I/s true, everybody accepts that; it's just that the idea no longer has any
Yes.Organizedperceptionis what art is all about. Power.

He taughtyou "how to look"? Abstractexpressionism hashadan almostuniaersalinfluenceon thearts. WilI pop


Yes.He taught me how to go about learning how to look. afi?
l I don't know. I doubt it. It seemstoo particular-too much the expressionof
4 few personalities.Pop might be a difficult starting point for a painter. He
At what?
would have great difficulty in making thesebrittle imagesyield to composi-
At what, doesn't have anything to do with it. It is a process.It has nothing to donal purposes.. . . Interaction between painter and painting is not the total
do with any externalform the painting takes,it has to do with away of build- commitment of pop, but it is still a major concern-though concealedand
ing a unified pattern of seeing. . . . In abstract-expressionismthe paintings sfained'
symbolize the idea of ground-directednessas opposedto object-directedness.
You put something down, reactto it, put somethingelsedown, and the paint-
I ing itseUbecomesa symbol of this. The differenceis that rather than symbol- Do you think that an idea in painting--whetherit be "interaction" or the useof
lesspowerfulwith time?
ize this ground-directednessI do an object-directedappearing thing.There is mmmercialart-gets progressiaely
humor here.The work is still ground-directed;the fact that it's an eyebrow or It seemsto work that way. Cubist and action painting ideas, although origi-
an almost direct copy of something is unimportant. The ground-directedness nally formidable and still an influence, are lesscrucial to us now. Someindi-
is in the painter's mind and not immediately apparentin the painting. Pop art vidual artists, though-Stuart Davis, for example--seem to get better and
makes the statementthat ground-directednessis not a quality that the paint- better.
ing has becauseof what it looks like. . . . This tension between apparent
object-directedproducts and actual ground-directed processesis an impor- Acuratorat theModernMuseumhascalledpopart fascisticandmilitaristic.
tant strength of pop art.
The heroesdepicted in comic books are fascist types, but I don't take them
seriouslyin thesepaintings-maybe there is a point in not taking them seri-
Antagonisticcritics saythat popart doesnot transformits models.Doesit? ously,a political point. I use them for purely formal reasons,and that's not
Transformation is a strange word to use. It implies that art transforms. It what those heroes were invented for. . . . Pop art has very immediate
doesn't, it just plain forms. Artists have never worked with the model-just and of-the-moment meanings which will vanish-that kind of thing is
with the painting. What you're really saying is that an artist like C6zanne ephemeral-and pop takes advantage of this "meaning," which is not sup-
transforms what we think the painting ought to look like into something he posedto last, to divert you from its formal content. I think the formal state-
thinks it ought to look like. He's working with paint, not nature; he's making ment in my work will become clearer in time. Superficially, pop seemsto
a painting, he's forming. I think my work is different from comic strips-but be all subjectmatter, whereas abstractexpressionism,for example, seemsto
I wouldn't call it transformation; I don't think that whatever is meant by it is be all aesthetic.. . .
important to art. What I do is form, whereasthe comic strip is not formed in , I paint directly-then it's said to be an exactcopy, and not art, probably
the senseI'm using the word; the comics have shapesbut there has been no Decausethere's no perspective or shading. It doesn't look like a painting o/
effort to make them intensely unified. The purpose is different, one intends something,it looks like the thing itseU.Instead of looking like a paintingof a
to depict and I intend to unify. And my work is actually different from comic Drlboard-the way a Reginald Marsh would look-pop art seemsto be the
strips in that every mark is really in a different place, however slight the dif- achral thing. It is an intensification, a stylistic intensification of the excite-
ferenceseemsto some.The differenceis often not great,but it is crucial. Peo- hent which the subjectmatter has for me, but the style is, as you said, cool.
ple also consider my work to be anti-art in the same way they consider it one of the things a iartoon does is to expressviolent emotion and passion in
pure depiction, "not transformed."I don't feel it is anti-art. a completely mechanical and removed style. To express this thing in a
There is no neat way of telling whether a work of art is composed or ll"t"tty style would dilute it; the techniquesI use are not commercia-l,they
not; we're too comfortable with ideas that art is the battleground for interac- ooty appear to be commercial-and the ways of seeing and composing and
i fity
tion, that with more and more experienceyou becomemore able to compose. are different and have differentends.

M*g
Threef ],IassCulture,),IassMedia,PopArt Lichtenstein,Warhol,Indiana, RosenquistI WhatIs PopArt? 107

Is popart American? a:6{tvery good. It's already happening. All you have to do is read the mag-
Everybody has called pop art "American" painting, but it's actually indus- t,'nes and the catalogues.It's this style or that style, this or that image of
trial painting. America was hit by industrialism and capitalism harder and lvm-but that really doesn't make any difference. Some artists get left out
sooner and its values seemmore askew . . . I think the meaning of my work thilway, and whY should theY?
is that it's industrial, it's what all the world will soon become.Europe will be
the sameway, soon, so it won't be American; it will be universal. IsPoPart a fad?
yes,it's a fad, but I don't seewhat difference it makes. I just heard a rumor
that G. quit working, that she'sgiven up art altogether.And everyone is say-
ANDY
WARHOL ing how awful it is that A. gave up his style and is doing it in a different way.
I don't think so at all. If an artist can't do any more, then he should just quit;
Someonesaid that Brecht wanted everybody to think alike. I want every- and an artist ought to be able to changehis style without feeling bad. I heard
body to think alike. But Brecht wanted to do it through Communism, in that Lichtenstein said he might not be painting comic strips a year or two
away. Russiais doing it under government. It's happening here all by itself fiom now-I think that would be so great, to be able to changestyles.And I
without being under a strict government; so if it's working without trying, think that's what's going to happen, that's going to be the whole new scene.
why can't it work without being Communist? Everybody looks alike and Thafs probably one reason I'm using silk screensnow. I think somebody
acts alike, and we're getting more and more that way. should be able to do all my paintings for me. I haven't been able to make
I think everybody should be a machine. every image clear and simple and the same as the first one. I think it would
I think everybody should like everybody. be so gteat if more people took up silk screensso that no one would know
whether my picture was mine or somebody else's.
I
ls thatwhatpopart is aII qbout?
Yes.It's liking things. It wouldturn art historyupsidedotnn?
Yes.
And liking thingsis likebeinga machineT
Yes, becauseyou do the same thing every time. You do it over and over Is thatyour aim?
again. No. The reason I'm painting this way is that I want to be a machine, and I
feel that whatever I do and do machinelike is what I want to do.
And you approaeof that?
Yes,becauseit's all fantasy.It's hard to be creative and it's also hard not to Wascommercial art moremachinelike?
think what you do is creativeor hard not to be called creativebecauseevery- No, it wasn't. I was getting paid for it, and did anything they told me to do.
body is always talking about that and individuality. Everybody's always u they told me to draw a shoe, I'd do it, and if they told me to correct it, I
being creative.And it's so funny when you say things aren't, like the shoe I would-I'd do anything they told me to do, correct it and do it right. I'd
would draw for an advertisementwas called a "creation" but the drawing of nave to invent and now I don'U after all that "correction,,,those commercial
it was not. But I guessI believein both ways. All thesepeople who aren't dlawings would have feelings,they would have a style. The attitude of those
very good should be really good. Everybody is too good now, really. Like, who hired me had feeling oi something to it; they knew what they wanted,
how many actors are there? There are millions of actors. They're all pretty they insisted;sometimesihey got very Jmotional. The processof doing work
good. And how many painters are there?Millions of painters and all pretty in commercial art was machinelike, but the attitude hab feeling to it.
good. How can you say one style is better than another?You ought to be able
to be an abstractexpressionistnext week, or a pop artist, or a realist, without lMy did you startpaintingsoupcans?
feeling you've given up something. I think the aitists who aren't very good BecauseI used to drink it. I used to have the same lunch every
day, for
should become like everybody else so that people would like things that years,I guess,t!9 gamething over and over again. Someonesaid my
S""tt
ute has dominated me; I liked that idea. I used to want to live at the waldoif
riowers and have soup and a sandwich, like that scenein the restaurant in
Andy Warhol, "What Is Pop Art?" @ 1963 ARTnews LLC. RePrinted by permission of the
oublisher. NakedLunch....
Lichtenstein, Warhol, Indiana, Rosenguisf I What Is Pop Art?
108 I Mass
Three Culture, Media,
Mass PopArt

We went to seeDr. No at Forty-SecondStreet.It's a fantasticmovie, ss li--,1,rnable to transform the things they use-are now called progenitors,of
cool. We walked outside and somebody threw a cherry bomb right in front
il1.':::lll*xiJ-11':f::n*:"*ili:-';,:""'"x-:":",'#:H:f
of us, in this big crowd. And there was blood, I saw blood on people and all
over. I felt LikeI was bleeding all over. I saw in the paper last week that there #Hi;tififf"Tlil3iffi
737 i"athat whole crowd, but'lli;'Txlili,?Lxlr"',"'"':111lT "lH;
with a lot of big words like radical empiri-
are more people throwing them-it's just part of the scene-and hurting and
teleology.who knows? Maybe jap and Bob were.neo-dada
people.My show in Parisis going to be called "Death in America." I'll show ff;;J
u"y*o.". Iiltto.y bookg are being rewritten all the time' It doesn't
the electric-chairpictures and the dogs in Birmingham and car wrecks and ffii
Everyboay j"l! goes on thinking the same thing, and
somesuicidepictures. iu]o", wiat you do.
Those who talk about individuality
,'rery yearit gets ^or" und moie alike'
obiect to deviation, and in a few years it
Whydid you start these"Deqth"pictures? ii. i.,6r, ur" Ih" ones who most just what they
the other way around. Someday everybody witl think
I believe in it. Did you see the Enquirerthis week? It had "The Wreck that thinking alike; that
"irU" think, and then everybody witl probably be
Made Cops Cry"-u head cut in half, the arms and hands just lying there. i?ir
It's sick, but I'm sure it happens all the time. I've met a lot of cops recently. seemsto be what is haPPening'
They take pictures of everything, only it's almost impossible to get pictures
from them.
INDIANA
ROBERT
Whendid you startwith the"Death"series?
I guessit was the big plane crashpicture, the front page of a newspaper: 129 Whatis PoP?
a
DIE. I was also painting the Marilyns. I realized that everything I was doing Popis everything art hasn't been for the last two decades.It is basically
U-iurn back to a representationalvisual communication, moving at a break-
must have been Death. It was Christmas or Labor Day-a holiday-and
every time you turned on the radio they said something like, "Four million awayspeedin severalsharp late models.It is an abrupt returnto Father after
are going to die." That started it. But when you seea gruesomepicture over anaLstractfifteen-yearexploration of the Womb. Pop is a reenlistment in the
and over again, it doesn't really have any effect. world. It is shuck the Bomb. It is the American Dream, optimistic, Senerous
andnaive....
But you're still doing "ElizabethTaylor"pictures. It springs newborn out of a boredom with the finality and oversatura-
I started thosea long time ago, when she was so sick and everybody said she tion of aLstra"ctexpressionismwhich, by its own aestheticlogic, is the END
was going to die. Now I'm doing them all over, putting bright colors on her of art, the glorious pinnacle of the long pyramidal creativeProcess.Stifled by
this rarefi6d atmoiphere, some young painters turn back to some less ex-
lips and eyes.
altedthings like Coia-Cola, ice-cieamsodas,big hamburgers,suPermarkets,
My next series will be pornographic pictures. They will look blank;
and "EAT' signs.They are eye-hungry; they poP. ' . .
when you turn on the black lights, then you seethem-big breastsand . . . If
a cop came in, you could just flick out the lights or turn on the regular Pure pop culls iis techniques from all the present-day communicative
lights-how could you say that was pornography? But I'm still just practic- Sl'ocesses: it ii Wesselmann'sTV set and food ad, Warhol's newspaper and
silk screen, Lichtenstein's comics and benday, it is my road signs. It is
ing with theseyet. Segaldid a sculpture of two people making love, but he
ehaight-to-the-point,severely blunt, with as little "artistic" transfolmation
cut it all up, I guessbecausehe thought it was too Pornographic to be art. Ac-
and delectation as possible. The self-consciousbrush stroke and the even
tually it was very beautiful, perhaps a little too good, or he may feel a little Ihoreself-consciousdrip are not central to its generation. Impasto is visual
protective about art. When you read Gen6t you get all hot, and that makes indigestion.
some people say this is not art. The thing I like about it is that it makes you
forget about style and that sort of thing; style isn't really important. Areyoupop?
Is "pop"a badname? Popis either hard-coreor hard-edge.I am hard-edge pop.
The name sounds so awful. Dada must have something to do with pop-it's
i so funny, the names are really synonyms. Does anyone know what they're

l,,lilil
supposed to mean or have to do with, those names?johns and Rauschen- Indiana, "What Is Pop Art?" @ 1963 ARTnews LLC. Reprinted by permission of the

berg-neo-dada for all these years, and everyone calling them derivative
110 ThreeI MassCulture,MassMedia,PopArt Lichtenstein,Warhol,Indiana,Rosenquista WhatIs PopArt? 111

WiIl popbury abstractexpressionism? "g,PoP cornqlacent?


No. If A-E dies, the abstractionistswill bury themselves under the weight y6,to the extentthat pop is not burdened with that self-consciousness of A-E,
of their own successand acceptance;they are battlers and the battle is won; $rhich writhes tortuously in its anxiety over whether or not it has fulfilled
they are theoreticiansand their theories are respectedin the staidestinstitu- Monet's Water-Lily-Quest-for-Absolute/Ambiguous-Form-of-Tomorrow the-
tions; they seem by nature to be teachersand inseminators and their stu- orry:it walks young for the moment without the weight of four thousand years
dents and followers are legion around the world; they are inundated by their of art history on its shoulders, though the grey brains in high places are well
own fecundity. They need birth control. arrar&and hot for the KilI'

IsPoPcYnical?
WiIl popreplaceabstractexpressionism?
pop doestend to convey the artist's superb intuition that modern man, with
In the eternal What-Is-New-in-American-Painting shows, yes; in the latest
his-lossof identity, submersion in massculture, besetby mass destructiorLis
acquisitions of the avant-garde collectors, yes; in the American Home, no.
uran'sgreatestproblem, and that Art, pop or otherwise, hardly provides the
Once the hurdle of its nonobjectivity is overcome,A-E is prone to be as deco-
Solution-some optimistic, glowing, harmonious, humanitarian, plastically
rative as French impressionism. There is a harshnessand matter-of-factness
perfectLost Chord of Life.
to pop that doesn't exactly make it the interior decorator's Indispensable
Right Hand.
lsPoPPre-sold?
lvlaybeso. It isn't the popster's fault that the A-E'ers fought and won the
ls pophereto stay? bloody Battle of the Public-Press-Pantheon;they did it superbly and now
Give it ten years perhaps; i-f it matches A-E's fifteen or twenty, it will be therels an art-acceptingpublic and a body of collectorsand institutions that
doing well in these accelerateddays of mass-medium circulation. In twenty are willing to take risks lest they make another Artistic-Oversight-of-the-
yearsit must face 1984. Cmtury. This situation is mutually advantageous and perilous alike to
all painters, popsters and non-popsters. The new sign of the Art Sceneis
ii Is popaesthetic
suicide?
BEWARE-Thin Ice. Some sun-dazed Californians have already plunged
recklesslythrough.
Possibly for those popsters who were once believing A-E'ers, who aban-
doned the Temple for the street;sinceI was never an acolyte,no blood is lost. Is popthenewmorality?
Obviously aestheticA passeson and aestheticB is born. Pity more that mas-
sive body of erudite criticism that falls prostrate in its verbiage. Sbably. It is libertine, free and easywith the old forms, contemptuous of its
elders'rigid rules.

Is popdeath? bpop loae?


Yes, death to smuggery and the Preconceived-Notion-of-What-Art-Is PopIS love in that it acceptsall . . . all the meaner aspectsof life, which, for
diehards. More to the heart of the question,yes, pop does admit Death in in- various aestheticand moial considerations,other schools of painting have
evitable dialogue as Art has not for somecenturies;it is willing to face the re- ttjected or ignored. Everything is possible in pop. pop is
stiil pro-ait, but
ality of its own and life's mortality. Art is really alive only for its own timei surelynot art for art's sake.Noi is ii any neo-dadi
anti-art maniflstation: its
that eternally-vital proposition is the bookman's delusion. Warhol's auto- participants are not intellectual,
sociai and artistic malcontents with fur-
death transfixes us; DIE is equal to EAL bwed brows and fur-lined skulls.

IspapAmerica?
Is popeasyart?
is very much at the core of every pop work. British pop, the
Yes,as opposed to one eminent critic's dictum that great art must necessarily i IT;S"rica
cameabout due to the influence of America. The generating issue
be difficili art. Pop is Instant Art. . . . Its comprehensioncan be as immediate I ilt::Tl
.i.iHlitrilRtffH
:yffi"T3
as a Crucifixion. Its appeal may be as broad as its range; it is the wide-screerr
of the Late Show. It iJ not the Latin of the hierarchy,it is vulgar' ilHA*ffi::ml
Nffif,f,fl,lff*
772 Threef quIass
cultttre, IvIass
Media,pop Art

[?:f,
]Jf,l?i-:T##"::,,f,',rfnl*i,?i:;ff
rukebox,,,:lr."a##"::,,frr,i:ffffiIi,?i:;ff Lichtenstein,
Warhol,Indiana, Rosenquist
a Wat Is pop Art?
i1,,*.-rg,.:.se'.u
----Dmebestora,rrossibl;;?ff"\
i?,,i:.Tlt;:ffi.: 113

JAME'
RosENQU$r ffi#"1i'H"###1tr'f;"L"rffJ:'*sffi;.;Trig

'"*nG;-,*'"n*^"-",*^-^"*.*;::::::ffi;#,H.5.:l:s:f f,"-.
rng and therefore
shoe-horn the , "
- -^s L^t/srrucrute'and the images

r"r",.^"J"?lll1tri3f.fflil'abre'.r onjvrioi"ro.u.or-
on to his own feelings.
..
--

are in the

.
AllowayI TheArts and the t'lassMedia 115
174 ThreeI Mass l,Iedia,popArt
Culture,Moss

that's it' But in a sensethe image is expendable;I


The more we explore, the more we dig through, the more we learh then I have one image,
so that the thing doesn't become an attempt at a
the more mystery there is. For instance, how can I justify myself, ho* .an
I li"'il""p the image
make my mark, my X on the wall in my studio, or in my experience, whsa d illusion, an elegance'' ' -
somebody is jumping in a rocket ship and exploring outer space? Like, i1g
begins to explore space, the deeper he goes in space, the more there is of nn-

ffi$g*5g$#$fi6
ture, the more mystery there is. You may make a discovery but you get to
a
certain point and that point opens up a whole new area that's never even
b e e nt ouc hed. . . .
I treat the billboard image as it is, so apart from nature. I paint it as a re-
production of other things; I try to get as far away from nature as possible. . . .
An empty canvas is full, as Bob lRauschenbergl said. Things are always
gorgeous and juicy-an empty canvas is-so I put something in to dry it up.
just the canvas and paint-that would be nature. I see all this stuff [pointing

il i"*
to the texture of a canvasl-that's a whole other school of painting. All tha-t
very beautiful canvas can be wonderful, but it's another thing. The image-
certainly it's juicy, too-but it throws your mind to something else, into art.
From having an empty canvas, you have a painted canvas. It may have more li'i:
action; but the action is like a confrontation, like a blow that cancels out a lot
of other stuff, numbing your appreciation for a lot of juicy things. Then, too, LlwrenceA[lowaY
somebody will ask, why do I want that image there? I don't want that image, and the MassMedia (1e58)
but it's there. To put an image in, or a combination of images, is an attempt to $e Arts
make it at least not nature, cancel it from nature, wrest it away. Look at that ;.:iln his influentiat 1939 essay"Avant-Garde and Kitsch." clement Greenbergdelin-
., eatesthe differencesbetween fine art, which is basedon aestheticquality and gen-
fabric, there, the canvas, and the paint-those are like nature. . . .
., eraltv apnealsto an etite audience,and mass-produced commerciatart (kitsch),
I learned a lot more about painting paint when I painted signs. I painted ' wfricfris tasea on marketabilityand generallyappealsto a less-educated audience'
things from photos and I had quite a bit of freedom in the interpretation, but attempts to establish standards by
.'Io a targe degree"Avant-Gardeand Kitsch"
still, after I did it, it felt cold to me, it felt like I hadn't done it, that it had been which p.gt.riiu. art is judged, thereby keeping the fine arts on sure footing.
I. fine
done by a machine. The photograph was a machine-produced image. I threw t
lttanty yearslater critics such as LawrenceAttowayctaimedthat it was no longer
myself at it. I reproduced it as photographically and stark as I could. They're '''possible
or necessaryto maintain these divisions,largely becauseof the exptosion
still done the same way;l like to paint them as stark as I can. . . . in both the population and the methodsfor the reproductionand distribution of
I thought for a while I would like to use machine-made images, silk images.Altowayarguesin "The Arts and the MassMedia,"which was publishedin
r-:,theFebruary
screens/ maybe. But by the time I could get them-I have specifics in my 1958issueof ArchitecturalDesign,that for too tong critics had used
mind-it would take longer or as long, and it would be in a limited size,than 'r triteria estabtished in the arenaof the fine arts to critique massarts. He felt that a
if I did them as detached as I could by hand, in the detached method I l,,tcw vocabularyneededto be estabtishedthat wasmoreawareof the particularsof
learned as a commercial painter. . . . 1.,mass communication.
'i;.. Oneof the strengthsof massart, in Attoway'sview,is that it is inherently more
When I first started thinking like this, feeling like this, from my out-
opento changethan is fine art. Furtherbecauseit wasableto be reproduced,it had
door painting, painting commercial advertising, I would bring home colors -
, the potential to be ubiquitous.Alloway recognizedthe uneasethat massart cre-
that I liked, associations that I liked using in my abstract piinting, and I ated, stating "What worriesinteltectuatsis the fact that the massarts spread;they
i;
would remember specifics by saying this was a dirty bacon tan, this was a on the high ground."Nevertheless, Alloway-who had workedat the In-
yellow T-shirt yellow, this was a Man-Thn suntan orange. I remember these I i,'.iT''stitute
",3ncroach of Contemftrary Art in Lond.onin the early 1950sand was awareof the
like I was remembering an alphabet, a specific color. So then I started paint- g;5" eutV Poptendenciesof EduardoPaolozziand RichardHamittonbeforemoving to
.llew
ing Man-Tan orange and-I always remember Franco-American spaghettl York-was an earty advocateof Popart.
orange, I can't forget it-so I felt it as a remembrance of things, like a color
i
chart, like learning an alphabet. Other people talk about painting nothing'
You just can't do it. I paint something as detached as I can and as well as I t O 1958 Lawrence Alloway
Media 177
AIIowayA TheArts and the Mass

