Post-Doc Research Proposal:
INTERMEDIA IN AMERICA: Horizons of Speculative Aesthetics in the recent US Avant-Garde 1973-2017
I am interested in the American fate of the European avant-gardes, and, in particular, in the unique (socio-political/media-technological) situation of U.S. experimental poets and artists post-WWII, who worked out to more or less totality the implications of intermedia, an idea introduced by the early European avant-gardes.
I am interested in discovering in this more recent history an antidotal aesthetics, an emergent, integrative theory of art making and experience, cutting across and connecting all media and cognitive modes in one total field of potentials, which I call Intermedia. And I am interested in evaluating this phenomenon in culture against the psychopathologizing climate of cognitive capitalism, in an age of permanent and growing crisis.
– Intermedia as a cultural project, emerging in modern European art and theory and reaching its totality in US experimental art and popular media culture by about the 70’s, after which Intermedia is available to cultural producers in its generality, as a total field of resources, resetting the condition of cultural reception/production at the dawn of the digital age, where new media worlds will require new dimensions of medial embodiment.
– Intermedia as an event in history of art and aesthetics, demanding an integrative reformulation of genre and media categories, a new integrative (multi-modal) theory of reading, inscription and literacy, and hence a global, code-agnostic, interlingual theory of language.
– The promise/significance of intermedia in light of the cognitive sciences, and in particular of the field of radical embodied cognitive science, drawing the full (somatic/enactive) implications of an integrated, embodied, cognitive aesthetics.
– The promise/significance of intermedia in light of current (media-enabled) regimes of biopower, and the accompanying psychopathologies of everyday life under cognitive capitalism.
The project is organized into a suite of 5 horizons, lines of sight pointing towards new possibilities aligned by artists in experimental practice between two or more media. Each horizon reveals and actualizes unique potentials for art practice, while nudging the aesthesis, the aesthetic sense and reasoning involved in either the creation or reception, up to steadily higher levels of integration, eventually opening the concept of intermedia up to its (+/-) totality. Aligning the arts and sciences of verbal language with the resources and constraints of visual representation: visual poetics and visual language more generally. Sensing the full-body push+pull of visuality, even in the flattest of visual representations: kinaesthetic visuality. Recognizing the dynamic, neuromuscular phenomenology underlying thinking: moved thought. Bridging the staged aesthetic representation (in whatever medium) with the open-frame existential situation: lived event. And filling the volume, thickening the span that subtends between body and building: architectural body.
Each horizon is explored as a vectored field within US art history between the 1950s and now. Each of these fields is based in a milieu of intermedial experimentalism (visual poetry, minimalist painting and installation, experimental dance, happenings and experimental architecture), pointing through its own history to an aspect of our situation today, where the potentials of all media and all media combinations are available in an unprecedented integration, both technological and cognitive, characterizing aesthetic practice today. And each of these lines of sight, traversing the same US history of the post-WWII generations, casts new light on ways forward with aesthetic practice, evolving to confront and surpass the pathologizing developments of media society under the consolidating reign of cognitive capitalism and its many crises.
1 – Visual Language -the horizon from the collage language of early modernists to the visual poets and media artists of the 60s/70s; examining the horizon opened by visual poetry onto the fact that all visual information is available for use in doing language, and making poetry. Studying the meaning making happening in reading visuals, and how to write them, a study visual poetry encourages and enhances, teaching us a lot in a world where discourse and power increasingly embody as utterances within a densely layered and cross-patched, post-textual, visual culture. Authors of reference: Dick Higgins, Steve McCaffery
2 – Kinaesthetic Visuality – examining the horizon implied in the obsessive spatial theorizations of early modern abstractionist artists, as well as in the science of visual communication as its bases were laid at Vkhutemas and the Bauhaus. Klee, Kandinksy, Malevitch, El Lissitzky, Itten, Bayer, Kepes, etc. at times in their language ascribed to painting nearly tractor-beam-like powers over the physical body of the viewer. In the US from the 50s, Abstract expressionism, minimalism and Op Art all worked with this consciously and experimentally. With Arakawa and Madeline Gins, New York artists busy from 1962 till their deaths in 2010 and 2014 exploring such questions to their extremes, the study of such issues gained a name. Kinaesthetic graphicality is one dimension of the power poetry gains in expanding to work in visuals, and one with dramatic implications if followed out along the trans-medial path it naturally projects in practice.
3 – Moved Thought – the horizon from Klee’s Thinking Eye, updated with our age’s eye-tracking-savvy cognitive science industry
4 – Lived Event – the horizon from situationist event logic to the aesthetic argument of the happening
5 – Architectural Body –
Period This project focuses on US avant-garde art scenes in the decades after WWII, with reference to their European counterparts. This period of ferment (1950s-1970s) set within an American social history with very particular dynamics, worked out to its extremes the notion of intermedia, a legacy of the early 20th Century European avant-gardes. The idea of crossing media (in the sense of cross-breeding rather than just pairing; intermedia as Dick Higgins distinguishes it from just mixed media) was a popular speculative venture of the early modern avant-garde, aiming for ever more radical artistic means in an age of capitalist urbanization, commercializing media and imperialist war. The post-WWII decades in the US, hosting a boom of avant-gardist experimentation alongside the busy basis-laying of our current hypermediated, cognitive capitalist, security and control society, saw every existing kind of intermedia re-discovered, and every non-existing kind invented and developed, bringing the notion of intermedia as a cultural project to what I call its totality. This totality is our precondition in encountering our contemporary media reality, and in continuing our search for new margins of efficacy down new horizons of medial blending and recombining.
