Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan: From Smartphone to Palladium

Presented by Rita Leistner in association with The Basetrack Project

Featuring Rita Leistner

In 2011, Rita Leistner embedded with U.S. Marines in Afghanistan as a team member of the experimental social media initiative Basetrack, which used social media and smartphones to report on the war. That experience was the jumping off point for her book, Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan, which Leistner wrote as a reaction to the clash of technologies playing out in the theatres of war and beyond, inspired by Marshall McLuhan’s most famous aphorism—”The medium is the message.”

This exhibition is an extension of a key concept of the book: that the retro apps in smartphones are a symptom of our yearning for historical permanence and human connection in an increasingly digitized, remote-controlled world.

Leistner teams-up with Canadian Master Printer Bob Carnie, assisted by Paulette Michayluk, to create a series of monotypes in palladium with applied pigment—the most permanent color process known.

The experience of the exhibition, which also includes text panels from the book and a series of “didactic panels” that illustrate the process from smartphone to palladium, is like walking through Leistner’s own journey of process and discovery about communication, photography, technology, and war.

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Award-winning photographer, writer, and educator Rita Leistner’s varied career has taken her from academia to war and back again, intersecting the genres of art, photojournalism, and literary criticism. She is a graduate of the International Center of Photography in New York and has a Master of Arts degree in comparative literature from the University of Toronto where she teaches the history of photojournalism and documentary photography.

Her recent book, Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan, was shortlisted for the 2015 Marshall McLuhan Award for Outstanding Book in the Field of Media Ecology. She is co-author of several other books including Unembedded: Four Independent Photojournalists on the War in Iraq and The Edward Curtis Project: A Modern Picture Story.

Her photography has been exhibited and published internationally and her articles, essays, and reviews have appeared in numerous magazines and books. Rita Leistner is represented by the Stephen Bulger Gallery. She has also planted over a million trees in Canada.

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