Posts by Howard R. Engel

Design in Depth exhibit of Robert R. Reid’s “digital ephemera” at Red River College Library

July 9, 2018 • Written by
Design in Depth exhibit by Robert R. Reid RRC Library

Design in Depth exhibit by Robert R. Reid – RRC Library, Notre Dame Campus

From late June through September, RED RIVER COLLEGE LIBRARY is hosting an evolving exhibition of thought-provoking ‘digital ephemera’ (recently realized) by pioneering Canadian typographical designer Robert R. Reid.

Presented by CAUSA (Collective for Advanced and Unified Studies in the Visual Arts) –in association with the MARSHALL McLUHAN INITIATIVE– the exhibition ROBERT R. REID: DESIGN IN DEPTH presents a vast (purposefully selected) cross-cultural and transgenerational assemblage of literary/philosophical texts (including documents in translation from the Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean and Welsh). The ‘intermittently appearing’ content of this Red River College library program comprises epigrams and revelatory quotations (from 5th century BCE to 2018), selected by CAUSA Research Curators and typographically designed by Robert R. Reid.

CAUSA - Red River College poster_Layout 1This collaborative project consistently introduces/re-introduces its curatorial purpose as an ongoing experiment: ‘revivification’ of CULTURAL MEMORY through ‘close’ reading … ‘observation and discernment’ of continuously capacious ‘potentialities’ within the pending (abstract/real) domain of CONTEMPORANEITY itself. In that regard, CAUSA research curators have noted: “Robert R. Reid’s design practice sustains a digital-experimental typographer’s ‘teleportation presence’ –and a mindful/regenerative GLOBAL VILLAGE AESTHETIC.

Reid’s Red River College exhibition coincides with the 19th Annual Convention of the Media Ecology Association –The University of Maine, 21-24 June)– functioning this year in relation to the theme SENSES OF TIME, SPACE AND PLACE. Last November, a CAUSA exhibition of both books and digital ephemera (designed by Reid during the period 1949-2017) was installed at Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library, University of Toronto –in tandem with the UNESCO announcement of its MEMORY OF THE WORLD citation for the comprehensive Marshall McLuham holdings at that venerable institution.

The current Robert R. Reid exhibition coincides, also, with the 16th INTERNATIONAL ARCHITECTURE EXHIBITION 2018 [BIENNALE ARCHITETTURE], Venice. The biennale curators have recently commented: “We see architecture as the translation of need in its widest sense into meaningful space.” In that sense, the Red River College Library DESIGN IN DEPTH exhibition connects coherently to a CAUSA/UNIVERSITY OF MANITOBA symposium (realized earlier this year): MARSHALL McLUHAN: WINNIPEG / WORLD.

Currently the exhibit consists of two installations at the Notre Dame Campus. The first installation consists of a window presentation of texts in both card and poster formats, accompanied with books by the same authors selected from the Library’s collection. At the center of this display is a digital rotation of over 50 posters, which may be accessed here: This component of the installation runs until August 15, to be refreshed with new print and digital material around July 15. Click on this link again after July 15th to view the updated digital presentation. The same digital presentation will also be running at the John and Bonnie Buhler Library at the Exchange District Campus.

The second installation consists of a mural of 17 posters inside the Library. There are 14 printed posters in groups of 7 that cluster beside a title poster and two introductory panels of the artist, Robert R. Reid, and the CAUSA guest curators. The 14 posters will be refreshed twice throughout the summer at around the beginning of August and again around the beginning of September. After the window presentation is taken down on August 15, the digital presentation component will migrate to be near the mural of larger posters.
Precisely through its artistic aesthetic, herein lies a prime example of an old technology, typography, becoming in its obsolescence a new art form, as the McLuhans probed through their tetrad of media effects.

CAUSA - Window Display - RRC Library, Notre Dame Campus

CAUSA – Window Display – RRC Library, Notre Dame Campus

Background Information

Robert R. Reid

In 1949, in an introduction to the first artisanal/private press book produced in Canada, Robert Reid remarks: “Fine books have literary value—but it is their value as works of art which distinguishes them from other books.”

Having further clarified his aesthetic conviction by teaching printing and graphic design at the Vancouver School of Art (now the Emily Carr University of Art + Design) from 1957 to 1962, Reid moved to Montreal—where he functioned as Director of Design and Production for McGill University Press. Subsequently, before returning to Vancouver in 1997, he was active for 23 years as a publisher in New York City.

The digital ephemera comprising Robert R. Reid’s current exhibition at Red River College Library results from his digital design practice during the past three years.

— CAUSA Research Curators • June 2018

CAUSA [ Guest Curators ]

Developing from affiliations with the Free International University for Creativity and interdisciplinary Research (as initiated by Joseph Beuys and Heinrich Böll), CAUSA –Collective for Advanced and Unified Studies in the Visual Arts– aims to develop autonomous interpretation of visual culture within specific historical contexts. CAUSA functions in association with a ‘global village’ network of independent and institutional scholars –in tandem with a pluralistic community of socially engaged contemporary artists.