116 ThreeI MassCulture, Media'PopArt


Mass

|nArchitecturalDesignlastDecembertherewasadiscussionof,,theprobleql
to face hlg.l"ll;T.u':
that facesthe architecttoday-democracyJace Yilh
:ffi",t;; mobliy:'
n".'G; ;;;;lrsar. IT, T:It."f:':,T:iT::l1,"*i
p"?i'"",
.".1erybodv
tT,Tt'^:li j:?{::l'l3*ll"ilT:
";;:;tJffi;r'
:;##ir ;;;fi;;;tr., 1,1*u"y-headed rhereareheadsand
monster.
to tnTiior" 180million; by
1800the population of Europe_wasan estimated
The increase of population and the
1g00this figure had ,ir"" ao460 mi[ion.
everybody knows' changed the
industrial revolution ihut puced it has' as
ideas have peisisted,.to limit the def'
world. In the arts, fro*urrur, haditional
inition of later a"rr"iop-""ts' As Ortega
Masses:"the massesutl toduy exercisingfunctions
cide with those which hitheito seemedreserved
ii" ch*, accustomedto set aestheticstandards,
pointed out in The Reuoltof the
in social life which coin-
to minorities'" As a result
has found that it no longer
possessesthepowertodominateallaspectsofart.Itisinthissituationthat
iltltff-x*t$'f
ffii+rilir+#'f
ubualsenseot the
f,*i+#
word, whiih means " ryrtJt"
perpetuating'S"tsrt"'"'["
that is.static, rigid, self-
i" ti" variables'ot o"t life and
economy enable
closely than the
to seethem the changesin 3ur life far more
ir" consider the arts of the mass media. It is impossible themassarts to utto*futy
"""i," with minorities with pastoral o{time-bindins values'
.i""-rry *iir,i" a code of aestheticsassociated fuearts which u'" u '"po'itory are geared to technical
and democratic'
unJ tipp"t-.lass ideas becausemass art is urban , The popular u*'ro;ot"'industrial "iviiiTatiottand experimentally' The
ti'i, ,,o good giving a literary critic modern sciencefiction to review no gt"d"^lly' bllviotently
which occur,
the ii',eate"'critic to the movies' and no good asking
the music cbarrges ""t chalienged the cinema' In reac-
g""a ;Ji"fr riceof the electronicsu* in".orn*.tr,ications (CinemaScope)
an example of what happensto ;ovie malcerstpt"ua 'ii"*uyt
critic for an opinion on Elvis Presley.Here is tirn to the small TV film ciitics opposed the
Wain' after ';;;;;, All the
critics who approach mass art with minority a-ssy.|Ptlolt' Iol" and back into space tvi'tuVi'io")' 'lguht Technical
Wren's BeauGesteobserves: rw$rarray of shapes,but ail have been ut""piEaty "" 1:*ltes' necessity) is
flrtirrg so*" oithu spectacularcharactersin P' C'
,,It sounds rich. But in fact-as the practiced reader could easily foresee' ' ' it clqr1geas dramatiz"J (usually.spurred Ly economic
TV' the
seldom are. They are life- ^o*'"rry ult.of all the mass arts' Color
is not rich. Books with this kind of subject matter chnracteristicnot only .iil*'ti""^u magazines)' the
yarn,,, In fact, the improvementsin color printing (particularly in-
American
less, petrified by the inert conventions of the adventure technical im-
conventions of the work rqvJ,range of paper Uuit Uoofi', ull u'" pu't of
the constant
practiced reader is the one who understands the
inert conventions; from in- communication'
he is reading' From outside all Wain can Seeare pmo*t"ilt, inihe channels of mass
appear as the con'
side the view is bettlr and from inside the conventions :Animportantf".t-i"communicationinthemassartsishighredun-
eachother (though
tainers of constantly shifting values and interests' C.rry. TV Plays,radio serials,entertainers' tend to resemble
The Western*o.ri", fJr example,often quoted as timeless
and ritualis' trere are important Jill;;t .risible differences for the expert consumer)'
There have been eatan ice cream' and
tic, has since the end of World Wai tt been highly flexible' G;;; tfi ii" riorri", at any point, leaveyour seat'
both the heroes and overlap-
cycles of psychologi"uiW"r,"rns (complicatei characters, $ll follow the action on the screen Pretty *"tt' tn" repetitive
(attentive to Indian rights and ping structure of modern entertainment works in two ways: (1) it permits
and the villains), anthropological Westerns neck' pa-
Winchesters as ana' $etginal attention to suJfice for those spectators who like to talk'
rites), weapon Western, (Cot[,""olvers and repeating for_intense partici-
has chattg"l Ul4l ,.0"] O ii""irif"", io, tn" absorbedspectator,the desire
togues of the present armament race).fn" ftrtlgo-si s
depiessio.-n who married the boss pation which leais'to a careful discrirnination of nuances in the action'
too: the typical hero of the American van- re-
daughter and so the bright archaic world of the gentleman has There is in popular art a continuum from data to fantasy' Fantasy
"r,t"red it evening dress examples,film stars,P:tf"*". ads' beautyaf..tl:
ished. The ideal of the gentleman has expired, too, and.,titt rd* i"; ;;;;i"";;;*
situations, terrible d";td ;;;y *o*""' thit it the aspect of popular
which is no longer part of the typical hero-garb' . -
are' after all' one of the lrichis *""t u"."pt"a by art minorities wlro s3ei' ": 3:]!t-::l^
If iustice is to be done to the *u" u#'which
most remarkable and characteristi"u.m.'"^"nts
of industrial society,sorne of the folk, u"'ro^"ihirrg primitive' This notion has a history since
""rify
A summary of the opposition
of the common oblectionsto it need to u" ia*i.
on PopArt
Kramer,Ashton,Steinberg,Kunitz J A Symposium 119
118 ThreeI MassCulture,Massltedia,PopArt Selz,Geldzahler,

of culture rs
Herder in the eighteenth century who emphasizednational folk arts in sp- ouely valuable and as precious as ever). Our definition
position to international classicism.Now, howeve4,mass-producedfolk art It beyond the fine art limits imposed on it by Renaissance the-
is international: Kim Novak, Galaxy ScienceFiction, Mickey Spillane, 61u "rcf.,"anoq increasingly,to the whole complex of human activities.
liJr"t"rr
is not, as critics
available wherever you go in the West. in this definition, rejection of the mass produced arts
new role for the academic
Howeve4,fantasy is always given a keen topical edge; the seyrymodel Tilil, a"f"nse of culture but an attack on it. The
is shaped by datable fashion as well as by timelesslust. Thus, the mass arts ;il#p"r oftheflame,.,h:
""yin '"1"{:1*.rli".:l:]:.,^:_3",,.1""*Tff:::
orient the consumer in current styles, even when they seem purely, time- '.ilfi".,r rn communication an expanding framework that also includes
lessly erotic and fantastic.The mass media give perpetual lessonsin assimi- arts'
drei'mass
lation, instruction in role-taking, the use of new objects, the definition of
changing relationships, as David Riesman has pointed out. A clear example
of this may be taken from sciencefiction. Cybernetics,a new word to many
peopleuntil 1956,was made the basisof storiesin AstoundingScience Fiction "'
in 1950.*SF aids the assimilation of the mounting technical facts of this cen- HiltonKramer,
FpterSelzwith HenryGeldzahler,
tury in which, as John W. Campbell, the editor of Astounding,put it. "A man
learns a pattern of behavior-and in five years it doesn't work." Popular art,
StanleyKunitz
lloreAshton,LeoSteinberg,
as a whole, offers imagery and plots to control the changes in the world; I $Wposiumon PoPArt (1e63)
everything in our culture that changesis the material of the popular arts. , Tfteriseof Popart to the forefront of Americanalt wasunnervingto somein the art
Critics of the massmedia often complain of the hostility towards intel-
norld and refreshingto others.Neverbeforein Americancultural tife had new art
Iectualsand the lack of respectfor art expressedthere, but, as I have tried to ,dsen so fast and becomeso commerciallysuccessful.In 1962the Museumof Mod-
show, the feeling is mutual. Why should the mass media turn the other em Art in NewYorkcity organizeda symposiumon Popart that broughttogethera
cheek?What worries intellectuals is the fact that the mass arts spread; they in an attempt to better understandthis
,, prominentgroupof curatorsand art critics
encroach on the high ground. For example, into architecture itself as Ed- nor phenomenon.Peterselz, curator of Paintingand Sculptureat Mol'lA, moder-
mund Burke Feldman wrote in Arts and Architecturelast October: "Shelter, aterlthe discussionat the Modernon Decembert3, 1962.ThispanetincludedHenry
which began as a necessity,has becomean industry and now, with its refine- Getdzahter,
,'Ililton AssistantCuratorat the MetropolitanMuseumof Art, and the art critics
ments, is a popular art." This, asFeldman points out, has beenbrought about Kramer,DoreAshton. Leo Steinberg,and StanleyKunitz. The transcript of
1'
Utiss;mposiumwaspubtishedin the Aprit 1963issueof ArtsMagazine.
by "a democratization of taste, a spread of knowledge about non-material
Thisbalanceddialogpresentsboth a healthy amount of skepticismas well as
developments,and a shift of authority about manners and morals from the ''
Someconvincingargumentsfor Popart. What seemsto be of greatestconcernis the
few to the many." West Coast domestic architecturehas becomea symbol of shiftingtenain for judging the value of a work of art. Themajor questionaboutPop
a style of living as well as an example of architecture pure and simple; this . art is whetherit is an honestcommentaryon the ubiquity of comrnercial imagesin
has occurred not through the agency of architectsbut through the associa' Americansocietyor whetherit simptyadoptstheseimageswithout addingthe nec-
tion of stylish interiors with leisure and the good life, mainly in mass circu- cssaryamountof the artist transformativeenergyto makethem legitimateworksof
lation magazinesfor women and young marrieds. - ut. Throughoutthe twentieth century the art wortd had cometo expectan anti-
The definition of culture is changing as a result of the pressureof the ' establishment stancein much progressiveart. So the ambivalencethat Popartists
had to their subjectsinfuriated some critics, but this is preciselywhat madeit
great audience,which is no longer new but experiencedin the consumption
compettingto others.Oneof the other major points of uneaseamongsomeof the
of its arts. Therefore, it is no longer sufficient to define culture solely as critics is the speedwith which Pop art was acceptedwithin the ever-growing
something that a minority guards for the few and the future (though suchart
-. urechanism of critics, museums,galleries,and coltectors.With the ascentof Popart
. there is a sensethat the art market'ssystemsof tegitimization and rewardwere
movingat a speedand accordingto a systemthat was replacingconnoisseurship

{.
'I
*Although for purposes of this general article I have treated the mass arts as one thing,
it is in fact highlly speiialized. ASF is for scientifically and technically minded readers, ryh"I"?:
Galaxy SF leins iowards mainstream stories. SF editorials tend to see the unlikeness of the field
to the rest of the mass media. There are, in fact, a multirude of audiences within the great audi-
ence (Mademotselle,for example, is aimed at female readers from eighteen to thirty), but here I
just want to separate the popular from the fine arts. published in Arts Magazine in April 1963
Kunitz f A symposiumon PopArt 727
120 ThreeI MassCulture,
Mass
Media,PopArt selz,Geldzahler,Kramer,Ashton,steinberg,

landscape paintittq' t-h." artist re-


with reactionsto fashion.Relatedto theseissues,the paneldebatessomeinterest- r.nn att is a new two-dimensional
vf

to nrsvisual:""1i:i1"1t : lT- T:': : ll*flt


L

ing questionsas to the rote of museumsin the promotionof new art, an issuethat iing specrtrcauy
*,;?;;r"u;g ::'":*
continuedto resonatethroughout the rest of the twentieth century. i"t ut he sees.And it is interesting thailhis art does not
somecritrcs*.:l: tl :19:ty^.^:fi9"i"1
tfr" ;; n"*" h,rrnuni.sm
;p';;; theract thaf. pl:'b,t:-'-11t::,1T1t"1,,::"tJ:::::-t^'
le ?:i
G E L D Z AH L ER
HENRY
*:ffiffi$:',::il"ilUiii!
##m';i*$;+;T:T't'ffiih" artist is doing-, not-to tell him what he should
##;';;';;
It is always a simple matter to read inevitability back into events after they *doing' media' Our
have happened, but from this vantage point it seemsthat the phenomenon we live rn an urban society,ceaselesslyexposed to mass
a"," are for the most part secondhand. Is it not then logical
of pop art was inevitable. The popular press, especially and most typically ,oorary ;r;;"r.
-dii*artbemacteoutofwhatwesee?Hasitnotbeentrueinthepast?There
Life magazine, the movie close-up, black and white, technicolor and wide
Nash quatrain that I feel is apposite:
screen,the billboard extravaganzas,and finally the introduction, through ffiOga""
television, of this blatant appeal to our eye into the home-all this has made
available to our society,and thus to the artist, an imagery so pervasive,per-
that I shall never see
sistent and compulsive that it had to be noticed. After the heroic years of Ab- '$,; I think
r{r!r
Abillboard lovelY as a tree
stract Expressionism a younger generation of artists is working in a new fall
.,.' Perhapsunlessthe billboards
American regionalism, but this time, becauseof the massmedia, the region- u:i' Y1 never seea tree at all'
ri*':
alism is nationwide, and even exportable to Europe, for we have carefully
prepared and reconstructedEurope in our own image since 1945so that two i+l
paint trees with
kinds of American imagery Kline, Pollock, and De Kooning on the one hand, {ruU,tfr" billboards haven't fallen, and we can no longer
So we paint billboards'
and the pop artists on the othet are becoming comprehensibleabroad. $eat contemporaryrelevance.
Both Clement Greenbergand Harold Rosenberghave lwitten that in- S,-l e ptoof t f,urr" heard that pop att cannot be serious is that it has been
art is ig-
creasingly in the twentieth century art has carried on a dialogue with itsell ,fruptua so readily. As everyonl knows, the argument goes' great
of
art leads to art, and with internal sequence.This is true still, even with the tftea fo. y"urr. Wu must examine this preiudice' Why are w-emistrustful
*iartbecauseit is readily acceptable?Iiis becausewe are still working with
external referencespop art makes to the observedworld. The best and most
developed post-Abstract Expressionist painting is the big single-image nyths developedin the yearsof alienation'
painting, which comes in part out of Barney Newman's work-I am think- fn" fr"riirrn of the New York School has been to break through and
ing of Ellsworth Kelly, Kenneth Noland, Ray Parker and Frank Stella,among uin acceptancefor the high and serious purPose of American painting'
others-and surely this painting is reflected in the work of Lichtenstein, ftere is r,o* u community 6f collectors,critics, art dealersand museum peo-
rehearsedto the
Warhol and Rosenquist. Each of these painters inflates his compulsive ft, a rather large community, that has been educated and
image. The aesthetic permission to project their immense pop images de- foint that there is no longer any shock in art.
to'.
rives in part from a keen awarenessof the most advanced contemporary art' For the first time in"tms century there is a.classof American collectors
And thus pop art can be seen to make senseand have a place in the wider thnt p"t onires its advanced artists. The American artist has an audience,
movement of recent art. ftrd there exists a machinery, dealers, critics, museums, collectors' to keep
a nostalgia
I have heard it said that pop art is not art, and this by a museum cura' $ings moving and keep people on their toes. Yet there persists
tor. My feeling is that it is the artist who defines the limit of art, not the critic frff the Sood Jld daVswhen the artist was alienated, misunderstood, unPa-
or the curator. It is perhaps necessaryfor the art historian, who deals with . honized.The new rit,utio.t is different. People do buy art. In this sensetoo
closed issues,to have a definition of art. It is dangerousfor the critic of con- 'here is no lonqer, or at least not at the moment, such a thing as an
and here we
temporary art to have such a definition. fust so there is no unsuitable subject fvant-garde. Avint-garde must be defined in terms of audience,
for art. Marcel Duchamp and jasper Johnshave taught us that it is the artist an audience more than ready to stay with the artist' One even gets the
who decideswhat is art, and they have been convincing philosophically and that shock has become so ingrained that the dealer, critic and collector
aesthetically. and expectit.
722 Three
I ltassCulture,
Llass PopArt
Media,

The general public has not become appreciably more aware of good
Seb, Geldzahler, Kunitz I
Kramer,Ashton,Steinberg,

