Adam Lauder – Out of School, Information Art and the Toronto School of Communication


McGill-Queen’s University Press, ISBN 978-0228010869, English, 320 pages, 2022, Canada

Out of School is an expanded and revised dissertation by Adam Lauder, who curated the exhibition ‘Computational Arts in Canada 1967-1974’ and its catalogue. Beginning with the central role of McLuhan and the Toronto School of Communication, he intertwines the theory of communication in its quintessential elements using the strategies of some artists as case studies. In particular, N.E. Thing Co. and the well-known General Idea are examined for how they made extensive use of what the author defines as ‘non-computational digitalism’. Information, as the core element before any computation, is then the focus of this operation of enlightened media archaeology. At a time when computer technologies were avant-garde and the scope of action allowed for imagining other interventions in the present, the artists investigated here employed tactics and aesthetics to materialise (or dematerialise) the inevitably essential role of information. The early generation of computer artists is taken out of the equation, as they focused on other processes and thus possibly represent the other side of this study. The latter then encompasses the conceptual articulations of multiple media, from advertising to global telex transmissions through a scenario that, while fraught with early elements of universal communication, remains legible and inspiring.