Amidst the printed images, sculptures and flashing screens that fill the Saint Mary’s University Gallery, an inkjet print of Marshall McLuhan’s “A Note of Obsolescence” offers up a hint of what Robert Bean and Ilan Sandler’s Obsolescence and Inscription expresses: “Obsolescence is a very large and mysterious subject which has had very little attention in relation to its importance.” The result of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant, Bean and Sandler’s collaborative exhibit takes on the notions and expressions of obsolescence from multiple angles.
A conversation between objects and ideas, between language and modes of expression is demonstrated through Bean’s photographs of long-rejected communication devices like an Enigma machine and an IBM Computer Card Punch. Sandler’s magnified images of diatoms, projected in video and imprinted onto glass make enormous and immediate the minutiae of the organic, expressible only through inscription. Inscription and obsolescence bump up against each other: simple images of fragments of typewriters sit alongside a hypnotizing photomontage displayed on monitors mounted as though to mimic an open book. An embodiment of the final lines of McLuhan’s “Note”, Obsolescence and Inscription sparks an “awareness of the role of obsolescence in sparking creativity and the invention of new order.”