Useless Buzzing Noises

Katemilty takes on the composition of digital media. This is your front row ticket to the struggle.

Modern Musings on Intermedia and “What It All Means”

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Found this while bouncing around the intertubes researching “intermedia”.
Reposted from

PREFACE: Just some more digital noise, hyperlinked up to 11 for your theoretically joyful consumption. (But really, pardon all the links.)


In Dick Higgins’ Statement on Intermedia [MM1] from 1966, he made the assertion that the focus of art should shift from discovering new “forms” of media to discovering how to use the forms we have at our disposal.

Having discovered tools with an immediate impact, for what are we going to use them?” he asks.

If you want to read the full statement, check it out here. Otherwise, see my simplified main points below:

Paragraph 1:

  • Art is a means of communication, not an attack on other forms of communication.
  • Our enemies are those who send us to die in wars and force us into lives of drudgery.

Paragraph 2:

  • Our sensitivities to art have changed as a result of the mass literacy movement and the advent of the television/radio.
  • We ask for a new way to look at things in light of these developments. We are anxious to get to the basics of images.

Paragraph 3:

  • Psychedelics may accelerate this process, but will probably not change anything.

Paragraph 4:

  • In the last ten years, artists have changed their medias; traditional media has broken down. Enter “intermedia”.
  • INTERMEDIA: works that transcend traditional definitions of a single type of media; for example, a work is “basically musical, but also poetry”. (INSERT PHOTO OF INTERMEDIA CHART)[MM2]

Paragraph 5:

  • Now that we have intermedia, how do we use it and what do we use it for?
    • Could it be that the central problem of the next ten years or so, for all artists in all possible forms, is going to be less the still further discovery of new media and intermedia, but of the new discovery of ways to use what we care about both appropriately and explicitly?
    • We must find the ways to say what has to be said in the light of our new means of communicating.”

The Fluxus art project was responding to the onslaught of new media options by capturing moments of “flow” in time. The Fluxus boxes were fragmented collections of “everyday” and “found” art, like a physical representation of an artist’s journal.

Today, the “craftsmanly” [MM3] turn of our culture can be seen as a magnified return to the basics of media. Craftspeople of our modern era return to craft-works as a way of pulling away from hyper-refined digital minimalism so popular in today’s culture (See here[MM4] , even the digital aesthetic has become minimalized). Craft works, on the other hand, emphasize the experience of the making rather than the outcome. Outcomes are tangible, physical, often roughhewn and practical.

Are these two movements linked? And what would an updated Statement on Intermedia look like today?

Here’s my take:

  1. Art is still a means of communication, but our means of communication have exploded since 1966; so our options for discussing art have also grown. Today the Internet and digital communications dominate these communication pathways. [What would a Fluxus box look like if comprised only of Facebook fragments?]
  2. The “enemies” have changed; now more prevalent than ever is the idea of manipulation. Think of digital media exposure as a means of rough-hewn mind-control. Depending on the feeds we buy into, we are essentially “consuming” a certain line of “truth”. What is real truth? No one’s really sure. Too paranoid for you? Too bad. Check out that NSA stuff [MM5] .
  3. Some artists today fight against that manipulation by highlighting it:
    1. Banksy[MM6]
  4. On the other hand, artists are being used as “tools” for gentrification, paving the way in rough neighborhoods for future gentrifiers[MM7]
    1. Is art still used to make a point? Does art have “a point”?
      1. See again, Banksy.
    2. Is art cheapened by the Internet? Does accessibility make art mean less? What about “re-posting”. Is an image cheapened by how often it reappears on Tumblr/Pinterest?
      1. Can blogs be a vehicle for true art? Can a blog be a piece of art in and of itself?
  5. While psychedelic drugs play a minimal role in today’s art scene (except, arguably the music scene), our culture has become addicted to addiction and the drug mythos (drug as plot device, drug as turning point, drug as topic of critique, drug as source of inspiration).
  6. Intermedial forms have given way to fragmentation (see collage, remixing, sampling, Girl Talk[MM8] ).
  7. At the end of the day, there is more “derivative art”, as in aesthetically pleasing items that do not do much of anything. But there is still new art being made that critiques and explores. Intermedia lives on! (See Banksy, [again, for the umpteenth time]; the perfect blend of art, socio-political commentary, and delinquency).

CONCLUSION: But then, what does it really matter? Perhaps we’ll all just throw away our computers and forget this whole thing ever happened. Or not. Either way, art and technology (aka. media) will continue to evolve, and new forms of “intermedia” will continue to emerge, and some artists will find ways to “fight against the ‘enemy’” using these new forms of media and intermedial approaches.


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