Full Contact on Queen Street


Photography Festival has the Message and the Medium but at the grand opening, where is the Media?

Friday photography show opening draws crowds but not the cameras

Hot show and very hot festival uses McLuren as inspiration but private launch runs cold with the media. What is the message here?

In 1974 I took a number of pictures of Marshall McLuhen as he addressed the media covering the annual Juno Awards. My close friend, Dave Tollington was working for RPM Magazine - the creators of the music award - and got me in the side door and let me take a half a roll of black and white film before shushing me away from the cooler filled with O'Keefe lager beer.
My notes from that session are long gone. I don't remember anything he did say. I do know from my student newspaper tear sheet, that he did talk about popular culture to the people who promoted such big stars (back then) as Terry Jacks, Anne Murray, Stompin' Tom Connors, Murray McLaughlin and or course Valdy. McLuhen spoke the same day that Bachman-Turner Overdrive won a Juno as the upcoming group of 1974.
Presumably McLuhen referenced his book The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man. Written in 1951, the work is now seen as a pioneering study in the field of popular culture. He apparently derived the book title, The Mechanical Bride, from a painting created byt Dadaist artist Marcel Duchamp.
36-years later, camera still in hand, I covered a private reception marking the launch of the month-long Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival. Scotiabank Vice President John Doig lauched the festival as he stood at a podium inside the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (Toronto) against a backdrop of the oversized group photograph exhibition The Mechanical Bride. Both the show and the city-wide festival runs until June 6, 2010.
The exhibition, curated by Bonnie Rubenstein, takes its name from McLuhan’s book, and the show emulates the late Canadian author's fascination with advertising and the media. Catalogue women in bras. Multi-screened projections of automobiles. Female legs in white knee-high stockings. Photographers and videographers including John Armstrong & Paul Collins, Dana Claxton, Kota Ezawa, Jacqueline Hassink, David LaChapelle, Ryan McGinley, Josephine Meckseper, Matt Siber and Alec Soth have works in this international show.
Doig was the lead speaker at the MOCCA kick-off because Scotiabank is now the named sponsor of the 30-year festival. Scotiabank Contact is self-billed as the world's largest event of its kind.

Standing in front of oversized pictures of women in various stages of undress, he praised MOCCA for its cutting edge exhibition schedule.
Curator Bonnie Rubenstein says, according to the Canadian Press, that the photos that Doig stood in front of "particularly the one of the legs - are poignant as they're very similar to those in the 1951 book "The Mechanical Bride" by late Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan. His writings inspired this year's festival theme: pervasive influence."
"I think it's quite fascinating for everyone to go back and look at Marshall McLuhan's book because I think it can tell us a lot about what images say in today's society."
As for taking pictures of pictures that are part of a show inspired by a man I photographed at the start of my so-called career? Back in the day, things were easier. Marshall McLuhen was approachable. He was simply a guy on the stage in a smoke-filled room. The big performer names arrived by subway. There were no glasses for our bottles of beer. No guest list. No dressing up, or dressing down.
Oversized photographs of bras, boots and car boots was out of range of RPM's budget. It was back before artists took themselves seriously and long before the media would create a litany of reasons as to why they couldn't report on a Canadian cultural event.
The Toronto media has given the Contact Festival solid coverage, however the actual Scotiabank launch and preview of the Gallery show drew no mainstream media save for a camera crew from TVO Ontario and a BBC cultural reporter out of New York city.

CUTLINE: Top left - John Doig, the man in motion at the Scotiabank Contact Festival launch. Top right - The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art was filled to capacity to hear John Doig and preview the Mechanical Bride Exhibition.
Middle right: Tourism Toronto's Joel Peters with Scotiabank Caribana's Bobbie Adore at the Mechanical Bride Exhibition opening.
Bottom. John Doig in focus.


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