Presented for the first time, the Gray Area Festival 2022 Exhibition: DISTANT EARLY WARNINGS is an exhibition of historic materials from the McLuhan Institute collection posed in dialogue with artworks produced by seven contemporary thinkers and creators critically engaged with today’s media landscape. DISTANT EARLY WARNINGS traces the development of McLuhan’s concept of artists as cultural first responders from its early philosophical presentation to development into multimedia, cross-industry projects before leading into the continued impact of and need for social distant early warning structures today.

As McLuhan’s ideas gained traction on the world’s stage, he became a pervasive influence on emerging media artists and the wider art world. The contemporary artists presented in today’s selection demonstrate material and philosophical explorations of ancient, present, and possible future techniques and technologies for wading through the exponential complexity of reality—consciously or unconsciously reflecting McLuhan’s messages.

In the exhibition, Tega Brain & Sam Lavigne examine the impact of advertising and algorithmic marketing in modern web culture. Meanwhile, analog sculptures from Paige Emery represent ancient methodologies for future forecasting and look towards repurposing these ideas for modern use. Together, these artists reflect McLuhan’s early warnings in their work, and carry forth the legacy of his ideas for new generations of creators.

Special thanks to Andrew McLuhan and The McLuhan Institute for their collaboration in the development of this project.


Tega Brain, Paige Emery, Huntrezz, Claudia Larcher, Sam Lavigne,
Marshall McLuhan, Caroline Sinders, Serife Wong, Alice Yuan Zhang

The DISTANT EARLY WARNINGS Exhibition will be on view at Gray Area from September 29 through December 8.

Contemporary works are on exhibition at Gray Area through October 13. The historical artefacts from the McLuhan Institute are on exhibition through December 8.

Gray Area Festival 2022

This exhibition is part of the Gray Area Festival, our annual flagship conference that brings people together from around the world to engage directly with the critical issues facing our rapidly unfolding reality.

Now in its 8th year, the Gray Area Festival returns in a new hybrid format with both in-person and virtual conference talks, performances, workshops, and an exhibition to demonstrate the critical role of creative practitioners as cultural first responders.

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Location & Hours

Gray Area Gallery
2665 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94110


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