*::^T::'igllti::i_1'i::l':lJ,:T::i:'::-^::'J,:i?
:,{ratrdo}ertl:1.l"f It representssomething new, not so much in
only one-respect.
on PopArt
A Symposium 123
l
painting, but the audience for advanced art, partly becauseof the influence ffi""-U",
of the Museum of Modern Art, is considerablywider than it has ever beenin ,il t irtory of art as in the history of art criticism, for criticism, from its be-
this country.
Through our writers and art historians we have become very con-
fiT?i,T:t1,lt1:?l
ffi ';;,1t,'#ixil:tJil:*:il1#;?$i,':f, of pop art,
scious of the sequenceof movements, of action and reaction. The clich6s i" tfru" anything that might be said about them. With the coming
has at last been abated. It has, to all appearances/ been tri-
and tools of art writing have become so familiar that we can recognize n iE n".itiition
movement literally before it fully happens. About a year and a half ago I overcome. The relation of the critic to his material has been sig-
i-lph*tly
are now free to confront a class of objects,
saw the work of Wesselman,Warhol, Rosenquist and Lichtenstein in their ilLotty-t"versed, and critics
studios. They were working independently, unaware of eachother,but wit\ ,Ini"fr, while still works of art more or less, are art only by default, only be-
a common sourceof imagery.Within a year and a half they have had shows, ca*" ifr"y are nothing else, but about which almost anything critics say will
been dubbed a movement, and we are here discussing them at a sympo- irus"the mind more fully and affect the emotions more subtly than the ob-
sium. This is instant art history, art history made so aware of itself that it iuir ivt ot" meaning they are ostensibly elucidating'
leapsto get aheadof art. '- pop art is, indeed, a kind of emancipation proclamation for the art
just conceivably
The great body of imagery from which the pop artists draw may be critic,and while I hesitateto labor the point unduly, it may
said to be a common body, but the style and decisionsof eachare unmistak- bepossiblethat some,though surely not all, of the interest this movement has
able.The choiceof color, composition, the brush stroke,the hardnessof edge, eneratedamong Critics-and among museums/ toO, and museum Sym-
have of being placed by tlis new devel-
all theseare personal no matter how closeto anonymity the artist may aspire iosia-is traceableto the sensethey
in his desire to emulate the material of his inspiration, the anonymous mass opment in a more advantageous position vis-a-vis the work of art than they
media. The pop artists remain individual, recognizable and separate.The haveheretofore enjoyed.
new art draws on everyday objectsand images.They are isolated from their why is it the case,as I emphatically believe it to be, that this work is in-
ordinary context, and typified and intensified. What we are left with is a hrrestingfor what is said aboutit rather than for what it, intrinsically, is? Pri-
heightened awarenessof the objectand image,and of the context from which narily, I think, becauseit is so preponderantly contextual in its mode of
they have been ripped, that is, our environment. If we look for attitudes o{ addressand in its aestheticexistence;so crucially dependentupon cultural lo-
approval or disapproval of our culture in this art, of satire or glorification of gisticsoutside itself for its main expressiveforce.It neither createsnew forms
our society, we are oversimplifying. Surely there is more than satire in nor gives us new ways of perceiving the visual materials out of which it is
Hogarth, the Longhis, Daumier, Toulouse-Lautrec.There is a satirical aspect made;it takesthe one from the precedentsof abstractart and the other from
the precedentsof window display and advertising design. It adopts and
in much of this art, but it is only that, one aspect.
adaptsreceived ideas and received goods in both spheres-form and con-
Pop art is immediately contemporary.We have not yet assimilated its
tent-+ynthesizing nothing new no new visual fact of aesthetic meaning,
new visual content and style. The question at hand is not whether it is great
inthe process.The critic Sidney Tillim, in writing about Oldenburg's last exhi-
ar| this question is not answerable,or even interesting, just now. I think the
bitionsaid: ". . . at no time in Oldenburg's work was thereever a possibility for
point is rof to make an immediate ultimate evaluation, but to admit the pos-
furtrr to have a destiny''; and to this cdrrect observation I would myself add:
sibility that this subjectmatter and thesetechniquesare and can be the legit-
Therewas neither the possibility of content having a destiny,for the brute vi-
imate subjectmatter and technique of art. And the point is too to realize that stral facts of the popuiar culture all around ,m, ut d upon which Oldenburg
pop art did not fall from the heavensfully developed. It is an expressionof
contemporary sensibility aware of contemporary environment and growing )va.sdrawing, had already endowed this material witli a destiny that only a
:ormd and psychologicaland social imagination of the greatestpower and
naturally out of the art of the recent past. utagnitude .b.ia n"p"" to compete with and render artisticllly mea^ningful.
art derivei its small, feeblevictories from the juxtaposition of two
i HILTON
KRAMER
^,, , _hP
cliches: a clich6of form superimposedon a clich6 of imag;. And it is its failure
}jo *ydttng more than this ihat makes it so beguidlg to talk about and
utite about-Ihat
Perhaps I should begin my remarks on the phenomenon of pop art,
makes pop art the conversationpiece far excellence-forit
to completeiisef. Ottty talk can effectthe act of imaginative sym-
neo-Dada, New Realism, or whatever we finally agree to call it, on a positive i Xq"*talk
rnesiswhich the
note (since there will be much to say in the negative) and admit straightawa/
n
t - artltself fails to efiect.
724 ThreeI MassCulture,MassMedia,PopArt Seb, Geldzahler, on PopArt
Kunitz I A Symposium
Kramer,Ashton,Steinberg, 725

(in the very way he used


Why, then, are we so interested in it just now, so interested in the art ,,a his paintings of New York) and David Smith
and in the talk? who told us what it felt like to live in this particular civi-
&ory-^ur"rials)
In answering this more general question, it seemsto me imperative to Tl91ao"at this particular moment in history'
*
grasp the relation of this development to the current popularity of abstract Pop art does not tell us what it feels like to be living through the pres-
painting, and particularly abstract painting which has been so extrerne dntmoment of civilization-it is merely part of the evidence of that civiliza-
(whatever its other achievementsmay be) in denuding art of complex visual L"r. ltr social effect is simply to reconcile us to a world of commodities,
incident. This poverty of visual incident in abstractpainting has given rise to taliti"r and vulgarities-which is to say,an effect indistinguishable from
than ever-be
practically every new development of the last couple of years; happenings, Jvertising art. This is a reconciliation that must-now more
pop art, figure painting, monster-making, kinetic art-all have in common, life itself-is to be defended against the dishonesties of
J'"ed, if art-and
whatever their differences,the desire to restoreto complex and recognizable contrivedpublic symbols and pretentious commerce'
experienceits former hegemony over pure aestheticism.And it is as part of
this desire that the taste for pop art must be understood-again, I empha-
size,a contextual meaning rather than an intrinsic, creative one. ASHTON
DORE
Pop art carries out a moderately successfulcharade-but a charade
only----ofthe two kinds of significancewe are particularly suckersfor at the when Lawrence Alloway first discussed pop art he explained that it was
present moment: the Real and the Historical. Pop art seems to be about ,,on the acceptanceof mass-produced objects just becausethey are
based
the real world, yet it appearsto its audienceto be sanctified by tradition, the what is around." The throwaway materials of cities as they collect in draw-
tradition of Dada. Which is to say,it makes itself dependent upon something ers,closetsand empty lots are used, he said, so that "their original identity is
outside art for its expressivemeaning, and at the same time makes itself de- solidly kept." For Alloway it was essentialthat the "original status" of junk
pendent upon the myths of art history for its aestheticintegrity. In my opin- bemaintained.He bared the naturalistic bias of pop art when he insisted that
ion, both appealsare fraudulent. "assemblagesof such material come at the spectator as bits of life, bits of
But pop art does,of course,have its connectionswith art history.Behind the city."
its pretensionslooms the legendary presenceof the most overrated figure in The urgent quest for unadorned or common reality, which is the
modern art: Mr. Marcel Duchamp. It is Duchamp's celebratedsilence,his dis- avowedbasis of pop art, was again assertedby Alloway two years after. In
avowal/ his abandonmentof art, which has here-in pop art-been invaded, an introduction to Jim Dine's cataloguehe flatly PosespoP art as an antidote
colonized and exploited. For this was never a real silence.Among the major- to idealism: he suggeststhat aesthetictradition tends to discount the reality
ity of men who produced no art, and experiencedlittle or none, Duchamp's of subjectmatter, stressingart's formality "which can be made a metaphor of
disavowal was devoid of all meaning. Only in a milieu in which art was still an ideal order."
created,worried oveq,and found to be problematical as well as significant And here is the crux of the matter: the contemporary artist, weary and
and necessary,could Duchamp's silenceassumethe statusof a relevantmyth. perplexedby the ambiguities of idealism (as in Abstract Expressionism,for
And just so,it is only in the context of a schoolof painting which hasradically ulstance)decides to banish metaphor. Metaphor is necessarilya complicat-
deprived art of significant visual eventsthat pop art has a meaning.Placeit in ing device,one which insists otr ihe play of more than one element in order
any other visual context and it fades into insignificance,as remote from our to effectan image. The pop artist wants no such elaborateand oblique obli
needsas the d6cor in last year's Fifth Avenue windows. gation. He is engaged in an elementary game of naming things-one at
Duchamp's myth does carry a moral for pop art. If his silence means atime.
anything-and it surely means much less than has been made of it- Perhapsthe movement can be seen as an exacerbatedreaction to the
its meaning is more biographical than historical. At a certain point in Romantic rnovement, so long ascend.antin modern art history, in which
Duchamp's development as an artist, the experienceand objectsof modern artists were prepared to endure an existence among things that have no
life defeated his ability to cope with them. This is not an uncommon devel- name.
opment in the life of an artist, but Duchamp was perhaps the first to turn his Or perhaps pop art is a defensive movement against overwhelming
D
r(omantic
aestheticimpotence into a myth of superior powers. His ready-madeswere isolation. Baudelaire said that the exclusive passion of art is i
simply the prologue to the silence that followed. It was nof Duchamp, but I .3$* which devours everything else.Perhapsthis generation is fearful of
artists like Mondrian (in his "Boogie-Woogie" paintings) and Stuart Davis hi"S devoured-fearful of life itleff.
I
L*ii.
-IS
726 ThreeI MassCulture,I{assltedia, pop Art Selz, Geldzahler,Kramer, Ashton, Steinberg, Kunitz I A Symposium on Pop Art

The impatient longing to reduce reality to the solid simple objectwhich , pop art is a significant sociologicalphenomenon,a mirror of our so-
resistseverything*interpretation, incorporation, juxtaposition, transforrna- To the extent that it shuns metaphor, or any deep analysis of complex
tion-appears again and again in modern art history. But it is always delu_ it is an impoverished genre and an imperfect instrument of art.
sive. The artist who believesthat he can maintain the "original status" of n1 {- Far from being an art of social protest, it is an art of capitulation. The
object deludes himself. The characterof the human imagination is expansive Sghttt ut" of poet Henri Michaux, who imagines himself surrounded by
"I," to annihi-
and allegorical.You cannot "think" an object for more than an instant with- fritit" objectspressing in on him and seeking to displace his
out the mind's shifting. Objectshave always been no more than cues to the ru" trir individuality by "finding their center in his imagination," has be-
vagabond imagination. Not an overcoat,not a bottle dryer, not a Coca-Cola oorre a reality for many would-be artists. The profusion of things is an
bottle can resist the onslaught of the imagination. Metaphor is as natural to orverwhelming fact that they have unfortunately learned to live with.
the imagination as saliva to the tongue.
The attitude of the pop artist is diffident. He doesn't aspire to interpret Catharsisis by no meansan adequateresPonseto the conundrum of contem-
or re-present, but only to present. He very often cedes his authority to prarylife'
chance---eitheras he produces his object,or as it is exposed to the audience
which is expected to complete his process.The recent pop artist is the first
artist in history to let the world into his creativecompound without protest. LEOSTEINBERG
A few brief history notes: Apollinaire said Picassoused authentic ob-
jects which were "impregnated with humanity"-in other words, he used Ihave put down three questions:First: Is it art? Second:If it is-if pop art is
them metaphorically.When Duchamp exhibited his urinal he was careful to anew way in art-what are its defining characteristics?And Third: Given its
insist that it was significant becausehe, Duchamp, had chosenit. Schwitiers gmeral characteristics(if definable), how in any particular casedo you tell
wrote that "every artist must be allowed to mold a picture with nothing but thegood art from the bad? SinceI have only sevenminutes, if I can't answer
blotting paper/ provided he is capableof molding a picture." thesequestions,I can at least complicate them.
But by the time pop art appears,the artist as master image-makeris no The question "Is it art?" is regularly asked of pop art, and that's one of
longer assertive.He gladly allows Chanceto mold his picture, and is praised thebest things about it, to be provoking this question. Becauseit's one that
for it, as when ]ohn Cage praises Rauschenbergbecausehe makes no pre- gughtto be asked more or lessconstantly for the simple reasonthat it tends
tenseat aestheticselection.There is a ring of Surrealismand Lautr6amont in b be constantly repressed.We get used to a certain look, and before long we
Cage's observation that between Rauschenbergand what he picks up is the oay,"Sure it's art; it looks like a De Kooning, doesn't it?" This is what we
quality of an encounter-but not the metaphorical encounter of sewing ma- might have said five years ago, after growing accustomedto the New York
chine and umbrella-only a chanceencounter in the continuum of random $choollook. Whereas ten years earlier, an Abstract Expressionistpainting,
sensationhe calls life. boki.S quite unlike anything that looked like art, provoked serious doubts
In the emphasis on randomness and chance,on the virtual object di- a$to what it was.
vested of associations,on the audience as participant, and in his rebellion Now I think the point of reformulating this question time and again is
against metaphoq,the pop artist generally begs the question of reality. He re- b remind us that if there is a general principle involved in what makes a
fuses to take the responsibility of his choices.He is not the only one. Alain , ltork of art, we have yet to establishit. And I mean specifically this: Do we
Robbe-Grillet,commenting on his filmscript Last Yearat Marienbad,parallels 1 ttecidethat something is art becauseit exhibits certain general characteris-
him when he says that the spectatorcan do with it what he likes; he, the au- i Sq? Or becauseof thJway we respond to it? In other words, exactly what is
thor, had nothing decisive in mind. I it,.th"tthe artist creates?
The contemporary aesthetic,as exemplified by many pop artists and | Victor Hugo, after readingLesFleursdu Mal, wrote to Baudelaireand in
^ words
certain literary and musical figures, implies a voluntary diminution of I *u: summed up a system of aesthetics:"You createa new shudder."
choices.The artist is expectedto cede to the choice of vulgar reality; to pre- implies that what the artist createsis essentiallya new kind of spectator
I 3"
sent it in unmitigated form. Conventionally, choice and decision are the I Ft"*e. The artist does not simply make a thing, an artifact, or in the case
essenceof a work of art, but the new tendencyreducesthe number and qual- I g Baudelaire, a poem with its bwn beat and structure of evocation and
ity of decisionsto a minimum. To the extent that interest in objectsand their What he createsis a provocation, a particular, unique and perhaps
I *S:
assemblagein non-metaphorical terms signifies a reduction of individual I hdSovelrelation with reader or viewer.
Iffi.
Eri
on PopArt
Kunitz I A Symposium
Kramer,Ashton,Steinberg,
Selz,Geldzahler, 729
728 Three I MassCulture, MassMedia,pop Art

to tell us, several pop


Does pop art then createanything new-a new shudder----ornot? The And this may be why, as Mr. Geldzahler was able
*orkirrg along the same lines for years, though in ignorance of
criticism of pop art is that it fails to do it. we are told that much of it is pre-
figured in Dada, or in surrealism, or worse still, that it simply arrestswhat " -"r"
another'
ine to sayat
advertisements and window displays throw at us every hour. In other T- Wfr"atrertheir productionsareworks of art I am not prepared
its social and psy-
words, there is not sufficient transformation or selection within pop art to ,r,ispoint. But that ih"y ut" part of the history of art, of
is beyond question. And if I say that I am not prepared to
constitute anything new ll"A[-*"f history
Iii*t"an"r they are ari or not, what I mean is that I cannot yet seethe art for
This I cannot acceptbecauseI think there is nothing new under the sun
I tell you, as I told Mr' Lichtenstein, that I don't like his
except only man's focus of attention. something that's always been around ffi r'"Ui".t. \Afhln
am merely ionfessing that in his work the subject matter exists
suddenly moves into the centerof vision. what was peripheral becomescen- ilii*ir,I
intensely ihut I hurr" been unable to get through to whatever
tral, and that's what's new. And therefore it really doesn't help the discus- ff*"ro
sion of any artistic experienceto point out that you can find antecedentsfor painterlY qualities there maY be'
r-' We
every feature of it. And so I still think it justified to apply to pop art the re- This ieads me to the second question I had wanted to touch upon'
a movement or style: to have
mark that Victor Hugo applied to Baudelaire:it createsa new shudder. have here one characteristic of pop art as
oushedsubiect matter to such ptomittence that formal or aestheticconsider-
Just what is it that's new about it? I will limit myself to my own experi- have to grow accustomed
ence;it involves Roy Lichtenstein,who paints what appear to be mere blow- I;;;;" temporarily masked out. our eyes will
a u ,r"r" presence in art: the presence of subject matter absolutely at
ups of comic-book illustrations. when I first saw these paintings, I did not *J
like them, and I don't like them now. But I saw in them a new approach to an onewith the form.
old problem, that of relating the artist to the bourgeois,the square,the philis- one thing I,m sure of: critics who attack pop art for discarding all syn-
peeka-
tine or pretentious hipster. we remember that twentieth-century art camein theticconsideritions talk too fast. They forget that artists always play
boo. Sometimes-and I am now thinking of all the history of painting
with the self-consciousslogan EpaterIe bourgeois:to outrage or needle the j
bourgeois, keep him as uncomfortable and worried as possible. This pro- +ometimes they piay with latent symbolism, at other times they disguise
gram lasted roughly through the 1930s,when it was pursued chiefly by the their concernwith pure form. Today,for somereason,thesepop artists want
surrealists.The heroic yearsof Abstract Expressionismin New York after the theawarenessof form to recedebehind the pretenseof subjectmatter alone,
SecondWorld War brought another approach,an approach so organic that it andthis createsa genuine difficulty. Why they assignthis new role to subject
was hardly formulated; it simply ignored the bourgeois. The feeling was, matter,after almost a century of formalist indoctrination, is not easyto say.
"They don't want us, we don't want them." The artists developed a thor- I seethat some critics of pop art denounce it as a caseof insufferable
oughgoing camaraderie:"We know what we're doing, the rest o] the world condescension. Severalwriters regard it as ineffectuai satire (I myself seeal-
never will. We'll continue to paint for eachother." This surely was a radically most nothing satirical in pop art). Others think it's simple conformity with
different phasein the relationship of artist and middle class. middle-classvalues. And there is always the possibility that the choice of
And when I saw thesepictures by Lichtenstein, I had the sensationof pop subjectsis artistically determined; that the variegated ready-made,pic-
entering immediately upon a third phasein twentieth-century painting. The torial elementshe now usesfurnish the artist with new richnessof incident
idea seemedto be to out-bourgeoisthe bourgeois,to move in on him, unseat both in surface and depth, while allowing him not to worry about "the in-
him, play his role with a vengeance-as if Lichtenstein were saying, "You bgnty of the picture pliane."For since the elementsemployed in the picture
think you like the funnies. Wait till you seehow I like the funnies!" areknown ur,d tu"tt to be flat (being posters,cartoons,ads, etc'), the overall
I think it has something to do with God and idolatry, God being under- flabressof the picture-as-objectis taken care of, and the artist, confronting
new problems galore, faces one old problem the fewer. But it is obviously
stood as the objectof man's absoluteworship. (I know no other way of defin-
itrpossible to declare whether pop art representsconformity with middle-
ing the word.) Wherever people worship respectably,there is rivalry among
classvalues, social satire, effective or otherwise, or again a completely aso-
worshippers to show who worships the most. Where the objectof worship is
cial exploration of new or newly intriguing, formal means. It is impossible
disreputable,we pretend that our respectfor it is very casual or a matter of
b grve one answer becausewe are not dealing with one artist. We are asked
mere necessity.And now Lichtensteinand certain others treat mass-produced
to deal with many. And so far, there has been no attempt around this table to
popular culture as Duccio would treat the Madonna, Turner the Sea,Picasso
differentiatebetween them. And the fact that there has been no such differ-
the Art of Painting-that is to say,like an absolutegood. Somethinglike this
attiation encourages me to say something here which, I hope, won't sound
is now going on, I think; the artists are moving in, naively or mockingly, each
too pedagogical.
in his way, an uninvited priesthood for an unacknowledged,long-practiced
130 ThreeI MassCulture,Massl,Iedia,pop Art Kramer,Ashton,Steinberg,
Seb, Geldzahler, Kunitz I A Symposium
on PopArt 131