General Research Program:
INTERMEDIA AND EMBODIMENT – Ambitions of Speculative Aesthetics under the Crises of Cognitive Capital
INTRO: INTERMEDIALITY – The Great Wager of Experimental Aesthetics
The Becoming-Total of Intermedia in US avant-gardes of the 1950s-’70s
Ch 1: VISUAL LANGUAGE
From Concrete to Visual Poetics – first implications of intermedia: the eye-mind interface
Ch 2: KINAESTHETIC VISUALITY
From Gestalt Abstraction to Phenomenological Minimalism: the eye-body interface
Ch 3: SOMATIC SIGNIFICANCE
Matter, Contact and Presence in New Aesthetic Practices: the body-mind interface
Ch 3: SPECULATIVE SOCIAL MESSAGING
Happenings and Street Action: the body-society interface
Ch 4: ARCHITECTURAL POETICS
Installation Arts and the Potentials of Discursive Architecture
Ch 5: PROCEDURAL AESTHETIC STRATEGIES
Built Discourse in a Procedural Framework: the efficacies available to procedural aesthetic practice
Ch 6: ENACTIVISM
Speculative Embodied Practices for Urgent Social Efficacy
CONC: EMBODIED INTERMEDIALITY – FOR A CRISIS EFFICACY AESTHETICS
Research Overview: (early sketch)
This project explores how avant-garde developments in the US of the 60s and 70s brought to totality (+/-) a trend in aesthetics and art history towards the fullest possible crossing, combining and interblending of different media, genres and modes of reception. Intermedia. What art history intuited many times in various forms, and what the famous early modern avant-garde took as one of their principal fields of speculation and practical research (e.g. in visual poetry, photomontage composition, display installations and cinematic montage), the Intermedial bonanza that was the art scene in New York in the 60s and 70s, fed by and feeding currents in Europe, pushed and pulled to its extremes, maximizing the explicitation of all medial potentials in an integrative aesthetics and aesthetic practice. The field of medial craft for a cultural producer was opened through this sustained season of experiment in a comprehensive way. The digital age, offering the amplification of a whole new universe of implicit worlds in the proliferation of new media, dawns in a context prepared for in a recent art history seeking to think to its end (and beyond its limits) the question of how we can mediate, materialize and/or embody our (poetic/artistic) meanings.
Intermedia as a cultural project comes into the fullness of its implications in the great genre ferment of the 1960’s and 70’s in the US, centered in New York avant-garde literary and art scenes, fed by and feeding European trends but working in a unique host environment, Manhattan of the 60s and 70s.
The cultural economy of genre and media classifications was being challenged and boldly overthrown, making way for new kinds of effort at impacting the social through creative utterance: the all-around of installations, the aliveness of performance, the involvedness of happenings. Efficacy is what artists were after who went exploring the intermedial potentials of their craft, capacity and impact.
The cultural project of Intermedia aimed for the optimisation of aesthetic practice from mono-medial to intermedial modalities, for the sake of speaking more effectively, more all-aroundly in the full ambit of communicative channels available, or in the judicious use of a particular pairing or counterpoint. The medial field these practices open up for investigation (this investigation pursued either in practice or in theory, which is a mode of practice) is enormous, material for an exciting art history, paralleling the same history in visual culture and popular media.
As a whole, however, the significance of Intermedia as a range of options open in all utterance, today potentiated by the vast technological offering of our society, forces us further, to a realization of how completely enmeshed we are with the mediation, and the degree to which our body and our devices are one. An adequeate aesthetics of intermedia (based on a theory of reading as sense-making in any medium or sense modality) brings us to a necessarily somatic formulation of aesthetics. The full organism of perception and sense making, in communities and networks, is all-in active in all acts of perceiving or thinking, especially reading, or can and should be.
The becoming-total of intermedia as an implication in the field of creative endeavor, the everything-is-media moment we can peg to sometime in the early 1970’s, involves simultaneously the call to achieve an integrative consciousness of our being medial, integrating the fragmentative and multiple frames of parallel processing into a single media body, based on an original, animal body capacitated through versatilities native in the one body to manage the abstractions and simultaneities underlying the other.
How early experimentation in word/image interaction leads to a full-body theory of everything happening, we will see in the course of this study.
The project will use an art-historical excursus through contemporary artistic avant-gardism to come to an up-to-date analysis and critique of our being medial today, as a well as a review of the proposals for coming through the information crisis via better modes of mediation and embodiment.
Other Books in this Field:
Media Poetry: an International Anthology, ed. Eduardo Kac, Chicago: Intellect/University of Chicago Press, 2007.
Coleridge – “Intermedia”
Apollinaire – “New Spirit”
Mallarmé – “Un coup de dés”
Valéry -on Mallarmé
Moholy-Nagy – “TypoPhoto”
Dick Higgins – “Intermedia”
Charles Bernstein –
Steve McCaffery – “Interdisciplinary Poetics”
Madeline Gins/Arakawa – “Coordinology”
text for quick-pitching the project: