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Marshall McLuhan

Hot Art: Make Contact with Photography

Edward Burtynsky's Oil Refineries #3

May 1 TO 31 The world’s largest image event, the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, takes over Toronto with installations in public spaces like Brookfield Place and The Power Plant, as well as commercial galleries. Celebrating Marshall McLuhan’s monumental theory of “figure and ground,” this year’s showcase explores how all parts of an image—both the subject and the background—work together. Thousands of participating shutterbugs, including Fred Herzog and Alex McLeod, are on this year’s roster. Don’t miss Edward Burtynsky’s powerful series, Oil, including Oil Refineries #3, 1999, Oakville, Ontario, Canada, on display at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Visual Learning: the 2010 Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival

Toronto’s annual festival of photography asks how the medium’s vast dissemination has transformed the way we understand and interact with the world around us.

On display as part of MOCCA's primary exhibition is "Green Kitchen" and other works from the Cache-Misère series by John Armstrong and Paul Collins. The artists add painted images to photos, altering their narratives.

One of the abiding ways by which change is affected in a given art form is through the introduction and subsequent application of new or improved technology. The invention of the printing press ushered in a new epoch for literature and the written word, colour film transformed the way movies were produced and consumed—the present adoption of 3D techniques could herald a similar evolution—and the amplified electric guitar forever changed popular music. The historical register of these changes is long, and it continues to grow longer.

Of late, the impact of technology has arguably been felt most of all by the photographic arts, and for more than a decade the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival has chronicled the evolution of picture taking with a month-long program of curated exhibitions across the city. This year’s massive event looks at how digital-age advancements—instant-gratification social networking websites, the incorporation of high-quality cameras in portable and relatively affordable devices, the accessibility of easy-to-use image-processing software, and much more—have led to photography’s exponential growth and ponders the effect of the medium’s pervasive influence, as predicted by Canadian communications theorist Marshall McLuhan.