New Regionalism


'Art will redeem the world'

As the old adage goes.
Marshall McLuhan is said to be the last thinker of the modern era to believe that artists can still change the world* In his often-quoted postmodern commentary, The Medium Is The Massage, he compares artists and poets to the little boy at the parade, who tells the crowd their Emperor is wearing no clothes. Artists, poets and irreverent children; 'anti-social brats' all, says McLuhan. Someone though, has to say it as it is, and this is the artist's role in society: to see the world differently and point out what others may have overlooked, or would rather not see. The problem is (like the spectators at the parade) people often don't see what is right in front of their eyes. McLuhan called this unseen reality, behind the veil of culture, the 'invisible environment'.
The invisible environment need not be invisible however; the moral of this particular story, The Emperor's New Clothes, is that the crowd finally wakes up, and realizes the little boy is correct – the evidence, after all, is there to be seen. This story has never been more relevant,because today, an awakening is happening. Step outside the crowd and see what artists are trying to show the world today.                        Eyes of Society and the Invisible Environment

'Image above: pages 84 and 85 of Marshall McLuhan's The Medium Is The Massage, where the idea of culture as an invisible environment (with structures and rules that elude perception) is introduced. 'Culture', however, is the artist's 'natural habitat'; as the creators of culture, artists are more likely to see what others do not. It isn't just artists, however, that tend to see through culture (for an entirely different reason): How we see, it is now understood, has more to do with which hemisphere of the brain we utilize. Not all engineers and accountants, it turns out, are left-brain dominant, and (even more surprising, perhaps) not all artists are right-brain (contrary to the accepted view)... Read More
*Quote by Robert Hughes. Documentary The Shock Of The New

'Eyes Of Society And The Invisible Environment'. Presentation at the Art Gallery of Burlington, Sept 18th. Please sign our mailing list of notification of future events, or to book a presentation.



Marshall McLuhan believed that the role of the artist was to enable society to understand the reality of this invisible world; most of which, like an iceberg, is hidden beneath the surface. To do this, he tells us, artists create 'countersituations' and 'anti-environments', that shift our perception (just enough) that the underlying reality of our world may become apparent.

Art critic Robert Hughes called McLuhan the last thinker to believe that artists could, in fact, change the world. In the postmodern 'environment', the rationale goes, the illusion is so complete that virtually no one can see past 'the veil that has been pulled over [our] eyes'.* Theodor Adorno calls postmodern culture a 'totality', for this same reason. McLuhan refers to 'the human environment' (the culture of our day) as a 'teaching machine'; alluding, perhaps, to Adorno's suggestion that official culture (as opposed to independent culture) is a 'bureau of information', a 'grandiose system of elucidation' - endlessly instructing in such subtle ways that people are not aware they are being influenced. The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture – 'The Schema of Mass Culture' and 'Culture and Administration'.

Nevertheless, a few independent artists continue to create works of art that draw attention, specifically, to those 'pervasive structures' – as McLuhan called the various overlapping 'environments' that make up the world we experience, day to day. We hope, by means of this award for social commentary, to share with you some of their 'countersituations', and encourage further exploration.

* The Matrix 1999 (What is the Matrix?)



The 2018 'Eyes Of Society– Social Commentary Award'
Shortlist Artists

'Eyes of Society' is a Regional art project, which, as stated on the 2018 TOAF award page: 'aims to spread an awareness of the correlation between independent culture, free expression in the arts, and open, democratic society.'

Other Eyes Of Society projects

Toronto Outdoor Art Fair
Robert Bateman Centre
Air Canada...

Canada Day - Pelee Island
Buckhorn, Ontario






Please Note: The following pages do not scale for handheld devices. This site is a work-in- progress, and may transfer to another platform later. For now, we encourage visitors to enjoy the material linked from our 'ARTISTS' page, on screens more suitable for viewing art work. The articles below are also not formatted for phones, but you may wish to view 'Low-tech'; to find out about Regionalism's long tradition of resisting certain technologies, and read about the smart phone application you'll probably want to resist too.