Jack Standbridge

The Medium is the Message is the Medium…

If one thing is equal to another, then the other thing must be equal to the first. Similarly, Euclid explained two things that equal the same thing must equal one another. So if the medium is the message, we can deduce that the message is the medium, and anything the medium is equal to is also equal to the message. What third thing would that be – the thing that both the message and medium are? Why, today’s piece, of course!

This one plays a little game with the idea that if one thing is another, then the other is also the first. After all, if A=B, then B=A. Seems simple enough, right? But what is really the meaning behind this message? It seems to imply, as I said two weeks ago, that the message, as the creator saw it, should be disregarded and tossed aside in favour of the study of the medium itself. That implied that what the creator had to say was less important than the way they said it. In effect, it meant discarding one thing and replacing it with another. But if we take the phrase more literally as I did four weeks ago, it implies that the two things are the same.

In language, unlike in mathematics, you could easily say that there are cases where A=B but B≠A. For example, “The ink is the colour black,” but not “The colour black is the ink”. It’s a little contrived, but you could make the argument. I have much more fun, however, taking the word “is” to mean the same as an equals sign, which leads me to come up with pieces like this.

A fun compositional technique that calligraphers sometimes use is to write in a circle or spiral, especially if the subject matter fits thematically with the composition. Usually, however the piece has a break in it to indicate the start and end of the phrase. This piece is fun because due to the simplicity of the sentence structure it allows for the piece to join onto itself and have no defined endpoint. That being said, the eye of the reader naturally arrives on the upper left part of the piece, so the word “The” fills the position of the start of the sentence before the reader sees that it loops, having no end.

Here are the 3 pieces all next to each other:

With each of them, I’ve tried conveying a slightly different meaning, a slightly different take on the phrase, doing so by changing the layout to get the point across, and keeping the phrase the same (for the most part). So does that mean that the medium really is the message? I’m not convinced that that’s all there is to it, but it’s interesting to consider that layout, presentation, the medium and the way we communicate can sometimes lead to greater insight than what is actually being said. After all, how many articles or blogs (this one included) do you think there are where people skim lightly over the text, but what stays with them, or what they pay attention to is the images?