Intermedia: Who Has Control?

“Writing in 1966, the American artist, poet and publisher Dick Higgins looked back on recent developments in art and, challenging the legacy of abstraction and expressionism…, noted the emergence during the same period of what he called ‘intermedia’ art, a hybrid form that involved ‘the dialectic between media’, and that was the result of keeping pace with contemporary technological and social transformations.

“Simon Morley, “Intermedia: Neo-Dada Words.” in Writing on the Wall: Word and Image in Modern Art

1As the semester began, I set out to explore the confluence of dance and technology. How can the technology dance and the dance be technology? What can we do with this that would be otherwise impossible? I was interested in doing more than projecting an image on the upstage cyc. I hoped for a relationship between dance and technology that was greater than the sum of its parts.

Here is a really interesting example of technology dancing and dancing becoming technology.

Though it hadn’t dawned on my yet, our texture focused second study began to give the audience autonomy. We created a piece that used almost every projection in the Motion Lab to surround the space with textures. (We also used a motion sensor. It took in data from the people moving in the space effected the brightness of the projection. You might say that we made technology dance!)


With a number of us figuring out how to work programs that were new to us, the process felt a little slow for the limited hours that we had in the Motion Lab. Jing Dian and I worked hard with Isadoraand the matrix switcher to get all the different scenes built and the textures projected through the correct projectors at the correct time time! Phew! We did it!

The video from our showing is below. We named it 1985, because the trajectory from industrial to natural textures reminded us of George Orwell’s 1984. We asked the audience to move throughout the space as the wished, so this video is once persons perspective, but each person could wanted towards what they were interested in seeing.

The last part of our semester, our Intermedia class focused on interactive and participatory media.

Reading Soke Dinkla’s “From Participation to Interaction,” my brain started spinning with concepts of power, autonomy, hierarchy, manipulation and control! When is an interactive audience making their own autonomous decisions and when are they being manipulated by the artist? I think both options are insanely interesting because the unique environment might uncover elements of ourselves that we may not have know to exist.

“Kaprow’s Happenings make abundantly clear that not every form of participation per se implies a higher responsibility for the visitor and this a less authoritarian role of the artist. Rather, participation is located along a fragile border between emancipatory act and manipulation.”

Soke Dinkla, “From Participation to Interaction: Toward the Origins of Interactive Art”

We had a lot of fun making this study! Knowing that we would be performing this on the Monday before Thanksgiving, we made a piece that commented on what can sometimes IMG_7347be an awkward or strange holiday dinner and contemporary interactions through our smart phones (bringing distant people together or distancing people who are near eachother). I also really love that we gave the audience cues (some may have been familiar and others were probably new), but rarely did we tell them how to interact in this new environment. Therefore, we hoped that they had enough information to feel comfortable, while also getting to figure out their role in this unique environment. Ithink we were successfully able to toss the control back and forth between the performers and the audience. My favorite part, however, was when we played the videos that we had taken throughout the performance, and the audience became the spectators of their own performance. Check out the video below.

And amidst all of my brain chatter about power and autonomy in in performing bodies and between the artist, performers, and audience, I was captured by my perceptions of power during the Bebe Miller Company’s performance of In a Rhythm at the Wexner Center for the Arts on November 29th.

First of all, the program says, “Our process includes individual and collective choreographic contributions from the collaborating artists; their creative insights and energies are an integral part of each work.” Ok, so, clearly the dancers have some autonomy in the creative process.

What about the audience? Bebe’s program notes say, “In making this suite of dances I wanted to look at the syntax of movement–how we collide with meaning through the juxtaposed dynamics of action and context, in time and space… My focus is not to ‘tell’–bebemiller_1the subtle interactions of gesture, timing, focus, and dynamics that are uniquely human, yet, outside of familiar frames, are often illegible. We understand these bytes of kinetic information because we, as humans, move.” And, in the exhibit outside the performance, written on log rolls of black paper with white chalk, Bebe references the film MOONLIGHT. She says, “The filmmaker is not saying “feel this way.” He’s saying FEEL.” In essence, what Bebe seems to doing is giving the audience autonomy. While we weren’t interacting with the dance in a way that changes the outcome for all the other audience members, we were interacting with it in the way we FEEL. Bebe is acknowledging spectatorship’s plurality, and asks our souls to interact.

Her chalk writing tells us that she is a black woman who is felling. She is now showing us how she feels or trying to tell us how we should feel. She is feeling, and she asked that we feel too–that we reciprocate the her energy with ours. So, as long as we are feeling right next to them, maybe the power between the audience, the dancers, and Bebe is even.

For our first intermedia study and my mid semester reflection, click here.

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