What is Intermedia?

A TERM most often attributed to Fluxus artists Hannah and Dick Higgins, ‘Intermedia’ refers to creative works that lie formally and conceptually between established media. It’s also the name we chose for the fourth production stream in the BA program in the Department of Communication Studies at Concordia University.

Officially launched in Fall 2007, the Intermedia production stream allows students to explore media and creative practices not directly covered in the three existing streams (ie Film, Sound, and Video). It also builds off these highly successful arenas of activity, actively engaging with theories and tools that have in some ways grown out of these long-established media.

Importantly, Intermedia embraces the analog and the digital; the residual and the emergent. For example, students in the first- and second-year courses have tackled graphic design and typography, illustration, rotoscoping, stop-motion animation, interactive narrative, database documentary, motion graphics, physical computing, and web design.

WHILE industry-standard tools such as Photoshop and AfterEffects are very important to this process, the emphasis in the classroom is fundamentally on ideas and process: on the ability of students to recognize and define communication problems, and then develop appropriate, novel solutions. The very best of these creative ideas will be truly intermedial, in the sense that they will be hybrid or liminal solutions. We use the term Intermedia as an ideal, then: an aspirational goal for the work we produce (rather than a hollow claim that we are somehow producing legions of baby Duchamps or Rauschenbergs).

Our well-maintained labs and competent teaching assistants ensure that students become familiar with the ‘usual suspects’ in terms of software (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, AfterEffects, etc) but, in the age of ‘The Adoborg’, it’s more important than ever that we also take time to explore free and open source authoring environments such as HTML/CSS, WordPress, Arduino, and the Korsakow System.

The Intermedia production stream has had a very successful continues to blossom, even garnering enthusiastic media attention for a first-year group assignment. Over the coming years the stream will continue to grow as a vibrant and challenging option within the Department of Communication Studies’ highly regarded BA program. There are two fulltime faculty teaching Intermedia, along with fantastic involvement and support from some of our talented limited term instructors. The two faculty members responsible for the direction and growth of Intermedia are: Professor Tagny Duff, a scholar, artist, and curator with extensive knowledge of the history of the intermedia arts movement in Canada. Professor Duff joined the Department in July 2009. She holds a BFA in Intermedia Studies, an MFA in Open Media, and is currently completing a PhD in Interdisciplinary Humanities Studies. Her work has been shown or performed internationally, and currently focuses on bio-art, or ‘wetware’. Professor Duff brings some much-needed energy and enthusiasm to the Intermedia stream, while complementing our existing expertise.

The other faculty member is Dr. Matt Soar, a filmmaker and designer, who has played a major role in setting up the Intermedia production stream, since his arrival at Concordia in 2003. Dr. Soar is co-developer of the Korsakow System, an opensource application for easily creating nonlinear, interactive narratives. Matt has an MA in Communication from Simon Fraser University and a PhD in Communication from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.