There are two ways of treating an exhibition experience,especiany and sculptors, to which they have given the collective title (substi-
ons
like.the recent pop-art show at-sid-ney "pop art," or the "new realism." I wish I had time to discuss
Janis's.one way consistsof the fol- ifitr Ututta-ttame)
lowulg steps:First: walk around the show noting the common of style in art as the signatureof a culture, but I must be con-
features.sec_ fu signrficance
ond: Describethesefeaturesin one or more generalizations.Third: merely history. has subject.to such an
rrrulrutu q{r, *irl
your abstractedgeneralizationsand, if you fi"ndthem wanting, ":li.g..rhi.,, ,becsme
condemn t\s lceleration of tempo that the life span of a style, which used to be measured
whole movement. has been reduced first to generations, and more recently to
i1 centuries,
The other way begins in the same manner. Walking around, Some of the vibration, I am sure, of American art has its sourcein the
you ob- Mades.
serve this and that, passingby all the works that do nothiig
to you. Then, if gfireed of our transit; but I am not persuadedthat anything is to be gained by
any one work seemsat all effective,open up at once and eiplore
yorr can' Lastly, ponder and evar'ate your ieaction to this single
it as far as fiqati"g art as though it were almost exclusively a commodity, pliant to the
this, strangely_enough, also yields a first generalization;ff thiJ
work; and whimsof the market place and subjectto the sameprinciple of planned obso-
one work in lescenc"asis inherent in the rest of our economy.I seriously doubt that we re-
the show produced a valid experience,u.i., u new shud.de1,then
the whole ally needan annual changeof model. And what of the role of the Museum in
I movement is justified by its proven abilifrto produce a valid work.
The gen_ thisdevelopment?Much asI love this place,I must confessthat I wonder a bit
eralization emergesfrom the more intenie experienceof the particular. of such a rapacioushistoricity, such an inde-
This aboutthe ultimate consequences
l is another way of do3g it, and I prefer it, noionly becauseI enjoy
thinkin; htigable searchfor novelty. I find it disturbing that in conceptand function a
about one work at a time, but also becausethe artists we are discussing
share mnsumof art, traditionally a conservatorof values, should grow closer and
no corunon intention.
doserto an industrial museum, such as the one opened and operated by the
I am sorry to seethat my time is up, so that I cannot comment Fod Motor Co., which was designedas a showcasefor every model of a Ford
on my
question 3. carmanufacturedsince the founding of the company.The art-establishment,
asa whole, seemsto be in such a hurry to get on the bandwagon thesedays
thatsometimesit gets there too soon and has to build the contraption before
STANLEY
KUNITZ it can jump on it. Of course it is a peculiar kind of stupidity to regard any
I changeof style as a form of subversion;but it is an equally peculiar kind of
confronting this sudden and rather staggering proliferation of "pop
iil our midst, I am tempted to echo the exJlamation of the French
art,, in
artist paul
Delaroche when in 1839 he saw a dagueneofype for the first time: ,,From
blly to greet every new twist of style as a revelation.We have in our time in-
venteda new kind of tyranny, which is the tyranny of the avant-garde.
Anyone who has ever written on art must know that it is impossible to
todayi' he said, "painting is dead." If I resist the temptation-and I do--it is provein words that a given work of art is either good or bad. In the end the
not becauseI am afraid of sticking my neck out, foi fear I may be art-objectmust stand as its own witness. NeverthelessI want to try to indi-
proven
y9tg, but simply becauseI have every confidence that art isioo tbugh a cale,in a few paragraphs,why my responseto pop arI, or,let me say,to most
bird to die of either shame or indigestion. It has outlived even worse disas- of what passesas pop art, is largely negative.We have had the supreme for-
ters. of course, M. Delarochewas not completely mistaken: something did tune of a great art in this cenfury, and a substantial part of that greatness
die after the invention of.photography, namely M. Delaroche,together"*ittt originatedand flowered here in this country. For the past dozen years in par-
his brand of bad acadernicism.The more I reflect on the subjectithe more I ticular I have rejoiced in the companionship of an ari that at its test, regird-
am convinced that if we are ever to get an ideal history of ari, it will have to tessof the modalities of style, I have felt to be notable for its courage and
be written by a master of comedy. eelf-reliance;its self-awareness,sprung between psyche and medium; its
How does one explain the overnight apotheosisnot of a single lonely spontaneity of nervon" thelitch and ringe of its sensibility; and
$ch
artist but of a whole regiment wearing the colorsof pop art, for whoir the gai ure simultaneous sensethat"tru.gy; it has often given me of a wild act of assertion
leries and the museums immediately open their dotrs, and the collectors combinedwith a metaphysical entrapment in the infrangible web of space-
their pocketbooks?The best analogy i can ttrint of is a biitz campaign in ad-
5" +" art of beginnings, misdirections, rejections,bec6mings,existences,
solifudes,
vertising, the object of which is to saturate the market with the nime and rages,transformations.
i presencHven the subliminal presencHf a commodity. "Repetition is rep-
L:_
The archetypalpop artist, who is nobody apart from the brute reality of
N utation," said one of the great tSrcoonsof American industry. The real artists {lu milieu, will have nothing to do with the intense subjectivity of what he
of this affair,r submit, are the promoters, who have made i new kind of as- "u painterly aesthetic" a phrase that is intended toiing like an abusive
semblageout of the assortedand not necessarilyrelated works of dozens of 3t
pither He has no interest whitsoever in converting existeitial feeling into
lil
732 ThreeI MassCulture,Massl,Iedia,pop Art
Kramer,Ashton,Steinberg,
Selz,Geldzahler, on PopArt
Kunitz I A Symposium 133
unique gesture'The world of pop art is a crean,well-lighted
can seea deliberately tidy anangement of the most ano"nymols
place where ra,,s ' 6re truly real." Probing the universe, man finds everywhere himself. In the
man, present"g y as.i-houghthey were things in themselves,
hacesof col_ wotdsof another Nobel Prize physicist, Niels Bohr: '1y'y'e are both spectators
fgctrvg lo now i,11dactors in the great drama of existence." When Sartre brought the full
that they have been detached from 6ur destern karnia, the cycle of manu_ in an early
weight of his philosophical intelligence to bear on this theme
consumption. The pop artist assiduouslyrefrains from dir.,uleino entitled his book Nausea. The theme is still being pur-
fl.ryr:.u"d novel, he significantly
his feelingswhile he.issettinguphis store.perhapshe r,u,
u nuJJ;;i;'h: sued by some of the best creative minds of France,notably by the writers and
supermarket which is our world, but he is as reticent about
his private re_ film-makers of the so-callednouaelle aague.
sponsesas a newscasteron a network station. perhaps he
is saying that it is Pop art, in conclusion, seems to me to be neither serious nor funny
fuiile to attempt u creation,given the facts of o"r ,it"utioi, but we can
only guess at that.^"yAll that we know is that he has limited himself to a re_ enoughto serveas more than a nine-days' wonder. It brings to mind a recent
arrangement of familiar counters.In so doing he unwittingly StanfordResearchInstitute study on the contemporary boom in American
what Coleridge defined as the difference be"tweenrur,"y
demonstrates culture-a study that is as amazing as it is, unintentionally, depressing' No
iola ih" r*agi.,u_ doubt some of you will be even more depressedthan I at the disclosure that
tion' This is an art not of transformation but of transposiiion.
I
If the pop artist is concerned with creating anything, it is with thereare as many painters in this country as hunters. Altogether some fifty
ation of an effect. consider,-for example, the cellebrateaio*s
the cre- million Americans are currently being stimulated to "do it yourself" in the
of Campbell,s practiceof the sundry arts. One major explanation of this tidal wave is the
soup labels.we can scarcelybe expectedto have any interestin
the parnting it_ . growing availability of "instant success"products, such as chord attach-
self' Indeed, it is difficult tg thin\of it as paintin glt ull, since
apparentry,the mentsfor pianos and automatic light meters for cameras."These devices,"
serial image has been mechanicallyreproducea witn the aid
insist, howevet on classifyingit as a painting, I am constrained
oi i stencil.If I concludesthe study, "come closeto making a pro out of a dubber."
to describeit
asa kind of literary painting, sincethe effectior which it was
createddepends
enfirely on my recognition o.f irp_h:d pair of references:first,
.ui to the pre-
existentsupermarketfrom which ttre tauersare borrowed; and, second,to the DISCUSSION
pre-existentpaintings from whose painterly aestheticthis composition
departs.
There is no value and, to give modesty its due, no preiension Selz;I have a number of questions here which I would like the panel to discuss,
of value
il.fh" painting, per se,unless we read the fbotnotes, as il were, questionsI had prepared before . . . but before doing so, or perhaps instead of
and get the
drift of the allusions. doing so, I will just take the place of the moderator and open it right up to you
Ever since the Enlightenment, the arts have been the vehicle for con- people.
rl veying much of the mystery and disorde4,the transcendentaryearnings, &lilmhler: I'd like to ask Mr. Kunitz a ouestion. I'd tike to ask Mr. Kunitz what he
that feelsthe role of the Museum of Modern Art, or the art magazinesand so on is, if
l the Church had been able to contain before it becamerationalized.
Conse- ifs not to record and to presentto the public what is going on in the contemporary
quently the modern arts have found their analogue in religious ritual
and art world. If pop art is being done in New York City, if the Museum of Modern Art
action, in the communion that predicatesthe sharing of a de"eply
felt experi- is involved in the hurly-burly, in the courseof twentieth-century art and its most
ence. The enemy has been consistently identified ui borr.g"or,
society'and cunent manifestationsas it has been since L929when it was founded. how could
bourgeois values. Pop art rejectsthe impulse towards comlmunion; it possibly ignore something like this?
mtst of
its signs and slogansand stratagemsco*e straight out of the citadel --
Ktnitz:
of bour- I don't think for a moment that the Museum should ignore whafls going on,
I
geois society,the communications stronghold *h"r" the images and desires especiallya musetun of modernart. But there are obviously principles of selectivity
of massman are produced, usually in plistic. and of timing that enter into any active choice.I do have a feeling that in this ter-
Cgldemning an aestheticof proiess, the pop artist proposes to purify rible effort to get everything even beforeit happens,something strange happens to
, the landscapeof art in our time.
the muddied stream of art by dispLying objectsin isolation, ihe banal items
Cteklzahler: Then yor: feel modern art becomesmodern in time but not right away?
our day refurbished, made teil, by tieir separation from the continuum.
_of h1it1: Well, thetld debateof the differencebetween contemporary and modern is,
what a quixotic enterprise! Even a seventh-gradesciencetextbook informs
I think, an exhaustedone, and I don't want to get into that ai this moment, but ob-
us that objectsare the least solid of our certaiirties.Heisenberg,who demon-
viowly I do believe in a principle of value.
strated that the very act of observation changesthe phenominon to be ob- o
*Y-t May I ask Mr. Geldzahler a question on that? Do you then conceivethe role
::.Ild, quietly asserts-without feeling the need for an exclamation point: of the Museum to be like that of a kind of three-dimensional tape recorde4, giving
"Modern physics,in the final analysis,has already discredited the conceptof us back what is currently being seen a few blocks away?
134 Media,popArt
ThreeI MassCulture,Mass on PopArt
Kunitz I A Symposium
Kramer,Ashton,Steinberg,
Setz,Geldzahler, 735

Geld-zahler: I will agree that there has been some confusion in recent years between Not reallY.
the galleriesand the Museum of Modern Art. The Ad Reinhardt retrospectiver^yl ; well, it certainly is a competition that will grow, but if the competition is
given at the section 11, the big Dickinson show was at the Graham Gallery, not ff"|i,?"gn enough, then it's becauseMr. Selz, Mr. Seitz, Mr' Barr, Mr' D'Harnon-
at one of the museums where it should be, the "sixteen Americans" was here,the ' ' rcutorrl
PercePtive
"35 Paintersunder 35," or whatever it was-a lot of whom didn't have galleries- I,liJ.;a,h" "il-"_.::.if.ttl::.:::.,1"^'iTl:J^":'more
vuryou really aren't answering the question'
i)irt
was at the whitney, and as far as that goes,I would agree.But my feeling is that
I No,I am answering the queition becauseI think that Art Nea;sand ARTS,
ffirbag, poten-
pointed out the fact that this all happened terribly quickly (instant art historv. 166 other museums,and the Metropolitan, they all share,quite equally, or
etc.),but it is a fact that it has been consideredand seenas a movement, and thit frallYequallY,in Power PlaY'
the Museum of Modern Art with its dedication to contemporary art was made t#: Nf. I d""'ftrunk tha(s the case,and the differenceis measurable.
aware of it immediately,and couldn't ignore it. I just feel it was a compelling issue, you cannot simply accusea man of exercising Power becausehe buys a
ffig,
-"
and had to be engaged. crtainart and this has an effect upon the market'
Kunitz: But if the motto becomes "Make it new,,, and not only ,,Make it new,,, you can!
frrnnt Oh yes you can! Of course
but "Make it new fast," and if obviously the role of the Museum is, as you seert, Mr. i<ramer, how does he correct the situation? Does the Museum of
6ii"nnt
to introduce the neut,then the sure way of being admitted to the Museum is I Mod"rn Att step out for five years and hold its breath?I don't understand.
to make it new faster than anybody else. And this becomes,it seems to me, a I&wrer: Yes, I see nothing wrong with that' Maybe even feruyears'
';i;;t
merry-go-round. Flilton, why is this whoie discussionfocusing on the word "competition"? I
--'J*uyr
steinberg:There is no shortagein the world today of museums,even museums dedi- thought ihat art was beyond the notion of competition. If this is a discus-
cated to modern art (I'm thinking, for instance, of the Tate Gallery in London), eionof a gerue of art, why don't we keep it within that limit?
issues.There is
which make a practiceof waiting until quality can be sifted. The TateGallery now sdz I think-maybe we ought to get back to some of the more basic
is trying to raise I don't know how many hundreds of thousandsof dollars to buy i oneqoertionihat I'd like to ask. It has somethingto do with one of the things Dore
a Matisse. (They're very short on Matisse.They missed out on him.) And I would . .i"4, that I'd like to bring out. I think most of us always felt that one of the ab-
,
like to remind everybody here of a remark of Mr. Alfred Barr's, who is Director of oolutenecessitiesfor anything to be a work of art, was the aestheticdistance be-
Museum Collections, and I quoted it once before from this platform becauseI've tween the art and the experience.Now, if an aestheticdistance is necessaryfor a
always admired it for its straightforward intelligence and humility and under- work of art, is an aesthetic experience possible when we are confronted with
standing of the nature and difficulties of contemporary art. Mr. Barr apparently , somethingwhich is almost the object itself? without any distance,or with a real
said that if one choicein ten that we make now turns out to be valid in retrospect, minimum of distance,which is, I think, one of the problems we are confronted
we will have done very well indeed. It is very difficult, if you think of art-buying with in looking at this art. The old story of the person witnessing an accident on
in the last hundred years, to find anyone who would have scored that well, and the highway riot having an aestheticexperiencecomparable to tragedy. where
perhaps the Museum is buying a thousand percent to get its eventual hundred. I doesthe probl"- of the metaphor come in? There is a distinction to be drawn, I
think that the words that Mr. Kunitz used and repeated, that the Museum is trying think, in the slides I showed, between some of the art, where the object is pre-
to get there before it happens,I think theseare amusing words, but I don't under- sentedalmost directly, say like in a comic strip by Lichtenstein,and in some of the
stand what they are supposed to mean. They are not getting there before the pic- otherswhere there is a much greater transformation taking place. But what hap-
tures are painted, and they are clearly reacting to paintings that have been made, pensreally where there is this minimum of transformation?Now Leo said that we
so what are you trying to say when you say "before it happens,,? don't know yet, that the form is hidden to some extent behind the subject,which
Kramer: May I make a comment on that, becauseI think, Leo, that you are completely is obviously apparent.Yet as critics, I think it is our absoluteduty to know this dif-
ignoring the role that the Museum plays in creatinghistory as well as reflectingit.lt ftrence and to be able to say yes or no. And my question to any one of you people
is its responsibility as a factor determining the course of what art is created,that is: Where is the aestheticdistance?Where does the problem of the metaphor come
people are objectingto. in with some of theseobiects?
Geldzahler:It is too late for the Museum of Modern Art to step out of history It is verJ C*iWzshlerI would like to say that the meansof contemporary art, the ways in which
much involved in the action and reacLionof contemporary history. most contemporary art at any point is projecting and creating its magic, are mys-
Steinberg:Hilton, in answer to this I would say that of coursethe Museum has a role terious, and the extent to which they are mysterious, incomprehensible, the extent
to play in making history but fortunately this is a pluralistic society,and there is a of the difficulty we have in talking about ii, is the extent to which the contempo-
balance of power. The Museum is not alone. The Museum had very hard davs rary vibration, the immediacy, is felt. And when I said at the end of my talk, "I
when it was fighting againstGod knows everything,from artistspicketingon the . don't know if it is great art or not, we are not going to evaluate it ultimately
street to Senatorsin Congress.And now that the opposition from Congressis ' tonight," and when Leo Steinberg said that the subject matter is so strong that the
hardly to be expected any more, the Museum has very tough competition frorn I actual formal means seem to be disguised or behind, we are so confronted by the
other museums that have arisen in New York. ' obF.t, therefore not being used to it for so many years. I think that all this ties into
136 ThreeI Culture,MassMedia,popArt
luIass on PopArt
Kunitz f A Symposium
Kramer,Ashton,Steinberg,
Selz,Geldzahter, 737

Peter's question that the exact aesthetic distance is difficult to measure at this indicabion that Mr. Kramer submitted to any one of these objects
-.. is there any
point. " Zndu.Mr. Kramer is the person I have in mind who makes a generalrapid survey
steinberg: I think that aesthetic distance is in any case a nineteenth-century concept,
, ;J; interestedin the generalization about the common feafures.This is a valid
and I do not unhesitatingly subscribe to it as an essential, as a measurablr esrentiat, it, and it is one that I susPectfor my
ilav oraoi"g it. It is not the only way of doing
of experience. One develops aesthetic distance from works that attain the /ook
oi pttrpot"s,
.rr^ri-, because it will never yield an answer to the question whether an
art, the patina of art. The objection to an art like Caravaggio, like courbet, any sort
. iraiuia"ut work is art or not. Now for myself, I feel pretty certain that a good
of real, raw, tough, realistic breakthrough in the history of art-the objection to i1 exhibits in the show were not art'
rrany of the Janis
is always that it ceases to be art. Poussin would say, in the name of art, about car-
(1gfler: How do You know that?
avaggio, that he had been born to destroy painting. The whole of painting can be This is entirely a matter of ' ' ' lcut offl
]WUng
-X*rrnt
felt-after the initial blast of something like Caravaggism-can be felt to recoil,io na if they aren't art, what are they?
defend art against the incursion of too much reality. It closesitself off the way a this. They are art in so far as things produced in
TinAng PerhapsI should modify
cell would against a foreign body. And what happensalways is that aestheticdis- ---tfr" i., classesin schools,from first grade up, are art, becausethey are art classes'
the
tanceseemsto have been destroyed.But not for us who look at it with the distance fn ro far as work done in the art department of the layout department, where
of time, becausethis aestheticdistancehas been created.fust as aestheticdistance on a magazine-in so far as this is art, this is perhaps the
art editor lays things out
will exist for us for any kind of fashion the moment it is more than twenty or thirty kind of thing that some of the followers of pop art will also produce' Therefore,if
years old. I say,offharid, that I suspectthat they are not art, they may be only that kind of
SeIz:But when we look back does it becomea work of art? thing.
steinberg:well, this is exactly when I say that this is premature. when I said about ksmsr: Alow form of art.
Lichtenstein's paintings that I do not like them as paintings,what I meant to say Sbinbug: A low form of art-yes, or I think for instance . . ' fcut offl
was that I do not feel competentto iudge them as paintings, becausethe pressure I&tmer: But not exactlYnon-art.
of subjectmatter is so intense.This was not intended as a negativejudgment upon Steinberg:What is non-art?
them, but as a confessionof inability on my part. But as a rider to this, I would say Kmmet Well, that,s what I'm asking you, becauseyou are the only member of this
I suspectanyone who claims to know, now, that it is not seriouspainting. panelwho has declaredhimself as being uncertain as to whether theseobjectsare
Kramer: I find a serious discrepancyin the discussionhere.Dr. Selzasked a fairly so- art objects.And if they're not art objects,you must have another categorythat you
phisticated aesthelicquestion about pop art as art, and Mr. Steinberg,who avers placethem in. Is it experience,or intellectualism?
that he doesn'tknowwhether it is art or not, answersit in a very complicatedway fuinbng Well, they could be attempts to createart objects,which misfire, couldn't they?
on the assumption that it ls. Now Do you think it's art, or not? And, are you in the kamcr: Yes--" fail ed" att.
habit of applying aestheticcriteria and aestheticcategoriesto a discussionof data Sbinberg:Yes.
or matter that you have not yet determined to have an aestheticcharacter? knter: Still art.
Steinberg:I think the question is legitimate, and I am very glad it was raised.When I *lz: May I bring up another point? A point that has been discussedcomparatively
said before that the questionsabout the art statusof a work that is presentedto us, little on this panel. We picked the term pop art. We might have called it New Real-
depend not merely on analysisof certain inherent characteristics,but may alsode- ism as they did in the Sidney Janis Gallery, or New Dada. And this New Dada
pend on the nature of the spectator'sresponse,this would imply that before I can thing interests me. What is the relationship (I think this is something worth ex-
answer the question "Is this a work of art or not?" I want to have all the data in, ploring) between this and Dadaism? Dada, as we know was essentially a con-
Now the picture itself is part of the data, obviously. The rest of the data will be my sciousmovement by writers and artists against the spirit of conformity and the
reaction to it, the full experienceof it. And this meansthat I must be interestedin boutgeoisie. Now this neo-Dadais to some extent-well, we heard Mr. Geldzahler
the kind of reaction a work elicits. Not every work elicits a reaction from me, ob- say that the alienation was over, that everything is nice now, and using very much
viously. And I know for instance, in reading-I have a certain advantage here of a Madison Avenue term, he says iYs nice becauseit "keeps things moving."
over Mr. Kramer becauseI have his article that he wrote in TheNation.And the ar- Now if this art is as closely related to advertising and the whole campaign-of
ticle is, as everything Mr. Kramer writes, exceedinglyintelligent. I disagreewith Madison Avenue that *" ur-"so familiar with, as so*e people say it is, r,vhatis its
about 90 percent of it. But I disagreewith the method. And the method is evident, rclation to Dada?
for instance,when he begins to describethe show at the JanisGallery. He says:"It C*Idznhtu:The differencebetween the beginning
and the end of the question was a
is full of things to talk about. Thereis a small refrigerator whose door opensto the .[ttl" complicated.
-
sound of a fire siren. Thereis an old-fashionedlawn mower joined to a painting on Xj FIt try to discussfor a minute its relationship to Dada.
canvas.There are collections of old sabersand discarded eyeglassesunder glass. yfflhla: Leaving out Madison Avenue or bringirig Madison Avenue in?
There are even paintings, like you know, with paint on canvas,of pies and sand- I|il",
I r-
Briefly, obiiously, one finds sourcesof pop irt in Dada, and I think the term
/'
vrrv r. r-. s

wiches and canned soup . . ." and it goeson listing thesethings. Now, at no point ',. New Dada has a degree of relevance. Certainly if you think of Schwitters,
138 ThreeI [vIass
Culture, Media,popArt
M.ass Mailer I from theBiltmoreBalcony
Perspective 139

