Erasing Boundaries: Intermedia Art in the Digital Age
Forms and Structures of Intermedia
Art and Culture
Boundaries: Intermedia Art in the Digital Age
Northwester University, Illinois, USA
University of Illinois Urbana-Champlain, Illinois, USA
Columbia College, Illinois, USA
Cornell University, New York, USA
is a term coined by the Fluxus artist and theorist Dick Higgins which
refers to works of art that include structural elements not usually
associated with the medium being performed. Although Intermedia can
be "multimedia" it certainly does not have to be. In this
panel we would like to make the distinction between the two terms.
In intermedia, the compositional process works across the boundaries
between media or even fuses media. Thus intermedia implies structures
that are shared by or translated from one medium to another: in
this respect it is a more specifically defined term than multimedia.
While it is sometimes called "synesthetic art," intermedia
does not seek to imitate the physiological phenomenon of synesthesia,
but approaches it metaphorically. It extends the creation of form
across sensory modalities without necessarily promoting a tight
coupling of multisensory events. Synesthetic coupling is just one
potential contrapuntal technique for intermedia, a kind of parallel
movement. Other possibilities abound, and intermedia is just getting
started as an artform.
With the advent of digital multimedia and real time interaction
and performance with computers, intermedia can now achieve a precision
and synchronicity of events that were not possible until the last
two decades. Moreover, digital media enable compositional structures
to operate at all levels of granularity and with a degree of abstraction
that places all media on the same plane. One could argue that digital
intermedia is the high-level process that corresponds to the low-level
truism: all media is data, a single substance. Intermedia suggests
we explore that substance with all available senses.
This panel will examine the historical concept of intermedia, compositional
methods and processes for creating intermedia, issues of sense perception
and sensory coupling in the reception of intermedia, and the implications
of digital multimedia, real time performance and interaction for
the future development of intermedia. We also expect to open the
discussion to the metaphoric and even magical qualities associated
with synesthesia, and to the relation of multisensory stimuli to
memory, but by grounding the panel in compositional practices and
structures we hope to avoid some of the pitfalls of interpretation
that the mystique of synesthesia often inspires.
While we cannot predict the trajectory of intermedia across the
imaginary of the twenty-first century, it holds out the possibility
of new forms and experiences. This, at a time when we had begun
to suspect that formal invention had collapsed along with the historical
avant-garde, may even permit us a brief moment of euphoria. Then
we would do well to remember how, at the beginning of the twentieth
century, the cult of synesthesia promised a mystical revelation
that did not transpire. At the beginning of the twenty-first century
intermedia points to a perceptual revelation may well transpire.
The instruments are in our hands and it seems we have only to learn
to play them. To what end and for whom? As much as with the formal
and technical issues of digital intermedia, we must also grapple
with this question.
and Structures of Intermedia
|Starting from the phenomena
of convergence in recent media development, the paper opens the question
how we may consider the interrelationship between different media
in the digital age.
Conceptually, the term intermedia implies an interrelationship
between different media that merge with each other where the couplings
of different media elements result in a third, a new form of media.
This can be characterized as the transformative quality of intermedia.
The forms and the structures effected through an intermedial relation
and transformation may shift, nevertheless intermedia structurally
differs from related concepts such as multimedia and mixed media.
The paper discusses the history and theory of the concept of intermedia
in relation to other forms of interrelationship and in comparison
to intertextuality and the notion of dialog. The aim is to point
out similarities and differences in the history of synaesthesia
that shape the understanding of the specific concept of intermedia
and also help to define the limits of intermedia when confronted
with hypermedia and hybridization. Furthermore, the convergence
of media in intermedia that is based on the transformation is different
from hypermedia where the issue is no longer transformation but
access and multidimensional connectivity. I will argue that intermedia
is conceptual term and encompasses:
1) a model of transformation,
2) a structural shift in the organization and positioning of media
elements to build a form, and finally
3) an aesthetic strategy differently performed in analog and in
In particular with regard to the interrelation of aesthetic features
referring to image, text and music, I will show that intermedia
practices in the arts cause the revelation of the medium through
the representation of the difference between form and medium. As
the history of the concept shows: the emergence of intermedia is
based on the difference between media and it reveals media specific
elements, because intermedia is a self-reflexive and transformative
device. As theories point out, the concept implies a dialectical
relationship between "old" and "new", "analog"
and "digital" media and the relationship between (historically)
separate media is dynamic.
In short: I will consider intermedia as conceptual term and a category
of transformation in media arts. As such, intermedia preshapes and
prefigures issues in digital imaging and virtual reality.
Art and Culture
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