In its association with Red River College Library CAUSA sustains a continuous process of philosophical reflection by connecting its programme of research to an expansive glimmering that was first formulated by Marshall McLuhan. He advises us, assuredly, “We may be drowning. But if so, the flood of experience in which we are drowning is very much part of the culture we have created. The flood is not something outside our culture. It is a self-invasion of privacy. And so it is not catastrophic. We can turn it off if we choose, if we wake up to the fact that the faucets of change are inside the ark of society, not outside.”

— CAUSA Research Curators, 2018

Red River College Library’s Sustainability Initiatives

April 16, 2014 • Written by

we recycleRed River College (RRC) has a growing reputation as one of Canada’s greenest employers, thanks especially to its Sustainability Initiatives:

As an integral part of the College, the Library is no exception and practices sustainability in its everyday operations, such as purchasing environmentally friendly products whenever possible for its own supplies. These include paper products with recycled content, refillable pens, Enviro-Stik pencils, and recycled paper clips.

And, the Library also goes beyond what is required.  How does RRC Library uniquely practice sustainability? By:

  • “Ever-greening” its collection; i.e. weeding to make room for new materials.  The old materials are not just thrown out to the landfill.  Far from it!  Once removed, they are made freely available for anyone to pick up from our freebie display.  Leftover items are picked up by the College’s Recycling team. 
  • Practicing responsible printing – by staff and students with a bias to “keep it green and leave it on the screen”.
  • Saving non-confidential photocopier/printer waste sheets that are blank on at least one side, for use as scrap paper by students and staff.
  • Responsible recycling or disposal of video tapes, batteries, electronic equipment, etc.
  • Inviting users to bring their own (ear)buds.   
  • Launching its recreational reading book exchange program.
  • Scrolling information on strategically placed screens for all to see instead of printing handouts.
  • Featuring green themes in its window display, such as the recent “Prepare for Spring!”
  • Creating curriculum-based, sustainability-related research guides, such as
  • Refreshing the air and milieu with plants – all provided by Library staff.
  • Undertaking a composting pilot project at its Exchange District Campus location that collected 157.5 lbs. by weight and 205 liters by volume, over one calendar year, Jan. 26/12 to Jan. 25/13.

For further information about greening libraries:

Whatcha doin’ Marshall McLuhan?

May 28, 2013 • Written by

CLA Conference display and session feature this “Winnipeg Boy who made Good”

Marshall McLuhan is one of the topics of the upcoming CLA Conference to be held in Winnipeg.  (Photo published under Creative Commons license through Library and Archives Canada under the reproduction reference number PA-165118 and under the MIKAN ID number 4170003)

Marshall McLuhan reflected in a mirror. McLuhan is one of the topics of the upcoming CLA Conference to be held in Winnipeg. (Photo published under Creative Commons license through Library and Archives Canada under the reproduction reference number PA-165118 and under the MIKAN ID number 4170003)

Remember Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In (originally broadcast on NBC 1968-1973)? Cast member Goldie Hawn asked “Whatcha doin’ Marshall McLuhan?” during his heyday. So who was McLuhan and what’s he doin’ back in Winnipeg?

Herbert Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) is one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century. Born in Edmonton, raised in Winnipeg, he graduated from the University of Manitoba and Cambridge University, became a devout Catholic, a beloved professor of English literature and founding Director of the Centre for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto. He’s known for his prophetic poetry, satiric observations, and explorations (“probes”) into the effects of communications media on society. His most famous aphorism “The medium is the message” and percept of “the global village” are integral parts of the English language.

The Marshall McLuhan Initiative at St. Paul’s College, University of Manitoba is convening a Canadian Library Association (CLA) Conference session called “McLuhan, Books & Libraries: an Old Figure in a New Ground” from 1-2 p.m. on Thurs., May 30/13 at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. It will be given by McLuhan friend and collaborator Dr. Robert (“Bob”) K. Logan, Chief Scientist, Ontario College of Art & Design and Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Toronto. As this session description states, “McLuhan … had some interesting, useful and even infuriating things to say about books and libraries [e.g. “The book is obsolete”]. Ironically, these ideas have not yet been published, but exist as a manuscript co-authored by Bob Logan. Join Logan as he provides a tantalizing, humorous and poignant insider’s look into McLuhan and his ideas.”

For the CLA Conference, the McLuhan Initiative is also curating a Winnipeg-focused McLuhan display at the Elizabeth Dafoe Library entitled, “Marshall McLuhan: a Winnipeg boy who made good“. This title is inspired by McLuhan biographer Philip Marchand, author of the first full-length McLuhan biography, Marshall McLuhan: the Medium and the Messenger (1989) who inscribed two copies of his book for the Director of the Initiative with this quote.

mcluhan2Red River College Library holds many works by and about McLuhan, such as:

To probe McLuhan further, try:

“You don’t like those ideas? I got others.” – Marshall McLuhan