Merzbilder-there's a great relationship there. And then lhe objetstrouols ani_


s,
forth. But it seemsto me that the profound differenceis that Dada wa
a revolutionary movement. It wai a movement that had ,r"", ,""t"ito::::lliT
hind it. It was a form of outrage.And it was launched against the very uor.g"ol-,
society which the Dadaists felt were responsiblefor the First world war. It"was
launched as an attackupon them. Now the New Dada instead embraces, ir, u s"nrl,
the bourgeoissymbols.And is without passion. frrmanMailer
steinberg:I want to use a technique of ProfessorErnst Gombrich, who never grves
lecture without quoting a New Yorkercartoon. one of my favorite Netpyorker car-
a from the BiltmoreBalcony0e6o)
nrspective
{'
to epitomizethe 1960s'It was
toons, and one that I think was really prophetic in showing that a new pathway tilrtit. may Warhot,the writer NormanMailercame
for our admiration was being grooved. This was a cartoon showing an exasper- *'tt pobli. p.rton"e as much as their individuat creative actsthat madethem ar-
ated wife who exclaims to her husband, "Why do you always have to be a In 1960 Esquiremagazine sent Maiterto coverthe Democratic
Aaayi,"t cha-ractels.
non-conformist like everybody else?" Just about that time there was a show of -, at the Biltmore Hotet in Los Angeles. The result wasMaile/s extended
nineteenth-century French drawings mounted in New york, and the artists who "^-oti'"ti"" comesto the supermarket."In the sectionleploducedhere,"Per-
".'ecr"o,'superman F.Kennedy
were not the well-known revolutionaries of French official art history were la- , . sD..fr* from the BittmoreBatcony,"Mailerdescribesthe arrivatof John
beled as "non-dissenters." I was immensely impressedwith this term-this is an . fif,o would soonbecomethe Democratic presidential nominee) at the convention
invention of real genius-the non-dissenters.Becauseafter being educatedas we ', in. *"nn.t that firml.yroots Kennedyto the media-sawydecadeof the 1960s.In
have been, all of us, in this century, to read the history of art is just one damn I U,ir rt ott but densesection Maiter paints a metaphoricalpicture of America's
rebel after another, and that's all there is, see-the successionof Delacroix, and I'"nwchic life sinceWorLdWarIL In so doing he setsthe stagefor America'sneedto
then it's Courbet, and then it's Monet, and then it,s C6zanne, and then it,s 1"eL.t not just a pragmaticyet uninspiring presidenton the oldeI of Trumanor
Picasso-suddenly we find that there is an alternative mode of conduct, the non- l."Elsenhower but someonewho hasthe potential to tap into the "secretimagination"
dissenter. This is terrific, you see,and this suddenly becomesan avenueof extraor- ',\'of his tirne, a herowho can project a facadethat is as satientas the mythic images
dinary novelty and originality. You don't always have to be a non-conformistlike lr of Holtywood.The potentiat presidencyof Kennedyrepresentsfor Mailer a sense
everybody else.so my answer to Mr. Kunitz is simply this: sure, Dada was revolu- r{:that the opplessiveconformity of the 1950swas about to exptodeinto the free-
tionary. Every art movement we have known for a hundred years was revolution- !ttheeling optimismofthe 1960s."supermanComes to the Supermarket" wasorigi-
ary. And it may be that the extraordinary novelty and the shock and the dismay .'::natlVpublishedin Esquirein 1960.
and the disdain that is felt over this movement is that it doesn't seemreaolutionnry *i'
like every other. i . . . it can be said with a fair amount of certainty that the essenceof his political
Geldzahler:The great excitementand so on of Dada was its anti-formal nature after {'r, attractivenessis his extraordinary political intelligence. He has a mind quite
the great formal revolutions of Cubism, etc., and the break of sequencewith the unlike that of any other Democrat of this century.It is not literary, metaphysical
First World War. Dada was an anti-formal excitement.Pop art is definitely a for- and moral, as Adlai Stevenson'sis. Kennedy is articulate and often witty, but
mal art. It's an art of decisionsand choicesof composition. And I think Mr. Selz he doesnot seekverbal polish. No one can doubt the seriousnessof his concern
has downgraded the extent to which, for instance,Roy Lichtenstein changesthe *.^ with the most serious political matters,but one feels that whereas Mr. Steven-
comic strip he's working from and the painting thafs finished. I've seenthe comic son's political views derive from a view of life that holds politics to be a mere
strip, I've seenthe painting, the colors . . . [cut off] fraction of existence,SenatorKennedy's primary interestis in politics. The easy
Ashton: What do you need, a magnifying glass?[laughter] way in which he disposesof the question of Church and State-as if he felt that
Lc.l: any
Geldzahler:You don't need a magnifying glass,Dore. All you need is a pair of eyes, reasonableman could quite easily resolve any possible conflict of loyal-
ii
and an open, willing spirit, and a soul, and a . . . [cut off by laughter] ties-suggests that the organization of society is the one thing that really en-
Kramer: I think that the question of the relationship of pop art to Dada has really not ,\,, gageshis interest.
been taken seriously.It should be. But I think if it's going to be taken seriously, .l -Richard Rovere,TheNew Yorker,Jdy23,1960
Dada itself has to be looked at in a way that nobody hai teally been willing to look tri

at it for a long time. And that is that Dada was revolutionary only in its ideolog/, Itre afternoon he arrived
* at the convention from the airport, there was of
not in its aesthetics.You cannot say that Schwittersbroke with Cubism. That's an a large crowd on the street outside the Biltmore, and the best way to
absurdity. Cubism provided the entire syntax for everything he did. And so, lI
you're going to compare pop art with Dada, you would have to be very clear
about what you're talking about, whether its avowed social ideology or its acrual
plastic accomplishments.They do not coincide by any means. O 1963 by Norman Mailer. Reprinted with the permission of The Wylie Agency. Inc.
74t
Massl4edia,PopArt Mailer J ftom the BiltmoreBalcony
Perspective
140 Culture,
ThreeI Mass

get a view was to get up on an outdoor balcony of the Biltmore/ two flights
above the street, and look down on the event. One waited thirty minutes,
and then a honking of horns as wild as the getaway after an Italian wedding
sounded around the corneq,and the Kennedy cortege came into sight, circle4
Pershing Square, the men in the open and leading convertibles sitting bacft-
wards to look at their leadeq, and finally came to a halt in a sPace cleared for
them by the police in the crowd. The television cameras were out, and a
m',[$*;*q-e:#*J'
#n
of thePast'
in thearchitecture
,r.,i Nowhere, as rn a'merica,
hbwever' was this fall from individual man to
Kennedy band was playing some circus music. One saw him immediately. !@ssmanfeltsoacutely,forAmericawasatoncethefirstandmostprolific since al-
He had the deep orange-brown suntan of a ski instructor, and when hs .o*rrrrri'i"utions, and the most rootlessof countries,
dratorof mass had not once
smiled at the crowd his teeth were amazingly white and clearly visible at n lay claim to the line of a family which
rn6stnoAm"t:11could it was then the
distance of fifty yards. For one moment he saluted Pershing Square, and Per- ,rr-roor" iy mrgr"ti"g here. But, if rootless,
at leastseverecr America was
shing Square saluted him back, the prince and the beggars of glamour star- ;;;k of countries tJ its own homogenization.Yet
"rable in which the dynamic myth of the Renaissance--thatevery
ing at one another across a city street, one of those very special moments in ffi,r,".o""try
the underground history of the world, and then with a quick move he was ;;;;;.tentiatty extraordinary-knew its most passionatepersistence'
where people still believed in heroes:George
out of the car and by choice headed into the crowd instead of the lane cleared srpty, America *u" .h" land London'
for him into the hotel by the police, so that he made his way inside sur- ffig,]", Billy the Kid; Lincoln, ieffersott; Mark TWain, ]ack
America believed in ath-
rounded by a mob, and one expected at any moment to see him lifted to its ;i*tid;"y, Joe'Louis-D""'p'"y'- GentlemanJim;
by the time Valentino died' It was a
shoulders like a matador being carried back to the city after a triumph in the ktes,rum-runners, aviators; u""" lo""tt'
bne hero past another-is there a
plaza. All the while the band kept playing the campaign tunes, sashaying o[..t'r which had grown by the leap of
have iti legendary figure? And
circus music, and one had a moment of clarity, intense as a ddjd uu, for the Ounty in all of our ground which does not
becamePart of an ag-
scene which had taken place had been glimpsed before in a dozen musical *f,*'tf," W"st was fiIled, the expansionturned inward,
studios threw up their
comedies; it was the scene where the hero, the matinee idol, the movie star ilt d, orr"r"*cited, superheateddream life' The film
possibilities
comes to the palace to claim the princess, or what is the same, and more to oOar,.iitights as the froirtier was finally sealed,and the romantic
our soil, the football hero, the campus king, arrives at the dean's home sur- d.theoldconquestoflandturnedintoaverticalmyth,trappedwithinthe
of a neo-
rounded by a court of open-singing students to plead with the dean for his rlull, of a new^kind of heroic life, eachchoosing his own archetype
Sinatra'
daughter's kiss and permission to put on the big musical that night. And inaissance man, be it Barrfmore, Cagney,Flyt^, Bogart' Bll"dq or
were no peace unless one could fight well' kill
suddenly I saw the convention, it came into focus for me, and I understood hrt it was almost as if there
the mood of depression which had lain over the convention, because finally *Bll (if always with honor), love well and love many, be cool'-be daring' be
it was simple: the Democrats were going to nominate a man who, no matter d.thi"g, b" *ild, be wily, be resourceful, be a brave gun' And this myth' that
qh of-us was bom to be free, to wander, to have adventure and to grow on
how serious his political dedication might be, was indisputably and willy-
nilly going to be seen as a great box-office actor, and the consequences of that lhe waves of the violent, the perfumed, and the unexpected, had a force
were staggering and not at all easy to calculate. ntich could not be tamed ,ro how the nation's regulators-potticians,
nedicos,policemen,professors, ^utt"t
priests,rabbis, ministers, id^ologues, psycho-
Since the First World War Americans have been leading a double life,
and our history has moved on two rivers, one visible, the other under-
analysts,Lrrild"rr, executives and endless communicators-would brick-in
ground; there has been the history of politics which is concrete, factual, prac- he modern life with hygiene upon sanity, and middle-brow homily over
tical and unbelievably dull if not for the consequences of the actions of some Ftitude; the myth wouli not die. Indeed a quarter of the nation's business
of these men; and there is a subterranean river of untapped, ferocious, lonely
ttrst have depended upon its existence.Buf it stayed alive for more than
that-it *u, u, if the messagein the labyrinth of the geneswould insist that
and romantic desires, that concentration of ecstasy and violence which is the
Vblence was locked with creativity, and adventure was the secret of love'
dream life of the nation.
The twentieth century may yet be seen as that era when civilized man .l' Once, in the Second Word War and in the year or two which followed,
and underprivileged man were rnelted together into mass man, the iron and Underground river returned to earth, and the life of the nation was in-
e, of the Present, electric; as a lady said, "That was the time when we gave
steel of the nineteenth century giving way to electronic circuits which com-
municated their messages into men, the unmistakable tendency of the new rwhi& changed people's lives." The Forties was a decade when the
century seerning to be the creation of men as interchangeable as commodities, With which one,s own events occurred seemed as rapid as the history
742 ThreeI MassCulture, popArt
I,Iassldedia, from the BiltmoreBalcony
Mailer I Perspective 143

of the battlefields, and for the mass of people in America a forced march into in America the generation which respected the code of the myth was
a new jungle of emotion was the result. The surprises, the failures, and t\q '; &; a horde of half-begotten Christs with scraggly beards, heroes none,
dangers of that life must have terrified some nerve of awareness in the powsl
and the mass, for, as if stricken by the orgiastic vistas the myth had carried qp
y-"{'-T:1'^:i11"-"1*:t?:ll:
ir't'utt,.*"?.|l,:t:':il,"'1ll?,"lf
for finding one's growth was no longer one's flag, one's caree{,
Ior.trot
from underground, the retreat to a more conservative existence was disor-
fu,, r"*, one's advenfure, not even one's booze' Among the best in this
derly, the fear of communism spread like an irrational hail of boils. To anyone
iryest of the generations,the myth had found its voice in marijuana, and the
who could see, the excessive hysteria of the Red wave was no preparation to
Irt" of the underground was that when the Russianscame over they could
face an enemy, but rather a terror of the national self: free-loving, lust-looting, 'nevetdut" to occupy us for long becauseAmerica was too Hip. Gallows
atheistic, implacable-*absurdity beyond absurdity to label communism sd, The poorer truth might be that America was too Beat,the instinct of
i*or
for the moral products of stalinism had been Victorian sex and a ponderous
the nation so separatedfrom its public mind that apathy,schizophrenia,and
machine of material theology.
gt'ate beatitudes might be the pride of the welcoming committee any un-
Forced underground again, deep beneath all Reader's Digest hospital
ieground could offer.
dressings of Mental Health in Your Community, the myth continued to flow, Yes,the life of politics and the life of the myth had diverged too far.
fed by television and the film. The fissure in the national psyche widened to
Ihere was nothing to return them to one another, no common dangel, no
the danger point. The last large appearance of the myth was the vote which cause,no desire, and, most essentially, no hero' It was a hero America
tricked the polls and gave Harry Truman his victory in '48. That was the needed,a hero central to his time, a man whose personality might suggest
last. Came the Korean War, the shadow of the H-bomb, and we were ready oontradictionsand mysteries which could reach into the alienated circuits
for the General. Uncle Harry gave way to Father, and security, regularity, of the underground, becauseonly a hero can capture the secretimagination
order, and the life of no imagination were the command of the day. If one of a people,and so be good for the vitality of his nation; a hero embodies the
had any doubt of this, there was Joe McCarthy with his built-in treason de- hntasy and so allows each private mind the liberty to consider its fantasy
tector, furnished by God, and the damage was done. In the totalitarian wind and find away to grow. Each mind can becomemore consciousof its desire
of those days, anyone who worked in Government formed the habit of andwastelessstrength in hiding from itself. Rooseveltwas such a hero, and
being not too original. At the summit there was benevolence without lead- Churchill, Lenin, and de Gaulle; even Hitler, to take the most odious exam-
ership, regularity without vision, security without safety, rhetoric without ph of this thesis,was a hero, the hero-as-monster,embodying what had be-
life. The ship drifted on, that enormous warship of the United States,led by comethe monstrous fantasy of a people, but the horror upon which the
I a Secretary of State whose cells were seceding to cancer, and as the world
became more fantastic-Africa burning itself upside down, while some new
radicalmind and liberal temperament foundered was that he gave outlet to
theenergiesof the Germans and so presentedthe twentieth century with an
kind of machine man was being made in China-two events occurred index of how horrible had becomeihe secretheart of its desire. Rooseveltis
l
which stunned the confidence of America into a new night: the Russians put of coursea happier example of the hero; from his paralytic leg to the royal
up their Sputnik, and Civil Rights-that reluctant gift to the American ercganceof his geniality he seemedto contain the country within himself;
Negro, granted for its effect on foreign affairs-spewed into real life at Little erveryonefrom the meanest starving cripple to an ambitious young man
Rock. The national Ego was in shock: the Russians were now in some ways ould expand into the optimism of an improving future becauseihe man of-
our technological superiors, and we had an internal problem of subject pop- nred an unspoken promise of a future which would be rich. The sexual and
ulations equal conceivably in its difficulty to the Soviet and its satellites. utesex-starved,the poor, the hard-working and the imaginative well-to-do
The fatherly calm of the General began to seem like the uxorious melliflu- Quld see themselvesin the Presid.ent, buli"rre him to be like them-
ences of the undertaker. So a large part of the country was "oild
able to discover its energiesbe-
3]*
lruse not as muchwas wasted
Underneath it all was a larger problem. The life of politics and the life or in feeling that the country was a poiro.rors
myth had diverged too f.ar, and the energies of the people one knew every' rlhient which stifled the
day.
where had slowed down. Twenty years ago a post-Depression generation had
';..-Tg: simple?
d o :_ .-
No doubt. bne tried to construct a simple model. The the-
_ _ ,1 - - . !v LvrrDtruLt q DurrytE tllvugt, lltE tltg_

gone to war and formed a llely, grousing, by times inefficient, carousing, *."t all not so mysterious; it would merely nudge the notion that a
Lo eurbodies
pleasure-seeking, not altogether inadequate army. It did part of what it was his time and is not so very much better t-hanhis time, but he
supposed to do, and many, out of combat, picked up a kind of private ljfe on \er than fif" i, * pable of giving direction to the time, able to en-
the fly, and had their good time despite the yaws of the military system. But ""Jr.
a nation to discover the deepest colors of its character. At bottom the
744 Three
1 Mass
Culture,
Mass popArt
Media, I4cluhan I Television: The Timid Giant 745
conceptof the hero is antagonisticto impersonal social progress,to the
that social ills can be_solvedby social legisrating,roiit Jeesa country
belief McLuhan
as The Timid Giant es64)
a1l-but-trappedin its characteruntil it has i hero wlho revealsthe character
oi

rI
the country to itself. The implication is that without such a hero the
natisn j.t Bythe mid-1960sthe CanadianprofessorMarshattMcluhan had establishedhimsetf
turns sluggish. Tiuman for example was not such a hero, he was not
suffi- . aSthe mostimportant andwidetyreadwriter on the impactof massmediaon main-
ciently larger than life, he inspired familiarity without excitement,he culture.In "Television:TheTimid Giant,"ftom his 1964book Understanding
*u, a , rt
character but his proportions came from soap opera: Uncle Harry, ".
. I,Iedia,Mcluhan discusseshow television-which by the earty 1960shad become
full oi '
salty common-senseand small-minded certainty,i storekeepinguncle. dre centerpieceof the Americantiving room-was changingAmericanculture and
whereas Eisenhower has been the anti-Hero, the reguttoi. Nations consciousness. Thecandidacy,presidency,and assassination ofJohn F. Kennedyex-
do
not necessarilyand inevitably seekfor heroes.In periods of dull anxiety, emplifiessomeof the particularwaysin which TVimagesaffect the public'sexperi-
one
is more likely to look for security than a dramatic confrontation, and enceof events.As examptes,Mcluhan discusseshow Kennedy'scamera-friendly
Eisen_ and mannerhetpedhim defeatRichardNixonin the first televisedpres-
hower could stand as a hero only for that large number of Americans appe.uance
who identialdebatein 1960as well as the unprecedented way the Kennedyadministra-
were most proud of their lack o{ imagination. In American life, the unspoken
war of-the century has taken place between the city and the small town: tion usedTVimagesto createan intimate relationshipbetweenthe Americanpublic
the andthe White House.Mcluhan'sanatysisgivesus a senseof the tevetto which im-

il
city which is dynamic, orgiastic, unsettling, explosive and accelerating
to agesprojectedthrough the televisionhad the potential to createcollectiveexperi-
the psyche; the small town which is rooted, narrow, cautious and plantei , encesof uniqueauthority. This senseof the unifying powerof imageswasno more
in
the life-logic of the family. The need for the city is to accelerategiowth; profoundtydisptayedthan the way the pubticexperiencedthe tetevisedeventssur-
the
pride of the small town is to retard it. But since America has been passrng roundingKennedy'sassassination. In Mcluhan'sopinion "the Kennedyfuneral, in
through a period of enormous expansion since the wa1, the double-four short, manifestedthe powerof TV to invotve an entire populationin a ritualized
years of Dwight Eisenhower could not retard the expansion, it could only ., process."
' It is interesting to note that Andy Warholused multiple imagesof Jackie
denude it of color, character,and the development of novelty. The smali-
town mind is rooted-it is rooted in the small town-and when it attempts Kennedyat the funerat of JFK in a seriesof obsessivelyrepetitive silk screensin
' 1964.Whenviewedwithin the context of Mcluhan'smediastudies,Warhol'suse of
to direct history the results are disastrously colorlessbecausethe instrumint
tlte iconic imagesof masscutture seemsto commentdirectty on the level to which
of world power which is used by the small-town mind is the committee.
mediatedimageshad cometo definethe Americanexperience.In this regardit is
Committees do not create,they merely proliferate, and the incredible dull- worth reconsideringthe significanceof the title of the first exhibition devotedto
nesswreaked upon the American landscapein Eisenhower,seight yearshas whatwastater calledPopart; the titte of the 1962showat the SidneyJanisGall.ery
been the triumph of the corporation. A ta;teless,sexless,odorlels sinctity in . wasiYewRealisfs.If we areto take this titte at its word.then what Americancutture
architecture,manners,modes, sfyleshas been the result. Eisenhowerembod- hcerl in the 1960swasthat "reality" wasbest exemptifiedby the projectedimages
ied half the needsof the nation, the needsof the timid, the petrified, the sanc- , oftelevisionand the createdsymbolsof advertising.

