Toronto specializing in contemporary photography

Illuminated Manuscripts: The McLuhan Suite

Illuminated Manuscripts: The McLuhan Suite

Artist Statement

Illuminated Manuscripts is a project about writing, archives and photography. The images that comprise “Illuminated Manuscripts” are from documents in the Marshall McLuhan Fonds at the Library and Archives of Canada.

“Illuminated Manuscripts” is literal and is derived from the fact that McLuhan hand wrote all of his books before having them transcribed with the typewriter. In the “Gutenberg Galaxy”, McLuhan discusses the imposed linearity of mechanically printed language on culture, knowledge and learning in the transition from handcrafted manuscripts to the printing press. Using details from McLuhan’s manuscripts, many of which were photographed with back lighting to create a recto-verso montage of text, Illuminated Manuscripts directs attention to McLuhan’s ideas concerning the written word, the printed word, the typewriter, photography, and electronic media. Words are artifacts and they are things.

By attentively examining the visual traces and processes of inscription that Marshall McLuhan left on his documents, attributes of McLuhan’s working process regarding the sensorial experience of perception and media were also revealed. McLuhan’s attention to the extension of the senses through media relied on descriptions that highlighted the experience of tactility, haptic vision and acoustic space. McLuhan was a modern day scribe, a “writing machine”. In this context things speak.

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Robert Bean: Illuminated Manuscripts, at the Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris, September 30 – November 16, 2011.

Robert Bean: Illuminated Manuscripts, Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology (The Coach House), University of Toronto, April 27 – June 25, 2011.


The Donovan Collection, University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, Ontario