Erasing Boundaries: Intermedia Art in the Digital Age
Forms and Structures of Intermedia
Art and Culture
Erasing Boundaries: Intermedia Art in the Digital Age

Paul Hertz
Jack Ox
Andrea Polli
Yvonne Spielmann

Northwester University, Illinois, USA
University of Illinois Urbana-Champlain, Illinois, USA
Columbia College, Illinois, USA
Cornell University, New York, USA
"Intermedia" 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.

Forms and Structures of Intermedia

Ian Blom

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 digital images.
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

Dena Eber
Leslie Balkany

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