I timonious, and the sluggish. what was even worse, ne aia not divide the
natiol 6s a hero might (with a dramatic dialogue as the result); he merely ex-
cluded one part of the nation from the other.lhe result was an alienation of
Pg$pt the most familiar and pathetic effect of the TV image is the posture of
in the early grades. Since TV, children-regardless"of eye condition-
I the best minds and bravest impulses from the faltering history which was
made. America's need in those years was to take an exiitential iurn, to walk
$fu"
nll"gu about six and a half inches from the prinied page.
Our children are
carry over to the printed page the all-invoiviig r"nrory mandate
l *y^8,_.
into the nightmare, to faceinto that terrible logic of history which demanded
3*:W
mandsof thelougu, With perfeit psychb-mimetic skill, they"carry out the com-
that the country and its people must becomemore extraordinary and more TV image. They poie, they probe, they slow dorvn and involve
adventurous, or else perish, since the only alternative was to offer a false in depth. This is what they hid learned to do in the cool iconog-
S"lygr
rrPhy.of the comic-book
sgcgiV in the power and the panacea of organized religion, family, and medium. TVcarried the process much further. sud-
the FBI, a totalitarianization of the psycheby the stultifying techniquesof the ueruy they are transferred
to the hot print medium with its uniform patterns
massmedia which would seepinto everyone'smost private associationsand
ri so leave the country powerless against the Russianseven if the denouement
were to take fifty years, for in a competition between totalitarianisms the
first maxim of the prizefight manager would doubtless apply: ,'Hungf Marshall Mcluhan. Reprinted with permission of the Canadian speakers, and writers,
fighters win fights." Lrmited.
146 Three
I Mass
Culture,
Mass popArt
Media, TheTImidGiant
McLuhanA Television: 147

and fast lineal movement. pointlessly they strive to read print in depth. Thev is one of the most significant cultural events of our time. Even in the
bring to print all their senses,and print rejectsthem. print asks for the isci_ of Oxford and Cambridge, the local dialects are heard again. The
lated and stripped-down visual faculty, troi fot the unified sensorium. tes of those universities no longer strive to achieve a uniform
The Mackworth head-camera,when worn by children watching Tv speech since TV has been found to provide a social bond in
has revealed that their eyes follow, not the actions, but the reactionsl The -**"i.Dialectal with the artificial "standard English" that began only a
eyesscarcelydeviate from the facesof the actors,even during scenesof vio_ &ptn, not possible
@rrury a8o.
lence. This head-camera-showsby projection both the sceie and the eye :- An article on Perry Como bills him as "Low-pressure king of a
movement simultaneously. such extraordinary behavior is another indica_ on his
high-pressurerealm." The successof any TV performer depends
tion of the very cool and involving characteroi this medium. a low-pressure style of presentation, although getting his act on
on the Jack Paar show for March 8, 1,963,Richard Nixon was paared ".ii"iri"g require much high-pressure organization. Castro may be a case
tf,. uit may
down and remade into a suitable TV image. It turns out that Mr. Nixon is to Tad Szulc's story on "Cuban Television's One-man
in point, According
both a pianist and a composer.with sure tact for the character of the TV he
Sh6w" (TheEighth Art), "inhis seemingly improvised 'as-I-go-along'style
medium, JackPaar brought out this pianoforteside of Mr. Nixon, with excel- politics and govern his country-right on camera." Now, Tad
@n evolve
lent effect.Instead of.the slick, glib, legal Nixon, we saw the doggedly cre- gulc is under the illusion that TV is a hot medium, and suggeststhat in the
ative and modest performer. A few timely toucheslike this would-liave quite Congo"television might have helped Lumumba to incite the massesto even
altered the result of the Kennedy-Nixon campaign. w is a medium that
nf,"atetturmoil and bloodshed." But he is quite wron8. Radio is the medium
rejectsthe sharp personality and favors the presentationof processesrather ior frenzy,and it has been the major means of hotting up the tribal blood of
than of products. Africa, lndia, and China, alike. TV has cooled Cuba down, as it is cooling
The adaptation of TV to processes,rather than to the neatly packaged down America. what the Cubans are getting by TV is the experienceof being
_
products, explains the frustration many people experiencewith this medium directlyengagedin the making of political decisions.Castro Presentshimself
in its political uses.An article by Edith Efron in TV Guide(May 7g-24,1963) asa teacher,and as Szulc says, "managesto blend political guidance and ed-
labeled TV "The Timid Giant " because it is unsuited to hot issues and ucation with propaganda so skillfully that it is often difficult to tell where
sharply defined controversial topics: "Despite official freedom from censor- onebegins and the other ends." Exactly the same mix is used in entertain-
ship, a self-imposedsilencerenders network documentariesalmost mute on ment in Europe and America alike. Seen outside the United States, any
many great issuesof the day." As a cool medium TV has, some feel, intro- Anerican movie looks like subtle political propaganda. Acceptable enter-
duced a kind of rigor mortis into the body politic. It is the extraordinary de- tainmenthas to flatter and exploit the cultural and political assumptions of
gt"9o{ audience participation in the TV medium that explains its failure to the land of its origin. These unspoken presuppositions also serve to blind
tackle hot issues.Howard K. smith observed:"The netwoiks are delighted if FoPle to the most obvious facts about a new medium like TV.
you go into a controversy in a country 14,000miles away. They doit want - In a group of simulcastsof several media done in Toronto a few years
real controversy,real dissent, at home." For people conditioned to the hot back,TV did a strange flip. Four randomized groups of university students
newspaper medium, which is concernedwith the clash of aiews,rather than weregiven the sameinformation at the sametime about the structure of pre-
involvementin depthin a situation, the TV behavior is inexplicable. Iiteratelanguages.One group received it via radio, one from TV, one by lec-
Such a hot news item that concernsTV directly waJheadlined ,,lt fi- nrl, and one read it. For all but the reader group, the information was
nally happened-a British film with English subtitles to explain the di- Possedalong in straight verbal flow by the samespeakerwithout discussion
alects."The film in questionis the British comedy,,SparrowsDbn,t Sing."A orquestions or use of blackboard. Each group had half an hour of exposure
glossary of Yorkshire, Cockney, and other slang phrases has been printed b the material. Each was asked to fill in th-" su*" quiz afterward.lt was
for the customers so that they can figure out just what the subtitles mean. Erite a sulprise to the experimenters when the students performed better
Sub subtitles are as handy an indicator of the depth effects of TV as the with TV-channeledin-formation and with radio than they did with lecture
new "rugged" styles in feminine attire. One of the most extraordinary de- and-print-and the TV group stoodwell above the radio group. Sincenoth-
velopments since TV in England has been the upsurge of regional dialects. hg had been done to give special stressto any of these flur media, the ex-
A regional brogue or "burr" is the vocal equivalent of gaiter stockings. "ptriment was repeated wiih other randomized groups. This time each
Such brogues undergo continual erosion from literacy. Their sudden promi- rnedium was allowed full opportunity to do its
stuff. For radio and TV, the
nencein England in areasin which previously one had heard only standard was dramatized with many auditory and visual features. The
148 Threef MassCulture,MassMedia,pop Art
McLuhan) Television:TheTimidGiant 149
lecturer took full advantage of the brackboard and
crass discussion. f16 I kind of TV experiencethat has altered our relation to the laws
printed form was embellished with an imaginative
yge of typogruphy unO the courts'
page layout to stresseach point in the lectuie. All of ttrese
meaia fi"db".; The mode of the TV image has nothing in common with film or photo,
stepped up to high intensity for this repeatof ttte otiginat
p"ilo.mance. Tbls- that it offers also a nonverbal gestaltor posture of forms. With TV, the
vision and radio once again showed ]esurts high aiorrei"d;"
and pri11. is the screen.He is bombarded with light impulses that JamesJoyce
unexpectedly to the testers, howeve4,radio noi, rt"oa
rig;fi"antry abovs the "Charge of the Light Brigade" that imbues his "soulskin with sub-
television. [t was a rong time before the obvious ,"uroi
au"u.ui itruiq inklings." The TV image is visually low in data. The TV image is
namery that TV is a.cool,participant medium. when iltt"d
o, dramafi_ astill shot.It is not photo in any sense,but a ceaselesslyforming contour
zation and stingers,it performs lesswell becausethere is "o
lessopporfunitv fnn limned by the scanning-finger.The resulting plastic contour aP-
participation. Radio is a hot medium. when given additio;f things
il;;'; ti us by light through, not light on, and the image so formed has the quality
performs better.It doesn't invite the samedegre"e purti;ip;i;'
,r, r,, .rr".r. i&sculpture and icon, rather than of picture. The TV image offers some three
Radio will serve as background-sound or as noise-lever
"f 'g1illion dots per second to the receiver. From these he accepts only a few
control, as when ths
ingenious teenageremploys it as a means of privacy.
w *ili'"oa work as instant, from which to make an image.
background. It engagesyou. you have to ae witlt it.
rtne prrru"" t u, gained ':ilozeneach
acceptancesinceTV.) , i' The film image offers many more millions of data per second,and the
A great many things will not work since the arrival viewer does not have to make the samedrastic reduction of items to form his
of rv Not only the ,l'fuipression. He tends instead to accept the full image as a package deal. In
movies, but the national magazinesas welr, have been
hit very hara uy tni,
new medium. Even the comic books have declinea ,'{bntrast,the viewer of the TV mosaic, with technical control of the image,
g.eatty. nJro." TV, there lgrconsciouslyreconfigures the dots into an abstractwork of art on the pat-
had been much concern about why
Johnny courdn't-read.since TV, Johnny ,,Em of a Seurat or Rouault. If anybody were to ask whether all this would
has acquired an entirery new set of perceptions.
He is not at all the same.
otto Premingeq,director of Anatomyi1o urrarrand ,.flunge if technology steppedup the characterof the TV image to movie data
other hits, autes a great 'hvel, one could only counter by inquiring, "Could we alter a cartoon by
change in movie vieiing from the ,rery firJ-y-ea-rof general
TV.programming.-"k:q_ul9
"rn1i5r," he wrotei"I started a right to glr*,u rdding details of perspective and light and shade?" The answer is "Yes,"
releasein 'or,ly it would then no longer be a cartoon. Nor would "improved" TV be
motion-picture theaters of The Moon Is Brue
aftei th" ;;;;"tion code ilblevision.The TV image is now a mosaic mesh of light and dark spots which
approval was refused. It was a small fight
and I won it.,, (ioronto Daily Star, 'amovie shot never is, even when the quality of the movie image rs very Poor.
October 19,196g)
He went on to say, .The very fact that it was the ;1:':'l As in any other mosaic, the third dimension is alien to TV, but it can
word ,virgin, that was be superimposed. In TV the illusion of the third dimension is provided
objected to inThe Moin rs BIueis today laughable, 'dightly
almost incredible.,, otto by the stage sets in the studio; but the TV image itseif is a flat two-
Preminger considersthat American mJvies
iave advanced toward maturity dimensionalmosaic.Most of the three-dimensionalillusion is a carry-over of
owing to the influence of rV. The coor
TV medium promotes depth struc- habitualviewing of film and photo. For the TV cameradoes not have a built-
tures in art and entertainment alike, and 'rtr angle
createsaudience involvement in of vision like the movie camera. Eastman Kodak now has a two-
{epth as well. since nearly all our technologies and entertainment since dimensionalcamerathat can match the flat effectsof the TV camera.Yet it is
Gutenberg have been not cool, but hoU
and nlt d""p, b;;i;;!*"r,tury;,,ot , hard for literate people, with their habit of fixed points of view and three-
producer-oriented, but consumer-oriented,
there is scarcely aieuof 'dimensionalvision, L understand the properties of two-dimensional vision.
establishedrelationships, from home and "1*gr"
church to school and market, that it had been easy for them, thev would have had no difficulties with ab-
has not been profoundiy disturbea in its pattern "[
and texture. art, GenerafMotors would not have made a mess of motorcar design,
and social disturbance created by the TV image, and not
_*-.J1"-^p:_t.nic "lfhact
i,llt9 ft" picture magazine would not be having difficulties now with the re-
occasionsdaily comment in ihe press.Rayirond Burr, hUonsnipUetr""""?"^ttres andads.TheTvil#;;q"t*r
:.1:^r:,1-t:g:"mming, instantthat
Mason, spoke to the Narionat Association of Municipal we.'tlose" the spacesin the mesh by a convuliiv" ,u.rr.rom "".frpariicipation
f'eyy
Ii._:r1{: reminding
JuoFes/ them that, "without our lajrmen'sunderstandingand lc-
cePtance,the laws which you apply and the courts is profoundly kinetic and tactile, becausetactility is the intlrplalof the
in which preside can-
not continue to exist." what Mr. Burr omitted to observe vou rather than the isolated contact of skin and obiect.
,ni, the IrerrJ ! 16 contrast it with the film shot, many Ji;;;;J;"r to the TV image
Mason TV program, in which he plays the read, is rypical -i,;;;-i;, intensely one of "low definition," in the sense that it offers little detail and a low
750 ThreeI MassCulture,MassMedia,pop Art
McLuhan I Television: The Timid Giant 757
degreeof information, much like the
cartoon.A TV_crose-upprovides only
much information as a small section as with the visual senseatop the hierarchy,is not able to withstand the
of a long_shoton the mor
lackof observing
socentralanaspect
of and TV waves that wash about the great visual structure of abstract
"content" have talked nonsenseabout $:
fr image, ih; ;rl;,"j;il::t :il I Man. Those who, from political motives, would now add their
"TVviolence.,, The spokesmenof
sorious views are rypicarsemiliterate cen. to the anti-individual action of our electric technology are puny sub-
book-orientedindividuals who
no competencein the grarunars of newspaper, rrqyu automatons aping the patterns of the prevailing electric pressures.A
or radio, or of film, b"t ;i;
look askew and askanceat all non-boot ago they would, with equal somnambulism, have faced in the op-
meiia. The simpiesiquestion about
any psychic aspect,even of the book
medium, thro-s'thesJpeople into direction. German Romantic poets and philosophers had been chant-
panic of uncertainfz. n ilrin tribal chorus for a return to the dark unconscious for over a century
of projection of a single isoratedattitude
thev mistake for moral _Veh.emence
vigilance.o;" ih;;;;;;;:.;rii""u*ur" n*g.t" radio and Hitler made such a return difficult to avoid. What is to be
that in
all cases"the medium is lhe-messag";,
o, the basic ,orrr." of effectr, they totrght of people who wish such a return to preliterate ways, when they
*oyld, hi:n to suppression of media"as
such, insteaa or seeking ..content,, hru-no inkling of how the civilized visual way was ever substituted for
control' Their current.assumptionthat
content or programming is the factor Ssl auditory magic?
that influencesoutlook and action is
deir-redfromihe-boot *"ii.r*, ir At this hour, when Americans are discovering new passions for
sharp cleavagebetween form and content. with its Srdiving and the wraparound space of small cars, thanks to the in-
Is it not strange that TV shourd have been &mitable tactile promptings of the TV image, the same image is inspiring
as revorutionary a medium
in America in the 1950s..as-radio i" E,rrop" in the 1930s?Radio,the medium rarry English people with race feelings of tribal exclusiveness.Whereas
that resuscitatedthe tribar and kinship'webs ldgfnlyliterate Westernershave always idealized the condition of integration
of the Europeanmind in the
1920sand 1930s,had no such effectin'Engrand drnCes,it has been their literate culture that made impossible real unifor-
sion of tribal bonds by means of literacy the ero_ qity among races.Literate man naturally dreams of visual solutions to the
and its"r;;;;ii;1t,".u,
industrial extensionshad
gone so far that our radio did not achi".,r" poblems of human differences.At the end of the nineteenth century this
notabretribal reactions.yet ten kkrd of dream suggested similar dress and education for both men and
years of TV have Europeanized even ".ry
the United S,","r,-", witness its
changedfeelings for spaceand personal nmren. The failure of the sex-integrationprograms has provided the theme
relations.Th"rul;;;;"sensitivity to oJmuch of the literature and psychoanalysisof the twentieth century. Race
the dance,plastic arts, and architecture,
as wer as the demand for the smail ftgration, undertaken on the basis of visual uniformity, is an extension
ca1' the paperback, sculptural hairdos
and morded aress-eirects-to say of the same cultural strategy of literate man, for whom differences always
nothing of a new concern for complex
effects in cuisine and in the use of gem to need eradication,both in sex and in race, and in spaceand in time.
wines. Notwithstanding, it would be misleading
to say thai rv witt retribar_ EbcUonicman, by becoming ever more deeply involved in the actualities of
ize England and America. The action
of radio on the world of resonant fl|e human condition, .urno'i acceptthe lite;afe cultural strategy.The Negro
speechand memory was hystericar.But TV
has certainlymade England and yil-t"l*a a plan of visual uniformlty as definitely as women dii earlier, Jnd
America vulnerable where previously they haiin;;;ity
19 rydio to a great tor the samereasons.Women found that they hid been robbed of their dis-
degree'For good or ill, theTV rmagehas
exeried a unifying ror.. finctiveroles and.turned into fragmented citizens in ,,a man,s world.,, The
on the sense-Iifeof these intensef hterate "fr.,"r*,"ri. have
populations, such as they
lacked for centuries-It is wise to #itnnoiJ
uu value judgments when study- ST-upp*ach to theseproble-Jitr t"t^s of uniformity and social homog-
ing thesemedia matters, since their effects is a final presiure of the mechanical and industrial technologlr.
are not capableof being isolated. *Og"
synesthesia,or unified senseand imaginative p|ul moralizing, it can be said that the electric age,by involving all m-en
life, had lo.! r""-"d un
unattainable dream to western poets, painiers, 9epty in one a.rolher, will come to reject such mechanical soluti,ons.It is
and artists in glneral. They difficutt to provide uniqueness and diversity than it is to impose the
had looked with sorrow and diimay'ot tnu *T
fragmented and impoverished of mass education; but it is such uniquenessand diversity
imaginative life of western riterate man in ff*.p"Terns
the eighteenth century and later. be fostered under electric conditions as never before.
the messageof Blake and pate4 yeats and Y sl
?::l y:: D. H. Lawrence,and a all preliterate groups in the world have begun to feel the
greatfigures.They were nor preparedto have orrr^-..u_TPorarily,
i:::?t."tn"r rheir dreamsre- ujj'""ri.,e enersies
tharare;i";;6ir." ."3"i
a,trzeorn everyday life by the aestheticaction
of radio and television.yet ffP:l*;la thenew
rnese masslve extensions of our central nervous systems ryY
and mechanization. Theseexplosions come just at a time"rwhen the
have enveloped tectrlqlgsy combinesto make us share them on a global scale.
western man in a daily sessionof synesthesia.The western $lric
way of rife at-
tained centuries since by the rigorous separation ur.,a .rhe effectof TV, as the most recentand spectacularelectrii extensionof
the
"pu"iur'iition of neryous system, is hard to grasp for various reasons. Since it has
152 ThreeI Mass
Culture, Media,PopArt
Mass TheTimidGiant
McLuhana Television: 153

affected the totality of our lives, personal and social and political, it would be Today the comic sfrip is closeto the preprint woodcut and manuscript
a gothic
quite unrealistic to attempt a "systematic" or visual presentation of such in- i'io-* of expression. walt Kelly's Pogolooks very much indeed like
i'iu: Y"!*:11':?I,fl:'_pilT: ll:::"::'*T:ri YIJ:Tli:::l:
as about the lives :?
fluence. Instead, it is more feasible to "present" TV as a complex gestalt of
of
data gathered almost at random. ii ffii" curiosity about the private lives of these artists
eop'r"'-'"llyllTI'jyff:f It projects the author at the public '"l":il
print is a hot medium. :.p::1i:.y"",1":::::t"l^:":T:,:f
The TV image is of low intensity or definition, and therefore, unlike
film, it does not afford detailed information about objects. The difference is as the
il'"*a"o.
medium that doesnot project the autho{, so
akin to that between the old manuscripts and the printed word. Print gave irui" aia The manuscript is a cool
intensity and uniform precision, where before there had been a diffuse tex- iruch asinvolve the reader. So with TV. The viewer is involved and participant'
-{heroteof
ture. Print brought in the taste for exact measurement and repeatability that the TV star,in this way, seemsmore fascinating than his private life'
more data from his
we now associate with science and mathematics. IG thus that the student of media, like the psychiatrist, gets
The TV producer will point out that speech on television must not have than they themselves have perceived' Everybody experiencesfar
informants
he understands. Yet it is experience,rather than understanding, that
the careful precision necessary in the theater. The TV actor does not have to sroretfran
project either his voice or himself. Likewise, TV acting is so extremely inti- ioflrr"tr."t behavior, especially in collective matters of media and technology,
mate, because of the peculiar involvement of the viewer with the completion wherthe individual is almost inevitably unaware of their effect upon him.
or "closing" of the TV image, that the actor must achieve a great degree of Somemay find it paradoxical that a cool medium like TV should be so
spontaneous casualness that would be irrelevant in movies and lost on stage. muchmore compressedand condensedthan a hot medium like film. But it is
For the audience participates in the inner life of the TV actor as fully as in the well known that a half minute of television is equal to three minutes of stage
outer life of the movie star. Technically, TV tends to be a close-up medium. orvaudeville. The sameis true of manuscript in contrast to print. The "cool"
The close-up that in the movie is used for shock is, on TV, a quite casual thing. manuscript tended toward compressedforms of statement, aphoristic and
And whereas a glossy photo the size of the TV screen would show a dozen allegorical.The "hot" print medium expanded expressionin thedirection of
faces in adequate detail, a dozen faces on the TV screen are only a blur. simplification and the "spelling-out" of meanings' Print speeded up and
The peculiar character of the TV image in its relation to the actor causes "exploded" the compressedscript into simpler fragments.
such familiar reactions as our not being able to recognize in real life a person A cool medium, whether the spoken word or the manuscript or TV,
whom we see every week on TV. Not many of us are as alert as the kinder- leavesmuch more for the listener or user to do than a hot medium. If the
gartener who said to Garry Moore, "How did you get off TV?" Newscasters medium is of high definition, participation is low If the medium is of low in-
and actors alike repori the frequency with which they are approached by htsity, the participation is high. Perhapsthis is why lovers mumble so'
people who feel they've met them before. Joanne Woodward in an interview Becausethe low definition of TV insures a high degreeof audiencein-
was asked what was the difference between being a movie star and a TV ac- volvement, the most effective Programs are those that present sifuations
tress. She replied: "When I was in the movies I heard people say, 'There goes which consistof some processto be completed.Thus, to use TV to teach po-
|oanne Woodward.'Now they say, 'There goes somebody I think I know."' etry would permit the teacherto concentrateon the poetic Processof actual
The owner of a Hollywood hotel in an area where many movie and tnaking,as it pertained to a particular poem. The book form is quite unsuited
TV actors reside reported that tourists had switched their allegiance to TV b this type of involved presentation.The same salienceof processof do-it-
stars. Moreover, most TV stars are men/ that is, "cool characters," while most yourself-nessand depth involvement in the TV image extends to the art of
movie stars are women/ since they can be presented as "hot" characters. Men the TV actor.Under TV conditions, he must be alert to improvise and to em-
and women movie stars alike, along withlhe entire star system, have tended bellish every phrase and verbal resonancewith details of gesture and pos-
to dwindle into a more moderate status since TV. The movie is a hot, tule, sustaining that intimacy with the viewer which is not possible on the
high-definition medium. Perhaps the most interesting observation of the russive movie screenor on the stage.
hotel proprietor was that the tourists wanted to see Perry Mason and Wyatt There is the alleged remark of the Nigerian who, after seeing a TV
Earp. They did not want to see Raymond Burr and Hugh O'Brian' The old western,said delightedly, "l did not realize you valued human life so little in
the West." Offsetti"ngthis remark is the behivior of our children in watching
rtro-ri"-fu.t tourists had wanted to see their favorites as they were in real life,
TVwesterns. When"equippedwith the new experimental head-camerasthai
not as they were in their film roles. The fans of the cool TV medium want to
follow their eye ttlolr"*"trtr while watchit g tih. image, children keep their
see their star in role, whereas the movie fans want the real thing'
eyes on the faces of the TV actors. Even during physical violence their eyes
A similar reversal of attitudes occurred with the printed book. There was
little interest in the private lives of authors under manuscript or scribal concentrated on the f.acialreactions,rather than on the eruptive action.
ThreeI MassCulture,MassMedia,PopArt TheTimidGiant
f Television:
McLuhan 755

Guns, knives, fists, all are ignored in preferencefor the facial expression.TV :overtones.The liturgical revival of the radio and TV age affects even the
is not so much an action, as a re-action,medium.
'firost austere Protestant sects. Choral chant and rich vestments have ap-
The yen of the TV medium for themes of processand complex reac_ The ecumenical movement is svnonrrmous with
'Fated1,"":Y-1tu*"t
tions has enabled the documentary type of film to come to the fore. The technologY'
h""tti.
movie can handle processsuperbly, but the movie viewer is more disposed Iust as TV, the mosaic mesh, does not foster perspectivein art, it does
to be a passive consumer of actions, rather than a participant in reactions. line has disappeared
not foster lineality in living. Since TV, the assembly
The movie western, like the movie documentary, has always been a lowly Staff and line structures have dissolved in management.Gone
fiomindustry.
form. With TV, the western acquired new importance, since its theme is ai- line from the
un ttr" stag line, the party line, the receiving line, and the pencil
ways: "Let's make a town." The audience participates in the shaping and of nYlons'
backs
processing of a community from meager and unpromising components. With TV came the end of bloc voting in politics, a form of specialism
Moreover, the TV image takes kindly to the varied and rough textures of and fragmentation that won't work since TV. Instead of the voting bloc, we
Westernsaddles,clothes,hides, and shoddy match-wood bars and hotel lob- have the icon, the inclusive image. Instead of a political viewpoint or plat-
bies. The movie camera,by contrast,is at home in the slick chrome world of 6orrr, the inclusive political posture or stance. Instead of the product, the
the nightclub and the luxury spots of a metropolis. Moreoveq,the contrasting process.In periods of new and rapid growth there is a blurring of outlines. In
camerapreferencesof the movies in the Twenties and Thirties, and of TV in it u fry' image we have the supremacy of the blurred outline, itself the maxi-
the Fifties and Sixties, spread to the entire population. In ten years the new mal incentive to growth and new "closure" or completion, especially for a
tastes of America in clothes, in food, in housing, in entertainment, and in cpnsumerculture long related to the sharp visual values that had become
vehicles expressthe new pattern of interrelation of forms and do-it-yourself Separatedfrom the other senses.So great is the changein American lives, re-
involvement fostered by the TV image. zulting from the loss of loyalty to the consumer package in entertainment
It is no accident that such major movie stars as Rita Hayworth, Liz and commerce,that every enterprise, from Madison Avenue and General
Taylor, and Marilyn Monroe ran into troubled waters in the new TV age. Motors to Hollywood and General Foods, has been shaken thoroughly and
They ran into an age that questionsall the "hot" media values of the pre-TV forcedto seek new strategiesof action. What elecfric implosion or contrac-
consumer days. The TV image challengesthe values of fame as much as the fion has done inter-personally and inter-nationally, the TV image does
values of consumer goods. "Fame to me," said Marilyn Monroe, "certainly is intra-personallyor intra-sensuously.
only a temporary and a partial happiness.Fame is not really for a daily diet, It is not hard to explain this sensuousrevolution to painters and sculp-
that's not what fulfills you. . . . I think that when you are famous every weak- tors,for they have been striving, ever since C6zanneabandonedperspective
ness is exaggerated.This industry should behave to its stars like a mother illusion in favor of structure in painting, to bring about the very change that
whose child has just run out in front of a car.But instead of clasping the child TV has now effectedon a fantastic scale.TV is the Bauhausprogram of de-
to them they start punishing the child." sign and living, or the Montessori educational strategy,given total techno-
The movie community is now getting clobberedby TV, and lashesout logical extension and commercial sponsorship. The aggressive lunge of
at anybody in its bewildered petulance.Thesewords of the great movie pup- artistic shategy for the remaking of Westernman has, uiaTY, become a vul-
pet who wed Mr. Baseballand Mr. Broadway are surely a portent. If many of gar sprawl and an overn'helming splurge in American life.
the rich and successfulfigures in America were to question publicly the ab- It would be impossible to exaggeratethe degree to which this image
.
solute value of money and successas means to happiness and human wel- hasdisposedAmerica to European modes of senseand sensibility.America
fare, they would offer no more shattering a precedentthan Marilyn Monroe. l-snow Europeanizing as furiously as Europe is Americanizing. Europe,
For nearly fifty years, Hollywood had offered "the fallen woman" a way to during the Second War, developed much of the industrial technology
the top and a way to the hearts of all. Suddenly the love-goddessemits a neededfor its first massconsumer phase.It was, on the other hand, the First
horrible cry screamsthat eating people is wrong, and utters denunciations lrfar that had readied America for the same consumer "take-off." It took the
of the whole way of life. This is exactly the mood of the suburban beatniks. elechonic implosionto dissolve the nationalist diversity of a splintered Eu-
They rejecta fragmented and specialistconsumerlife for anything that offers sPe, and to do for it what the industri al explosionhad done for America. The
humble involvement and deep commitment. It is the same mood that re-
llaygtriat explosion that accompaniesthe iragmenting expansionof literacy
cently turned girls from specialistcareersto early maniage and big families.
,and industry was able to exert little unifying'effect ii thl European world
They switch from jobs to roles. with its numerous tongues and cultures.'ine\apoteonic thrust had utilized
The samenew preferencefor depth participation has also prompted in combined force of the new literacy and early industrialism. But Napoleon
the young a strong drive toward religious experience with rich liturgical L had a less homogenized set of materials to work with than even the
156 Three
I Mass
Culture,
Mass
Media,
PopArt TheTimidGiant
Mcluhan J Television: 157

Russianshave today. The homogenizing power of the literate processhad depth followed at once from the telegraph mosaic. The more lineal and
gone further in America by 1800than anywhere in Europe. From the first, of the literary brahmins 'Just couldn't seeit." They still can't
America took to heart the print technology for its educational, industrial, and ft" it. fn"y prefer not to participate in the creativeProcess.They have accom-
political life; and it was rewarded by an unprecedentedpool of standardized modated themselves to the completed package,in prose and verse and in the
workers and consumers,such as no culture had ever had before.That our cul- ,lastic arts. It is these people who must confront, in every classroomin the
tural historians have been oblivious of the homogenizing power of typogra- iand, st td"ttts who have accommodatedthemselvesto the tactile and nonpic-
phy, and of the irresistiblestrengthof homogenizedpopulations,is no credit to brial modes of symbolist and mythic structures,thanks to the TV image.
them. Political scientistshave been quite unaware of the effectsof media any- Life magazine for August 70, 1962,had a feature on how "Too Many
where at any time, simply becausenobody has been *illiog to study the per- gubteensGrow Up Too Soon and Too Fast'" There was no observation of
sonal and socialeffectsof media apart from their "content." the fact that similar speed of growth and precociousnesshave always been
America long ago achievedits Common Market by mechanicaland lit- thenormal in tribal cultures and in nonliterate societies.England and Amer-
erate homogenization of social organization. Europe is now getting a unity ica fostered the institution of prolonged adolescenceby the negation of the
under the electric auspicesof compressionand interrelation. Just how much tactileparticipation that is sex. In this, there was no consciousstrategy,but
homogenization via literacy is needed to make an effective producer- nther a general accePtanceof the consequencesof prime sfress on the
consumergroup in the postmechanicalage,in the age of automation, nobody printed word and visual values as a meansof organizing personal and social
has ever asked.For it has never been fully recognizedthat the role of literacy iife. tt ir stressled to triumphs of industrial production and political con-
in shaping an industrial economy is basic and archetypal. Literacy is indis- formitv that were their own sufficient warrant.
pensable for habits of uniformity at all times and places. Above all, it Respectability,or the ability to sustain visual inspection of one's life,
is needed for the workability of price systemsand markets. This factor has becamedominant. No European country allowed print such precedence.Vi-
been ignored exactly as TV is now being ignored, for TV fosters many pref- zually,Europe has always been shoddy in American eyes.American women/
erencesthat are quite at variancewith literate uniformity and repeatability.It on the other hand, who have never been equaled in any culture for visual
has sentAmericans questing for every sort of oddment and quaintnessin ob- turnout, have always seemedabstract,mechanicaldolls to Europeans.Thctil-
jects from out of their storied past. Many Americans will now spareno pains ity is a supreme value in European life. For that reason,on the Continent
I or expenseto get to taste some new wine or food. The uniform and repeat-
able now must yield to the uniquely askew,a fact that is increasingly the de-
there is no adolescence,but only the leap from childhood to adult ways.
Suchis now the American state sinceTV, and this state of evasion of adoles-
I spair and confusion of our entire standardized economy. cencewill continue. The introspective life of long, long thoughts and distant
The power of the TV mosaic to transform American innocence into goals,to be pursued in lines of Siberian railroad kind, cannot coexist with
depth sophistication,independently of "content," is not mysterious if looked the mosaicform of the TV image that commands immediate participation in
at directly. This mosaicTV image had already been adumbrated in the popu- tlepthandadmits of no delays. The mandatesof that image are so various yet
lar press that grew up with the telegraph. The commercial use of the tele- so consistentthat even to mention them is to describe the revolution of the
graph began in 1844 in America, and earlier in England. The electric pastdecade.
principle and its implications received much attention in Shelley's poetry. _ The phenomenonof the paperback,the book in "cool" version, can head
Artistic rule-of-thumb usually anticipates the science and technology in this list of TV mandates,becalse the TV transformation of book culture into
thesematters by a fuIl generationor more. The meaning of the telegraph mo- pmething else is maniJestedat that point. Europeanshave had paperbacks
saic in its journalisticmanifestationswas not lost to the mind of Edgar Allan nom the first. From the beginnings of the automobile, they have preferred the
Poe. He used it to establish two startlingly new inventions, the symbolist WaParound spaceof the small car.The pictorial value of "enclosedspace"for
poem and the detective story. Both of theseforms require do-it-yourself par- P9k,.ut, or house has never appealedto them. The paperback,especiallyin
ticipation on the part of the reader. By offering an incomplete image or ibhighbrow form, was tried inAmerica in the 1920sand thirties and forties.It
process,Poe inaoluedhis readersin the creativeprocessin a way that Baude- la.s-not,however,until 1953that it suddenly becameacceptable.No publisher
laire, Val6ry, T. S. Eliot, and many others have admired and followed. Poe e{V tno*s why. Not only is the paperback a tactile, *th", than a visual,
had grasped at once the electric dynamic as one of public participation in *$gu, it can be as readily .otr""rn"d with profound matters as with froth.
creativity. Nevertheless,even today the homogenized consumer complains rheAmerican since TV has lost his inhibitions and his innocence
about depth
when asked to participate in creating or completing an abstract poem or :ltue The paperback read.er has discovered that he can enjoy Aristotre or
painting or structure of any kind. Yet Poe knew even then that participation \onfucius by simply slowing down. The old literate habit of
tu"rt g aheadon
Television:TheTimid Giant 759
I,Icluhan f
158 Three ) IvIassCulture, MassMedia, Pop Art
fad had
new sPace is akin to that to which the picture-window
uniform lines of print yielded suddenly to depth reading.Readingin depth is, eense, this made any sense' In
of course,not proper to the printed word as such.Depth probing of words and 'o"xered.In terms ot "view," the picture window n-ever
language is a normal feature of oral and manuscript cultures, rather than of an-attemPtto.discoverl,tl-o:T:T:::l:t:".?:t*3":T:?"tf;
rermsof
print. Europeans have always felt that the English and Americans lacked tttupt"t"re windowdoesmakesense'so do the
ffi;;';;;'"ffirn,
depth in their culture. Sinceradio, and especialiy sinceTV, English and Amer- ranti"effortsto.o,,gn"..,.',pth.eindoorwallsandtexfuresasiftheywerethe
spacesand
nouse' exacfty the sameimpuise sendsthe indoor
ican literary critics have exceededthe performanceof any Europeanin depth or1sideot the
and subtlety. The beatnik reaching out for Zen is only carqring the mandate of furnirureoutrntotne.patiosinanattempttoexperiencetheoutsideasinside. is bom-
the TV mosaicout into the world of words and perception.The paperbackiU ,nr^-IV viewer rs rn lust that role at all times' He is submarine' He
adventure
ir,it r".'"ut theoutsideasinsidein an endless
self has become a vast mosaic world in dept[ expressiveof the changed rlili il;;;;;
sense-lifeof Americans, for whom depth experiencein words, as in physics, i-iJt, blurred imagesand mysterious contours'
in accordancewith the
has becomeentirely acceptable,and even sought after. However, the America"iat hus been fashioned
of the typographic-and the movie images' The American car
fust where to begin to examine the transformation of American atti- **i^urrautes And an enclosed sPace/as was
tudes sinceTV is a most arbifrary affair,as can be seenin a changeso great as JJu" spuc", not"a iactile sPace'
""Aosed print, is one in which all spatial qualities have been
the abrupt decline of baseball.The removal of the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los ,il'*" * the chapler on tut' ut the French observed
in the American
Angeles was a portent in itself. Baseballmoved West in an attempt to retain reduced to visual terms' So By contrast' the Euro-
one is in the car'"
an audienceafter TV sfruck. The characteristicmode of the baseballgame is decadesago, "one is not on the road, a great deal of vibra-
that it featuresone-thing-at-a-time.It is a lineal, expansivegame which, like peancar aims to a,ug fo''t alongthe roaf and to provide
-tion the bottom. nligitte gaidot got into the news when it was discovered

i golf, is perfectly adapted to the outlook of an individualist and inner,


directed society.Timing and waiting are of the essence,with the entire field
in suspensewaiting upon the performance of a single player. By contrast,
for
that she liked to drive"barefoot in Jrder
Englishcars,weak on visual aPPearance.ut
to get the maximal vibration. Even
lh"y are' have been guilty of ad-
,,ai sixty mites ut t ont all you ian hear is the ticking of the
I football, basketball, and ice hockey are games in which many events occur vertising that
for a TV generationthat has to
simultaneously,with the entire team involved at the sametime. With the ad- dock.' That would vJ au.rypoor ad, indeed'
get at them. so avid is the
bewitheverything and has ioTrg thiogt in order to
I vent of TV, such isolation of the individual performanceas occurs in baseball
became unacceptable.Interest in baseball declined, and its stars, quite as T\y'viewer for rich tactile effects'thathe could be counted
on to revett to skis'
'l abrasiveness'
much as movie stars,found that fame had some very cramping dimensions. Thewheel, so far as he is concerned,lacks the requisite
as vehicles' The
Clothes in this first TV decaderePeat the same story
I Baseballhad been,like the movies, a hot medium featuring individual virtu-
revolution was heralded by bobby-'o*"ts who dumped the whole cargo of
osity and stellar performers. The real ball fan is a store of statistical informa- level of
tion about previous explosions of batters and pitchers in numerous games. visual effectsfor a set of tactile ones so extreme as to createa dead
is the cool' dead-
Nothing could indicate more clearly the peculiar satisfactionprovided by a flat-footed deadpanism. Part of the cool dimension of TV
Adolescence' in the age of hot
game that belonged to the industrial metropolis of ceaselesslyexploding Pan mug that came in with the teenager' of fresh'
media,of radio and movie, and of the ancient book, had been a time
populations, stocks and bonds, and production and salesrecords. Baseball
belonged to the age of the first onset of the hot pressand the movie medium. eager,and expressivecountenances.No elder statesmanor senior executive
of-tne fg+Oswould have ventured to wear so dead and sculptural a pan as
It will always remain a symbol of the era of the hot mommas, jazzbabies,of
the ciild of the TV age.The dancesthat came in with TV were to match-
sheiks and shebas,of vamps and gold-diggers and the fast buck. Baseball,in
all the wav to the T#ist, which is merely a form of very unanimated dia-
a word, is a hot game that got cooled off in the new TV climate, as did most
of which indicate involvement in depth'
of the hot politicians and hot issuesof the earlier decade. 1o8..",th"'g"rtur", and grimaces
but "nothing to say."
There is no cooler medium or hotter issue at present than the small car'
It is like a badly wired woofer in a hi-fi circuit that produces a tremendous Clothiig and styting in the past decadehave gone so tactileand sculptural
that they pr"J"r,t u rort oYexaggeratedevidence oi th" new qualities of the TV
flutter in the bottom. The small European car; like the European paperback
mosaic.Ti-,eTV extension of oiri nerves in hirsute pattem Possessesthe power
and the European belle, for that matter, was no visual package job. Visually,
I to evokea flood of related imagery in clothing, hairdo, walk, and gesture'
I the entire batch of European cars are so poor an affair that it is obvious their
I makers never thought of them as something to look at. They are something
All this adds up to the compressionalimplosion-the return to nonspe-
ciatizedforms of clothesand spJces,the seekingof multi-uses for rooms and
to put on, like pants or a pullover. Theirs is the kind of space sought by the
things and objects,in a single word-the iconic. In music and poetry and
i skin-diver, the water-skier, and the dinghy sailor. In an immediate tactile
ill
lvlcluhanI TheTimidGiant
Television: 767
160 Three
I Mass
Culture,
I,Iass
lfedia,PopArt
shaggy texture
painting, the tactile implosion meansthe insistenceon qualities that are close intense image like Nixon's, and a boon for the blurry'
to casual speech.Thus Schonbergand Stravinsky and Carl Orff and Bartok, *xer:rl,edy
?hilip Deaneof t-'.11:i
endof.thedebates,
far from being advanced seekers of esoteric effects, seem now to have 3^;i-.ft lT 9^::::".,"^;.
brought music very close to the condition of ordinary human speech.It is
this colloquial rhythm that once seemedso unmelodious about their work.
Anyone who listens to the medieval works of Perotinus or Dufay will find
them very closeto Stravinsky and Bartok. The great explosion of the Renais-
fi
ffi'y*1-'J*"-*uru:;**'r*[
would win the electron.
without TV, Nixon had it made' Deane, toward the
sancethat split musical instruments off from song and speechand gave them his article, wrote
.sd of
specialist functions is now being played backward in our age of electronic
implosion. N ow thepr esshast endedt osayt hat M r . Nixonhasbeengainingint
professor Mcluhan thinkshelast that
One of the most vivid examples of the tactile quality of the TV image *o a"uui", and that he was uia in the first.
occurs in medical experience.In closed-circuit instruction in surgery med- vt,.Ni*o,.hasbeensoundingprogressivelymoredefinite;regardlessofthe
he has been defending them
ical students from the first reported a strangeeffect-that they seemednot to value of tn" vice-president,svle*r ird principles,
flourish for the TV medium. Mr. Kennedy's rather sharp re-
be watching an operation, but performing it. They felt that they were hold- Jih too much
an image closer to the TV
sDonseshave been a mistake, but he still presents
ing the scalpel.Thus the TV image, in fostering a passion for depth involve- like the shy young Sheriff-while
l'";;, P;"i.ttor Mcluhan says-something
ment in every aspectof experience,createsan obsessionwith bodily welfare. Mr. Nixon with his very dark eyes that tend to stare, with his slicker circumlo-
The sudden emergenceof the TV medico and the hospital ward as a program more therailway lawyer who signs leasesthat are not in
cution, has resembled
to rival the western is perfectly natural. It would be possible to list a dozen the interestsof the folks in the little town'
in the TV
untried kinds of programs that would prove immediately popular for the In fact,by counterattackingand by claiming for himself' as he does
have, Mr' Nixon may be helping his
samereasons.Tom Dooley and his epic of Medicare for the backward society debates,thl same goals as tlie Democrats
the Kennedy image, by confusing what exactly it is that
was a natural outgrowth of the first TV decade. opponent by blunlng
Now that we have consideredthe subliminal force of the TV image in a Mr. Kennedy wants to change'
a less
redundant scattering of samples, the question would seem to arise: "What Mr. Kennedy is thus not h"andicappedby clear-cutissues;he is visually
nonchalant' He seems less anxious to
well-defined image, and appears more
possible immunity can there be from the subliminal operation of a new So far, then, Professor Mcluhan gives Mr'
sell himself than does Mr.'Nixon.
medium fike television?" People have long supposed that bulldog opacity,
Kennedy the lead without underestimating Mr. Nixon's formidable appeal to
backed by firm disapproval, is adequateenough protection against any new the vast conservativeforcesof the United States
experience.It is the theme of this book that not even the most lucid under-
standing of the peculiar force of a medium can head off the ordinary "clo-
Another way of explaining the acceptable,as opposed to the unaccept-
sure" of the sensesthat causesus to conform to the pattern of experience de-
able,TV p"rroouiity is io say ihat anybody whose appearance
presented.The utmost purity of mind is no defenseagainst bacteria,though who -strongly
looks as if he
clareshisiole and siatus in liie is wrong for TV. Anybody
ihe confreresof Louis Pasteur tossed him out of the medical profession for other things
might be a teacher,a doctor, a businessman,or any of a dozen
his base allegations about the invisible operation of bacteria. To resist TV,
all at the same time is right for TV. When the person presented looksclassi-
therefore,one must acquire the antidote of related media like print.
fiable,asNixon did, the iV viewer has nothing to fill in. He feels uncomfort-
It is an especially touchy area that presents itself with the question:
ablewith his TV image. He saysuneasily, "There's something about the guy
"What has been the effectof TV on our political life?" Here, at least,great tra- that isn't right." The-viewer feels exactly the same about an exceedingly
ditions of critical awarenessand vigilance testify to the safeguardswe have
against the dastardly usesof power. Pretty gfulo-t TV, or about any of the intense "high definition" images and
posted
- rnessages from the sponsors.It is not accidentalthat adveltising has become
Wh-enTheodore White's TheMaking of thePresident:1960is opened at a vast new sourceof comic effectssince the advent of TV. Mr. Khrushchev is
the section on "The Television Debates," the TV student will experiencedis- e very filled-in or completed image that appearson TV as a comic cartoon.In
may. White offers statistics on the number of sets in American homes and Wirephotoand on T"V,tvtr. Khrushchev is a jovial comic, an entirely disarm-
the number of hours of daily use of these sets,but not one clue as to the , hg presence. Likewise, precisely the formula that recommends anybody for
nature of the TV image or its effects on candidates or viewers. White con- I Inovie role disqualifies the same Person for TV acceptance. For the hot
siders the "content" of the debatesand the deportment of the debaters,but
medium needs people who look very definitely a type of some kind.
it never occurs to him to ask why TV would inevitably be a disastet fot a
762 ThreeI MassCulture,MassI,Iedia,pop Art
Mcluhan I Television:The Timid Giant 163
The cool TV medium cannot abide
the typicar becauseit reavesthe vier47s1
frusrrated of his job o{ The other side of the story concernsthe fact that, in the visually organ-
."*gjup"gr
did not look like a rich man or rike poritician. i*;;; l,;"rtd"nt Kennedy
j-l.j"r::..,
educationaland socialworld, the TV child is an underprivileged cripple.
a He could have i
fromagrocer oruproi"rror;;;;#;lr coach. oblique indication of this startling reversal has been given by William
ready of speechin such a way as to
He wasnottoffirTt#il: ,b-lding's Lord of theFlies.On the one hand, it is very flattering for hordes of
spoil his pteasantif *""i], ur", of ,docltuchildren to be told that, once out of the sight of their governesses,the
tenance andoutrine'.rr *".llr"m palace,f r.g coun_
riJ#wearth to ttre
*ntru,,l^ou_r,:,in a pattern of TV reversal
and upset. "#", tpethingsavagepassionswithin them would boil over and sweep away pram
rne samecomponentswill be found
in any popular TV figure. Ed urd playpen, alike. On the other hand, Mr. Golding's little pastoral parable
livan, "the great stone face,,' asnu
ru, t ro*r, from the first, has the
sul_ doeshave somemeaning in terms of the psychic changesin the TV child. This
neededharshnessof texture and generar
sculpturar quairry a"*"^aed for
much lratter is so important for any future strategy of culture or politics that it de-
rious regard on TV. Jack paar is
otherwise-neither shaggy nor scurp_
se_ riranasa headline prominence,and capsulatedsummary:
{uite
turar' But on the other hand, his presence
is entirely acceptableon TV
becauseof his utterly coorurd .u*Jt-u".uri
vealed the inherent nu:d.:f ailiy.'il: ;Jir"ar show re_ THETVCHILD
WHY CANNOT
SEEAHEAD
chat and dialogue. Jackdis_
covered how to extend the l_fo*porr,urr"orrs
TV ..,o*i" image into the entire format
show, seemingly snaffling up just u"t;;y of his the plunge into depth experiencevia the TV image can only be explained in
irorr, ur,y_t,"r" in" drop of a bnns of the differencesbetween visual and mosaic space.Ability to discrim-
hat' In fact, howev"c, L" i"d".rr..a'"".y ",a mosaic
well how to create from inate between these radically different forms is quite rare in our Western
other media, from the world-of journalism
and politics, botk., Broadway, world. It has been pointed out that, in the country of the blind, the one-eyed
and the arts in general, until he b""u*"
a rormiaaut" ,irrui irir," press mo- man is not king. He is taken to be an hallucinated lunatic. In a highly visual
saic itself' As Amos and Andy had lowered
church urr"r,aur,il on sunday ctrlture,it is as difficult to communicate the nonvisual properties of spatial
evenings in the ord.days of radio,
so Jack p;;;"i"ly'.ir, ,gl,r-.trru fonns as to explain visuality to the blind.ln TheABC of RelatiaityBertrand
patronage with his late show.
How about Educational relevision? \A/hen Russellbegan by explaining that there is nothing difficult about Einstein's
the three-year-ordsits watch_ ideas,but that they do call for total reorganization of our imaginative lives.
the Presjdent'spress conferencewith
fB o"J *aL;ifi ilat ilustrates It is precisely this imaginative reorganization that has occurred via the
the serious educational role of rv. ff
l"t what is the reration of rV to the
learning process,the answer surely -u
is that the TV image, by its shesson partrc- The ordinary inability to discriminate between the photographic and
ipation, dialogue, and depth, has brougtrt to America new demand
crash-programming in education. whetheithere for 9u TV image is not merely a crippling factor in the learning processtoday; it
erre,*ilIt.rv * every class- ts symptomaticof an age-old failure in Westernculture. The literate man, ac-
room is a small matter.The revorution
has arready,rk"" G;;rio*u. TV has customedto an environment in which the visual senseis extended every-
changedour sense-livesand our mentat
p.o"""r"r. It has createda tastefor all where as a principle of organization, sometimes supposesthat the mosaic
experiencein depththat.affectsranguage
teachingas ,"".h ;;-;; styles. world of primitive art, or even the world of Byzantine art, representsa mere
with amereu"oorLo-redgeof Frenchor English since differencein degree,a sort of failure to bring t"heirvisual portiayals up to the
il:l**f:.}ryt ,'Let,s poetry.
1ne,un:Tmous cry now is, talk French,,,-and,,Let the bard be heard.,, revel of full visual effectiveness.Nothing could be further from the truth.
And oddly eno-1gh,with the demand
for depth, goes the demand for crash- This, in fact, is a misconception that haJimpaired understanding between
programrning' Not onrydeeper but further,
into alLowr"Gil, becomerhe Eastand West for manv centuries. Todav it impairs relations between col-
normal popular demand slig rv perhaps
enough has been said about the na- ored and white societies.
ture of the TV image to explain why thisiho"ra
I vade ow li19s any more than it does?
Mu*
8". nr*
use";;;;;"rsibly
could not extend
per-
its
Most technology produces an amplification that is quite explicit in its
separationof the senses.Radio is an extension
inJluence'of course,in the crassroomits of the aurat, nigh-fidelity pho-
Je "rur"room
comp"l, a reshuffling of subjects, tography of the visual. But TV is, above
all, an extension of the senseof
ili -an!
approaches to subjects Merely to put the
b."F" putting movies on TV. rn" t"suit would
p.es.nt classroomon TV wourd torrch,which involves maximal interplay
of all the senses.For western man,
be a hybriJnuilJ.uitnu.. T," rlowever, the all-embracing extension
lirl had occurred by means of phonetic
l,ll light approach is to ask, "r4ftat can TV do that the classroom cannot do for which is a technJlogy for extending the sense of sight. All non-
French, or for physics?" The answer is: ,"rv can Sfuq.,
ilil1 Processand the growth of forms of all kinds as nothing
illustrate ii"lrrtu.pruy
" or g'noneticforms of writing are,by contrast, artistic
modes thairetain much
iill "t"" ""r.li
variety of sensuous orchestration. Phonetic
writing, alone, has the power oI
764 ThreeI Mass
Culture,
Mass popArt
Media, Mcluhan f TheTimidGiant
Television: 765

separating and fragmenting the sensesand of sloughing off the semantic life of these forms as they intrude upon us and upon one another.
complexities. The TV image reverses this literate pro"esi of analytic fraf_ nakes tor myoPra.
mentation of sensorylife. The young people who have experienceda decade of TV have natu-
The visual stresson continuity, uniformity, and connectedness,as it de_ imbiLed an urge toward involvement in depth that makes all the re-
rives from literacy,confronts us with the great technologicalmeansof imple_ #* visualized goals of usual culture seem not only unreal but irrelevant,
irrelevantbutanemic. II l' ,I",1:11
fr-t o,on$
men-tlng continuity and lineality by fragmented repetition. The un"iunt
world found this meansin the brick, whether for wall or road. The repetitive, Tl:tl:T:tn,1'^l"l:"^'::
that occurs in young lives via TV's mosaic image' This change of
Tint
uniform brick, indispensableagent of road and wall, of cities and empires,is fftuae has nothing to do with programming in any way, and would be
an extension,via letters, of the visual sense.Thebrickwall is not a mosiic
form, t **" if the programs consisted entirely of the highest cultural content.
and neither is the mosaic form a visual structure. The mosaic can be ,irn u ih" in attitude by means of relating themselves to the-mosaic TV
dancing can, but is not structuredvtsually; nor is it an extensionof the visual i*ue""ftrtrg"
*o,tta occur in any event' It is, of course, our job not only to under-
-Xutia
power. For the mosaic is not uniform, continuous, or repetitive. It is discon- tni" changebut to exploit it for its pedagogical richness.The TV child
tinuous, skew, and nonlineal, like the tactual rv image. To the senseof oo""tr involvement and doesn't want a specialistiob in the future. He does
touch, all things are sudden, counter, original, spare, itrung". The ,,pied **t u role and a deep commitment to his society.unbridled and misunder-
Beauty" of G. M. Hopkins is a catalogueof the notes of the sinse of touch. stood,this richly human need can manifest itself in the distorted forms por-
The poem is a manifesto of the nonvisual, and like C6zanne or seurat or hayd inWest SideStory.
'
Rouault, it provides an indispensable approach to understanding TV. The The TV child cannot seeahead becausehe wants involvement, and he
nonvisual mosaicstructuresof modern art, like thoseof modern pliysics and cannotaccepta fragmentary and merely visual goal or destiny in learning or
electric-information patterns, permit little detachment.The mosaic form of in life.
the-TV demands participation and involvement in depth of the whole being,
as does the senseof touch. Literacy,in contrast,had, by extending the visuil
power to the uniform organization of time and space,psychically and so- BYTELEVISION
IdURDER
cially, conferred the power of detachment and noninvolvement.
The visual sensewhen extended by phonetic literacy fosters the ana- fack Ruby shot Lee Oswald while tightly surrounded by guards who were
lytic habit of perceiving the single facet in the life of forms. The visual power paralyzed by television cameras.The fascinating and involving power of
enablesus to isolate the single incident in time and space,as in representa- blevision scarcely needed this additional proof of its peculiar operation
tional art. In visual representationof a person or an object, a single phaseor upon human perceptions.The Kennedy assassinationgave people an imme-
moment or aspectis separatedfrom the multitude of known and felt phases, diate senseof the television power to createdepth involvement, on the one
momerrts and aspectsof the person or object. By contrast, iconographic art hand,and a numbing effect as deep as grief, itself, on the other hand. Most
uses the eye as we use our hand in seeking to create an inclusive image, FoPle were amazed at the depth of meaning which the event communi-
made up of many moments, phases,and aspectsof the person or thing. Thus catedto them. Many more were surprised by the coolnessand calm of the
the iconic mode is not visual representation,not the specialization oivisual tnassreaction.The sameevent, handled by press or radio (in the absenceof
stressas defined by viewing from a single position. The tactual mode of per- blwision), would have provided a totally different experience.The national
ceiving is sudden but not specialist.It is total, synesthetic,involving all the "lid" would have "blown off." Excitement would hlve been enormously
senses.Pervadedby the mosaicTV image, the TV child encountersthe world i tFeaterand depth participation in a common awarenessvery much less.
in a spirit antithetic to literacy. I As explained earlier,Kennedy was an excellentTV image. He had used
- medium
h"
The TV image, that is to say,even more than the icon, is an extensionof I with the same effectivenessthat Roosevelt had learned to
the senseof touch. Where it encountersa literate culture, it necessarilythick- I Th*uby radio. With TV, Kennedy found it natural to involve the nation in
ens the sense-mix,transforming fragmented and specialistextensionsinto a I \ "ence of the Presidency,both as an operation and as an image. TV reaches
seamlessweb of experience.Suchtransformation is, of course, a "disaster" Ior for the corporate attiibutes of office. Potentially, it can iransform the
I S,
a literate, specialistculture. It blurs many cherishedattitudes and procedures. I TFidency into a monarchic dynasty. A merely electlve Presidencyscarcely
It dims the efficacy of the basic pedagogic techniques, and th-erelevance I affordsthe depth of dedicationand commitment demanded by the TV form.
of the curriculum. If for no other reason,it would be well to understand the rven teacherson TV seem to be endowed by the student audienceswith a
&SL
-.
i
766 Three
f LIass
Culture,
Mass popArt
Media,
charismatic or mystic character that much exceedsthe feelings develope4
in the classroomor lecture hall. In the courseof many studies oiaudience re_
actions to TV teaching, there recurs this puzzling fact. The viewers feel that
the teacherhas a dimension almost of sacredness.This feeling does not havs
its basis in concepts or ideas, but seems to creep in uninvited and ,nex-
plained. It baffles both the students and the analysts of their reactions.
surely, there could be no more telling touch to tip ui off to the characterof
TV. This is not so much a visual as a tactual-audiiory medium that involves
ilbj e ctivity, Reduction,
frnd Formalism
l
all of our sensesin depth interplay. For people long accustomed to the
merely visual experienceof the typographic and pnotographic varieties, it
would seemto be the synesthesia, or tactual depth of rV experience,that dis-
locatesthem from their usual attitudes of passivity and deiachment.
The banal and ritual remark of the conventionally literate, that TV pre-
sentsan experiencefor passiveviewers, is wide of the mark. w is above all
a medium that demands a creatively participant response.The guards who
I
failed to protect Lee oswald were not passive.They were so invJlved by the
mere sight of the TV camerasthat they lost their senseof their merely piacti-
cal and specialisttask.
Perhapsit was the Kennedy funeral that most strongly impressed the
-
audience with the power of rv to invest an occasionwith ihe characterof
corporateparticipation. No national event exceptin sports has ever had such
coverage or such an audience. It revealed the unrivaled power of TV to
achievethe involvement of the audiencein a complexprocess.Thefuneral as
a corporate processcausedeven the image of sport to pale and dwindle into
puny proportions. The Kennedy funeral, in short, manifested the power of
TV to involve an entire population in a ritual process.By comparison,pr"s,
movie, and even radio are mere packaging devicesfor consumers.
Most of all, the Kennedy event provides an opportunity for noting a
paradoxical feature of the "cool" TV medium. It involves us in moving
depth, but it does not excite,agitate or arouse.Presumably,this is a featureof
all depth experience.

rl , knk SteLl.a (American,


i,: Pt.ol canvas,
b. 1936).TheMarriage of Reason
90 1,/2x!31 1/2 in. CoLl.ection
ind fundsSl".r by'Mr..rd Mrs.JosephHetman,
1.959.
and Squalor.
Purchase
SaintLouisArt Museum.
Mr.andMrs.RonaldK. Greenberg.

ilil;'ril
t2000
FrankStetia/Rrtists
RightsSociety(ARS),NewYork.