Introducing INTERMEDIA – INTERARTS – INTERSENSES

Interart Studies has established itself as a field wherein scholars from a variety of disciplines analyze the connections between different art forms, based on historically and culturally divergent concepts of mono- and intermediality. Intermediality, in turn, denotes interrelated strategies of different media designs: they generate new forms of production and reception modes. These modes amount to more than the awareness of accumulated media at play. They point to a new era of convergences, both with regard to production and reception that have become part of everyday processes. They are at the forefront of the arts, of advertising, social, and broadcasting media, and of research that spans the humanities and the natural sciences.

The notion of intermediality comprises media production strategies and intersensorial perception modes simultaneously. This correlation and interdependency is, as of yet, barely accounted for in Interart Studies, excepting a few notable models such as Caroline A. Jones’s concept of “sensorium”: it relates sensorial perception to cultural mediation. Intersensorial perception, nonetheless, is currently emerging as an innovative area in various academic and arts disciplines, and in the private sector, showcasing new phenomenological approaches and communication processes.

At this instance, the interrelation of the arts, media, and of sensory perception modes presents a multitude of questions yet to be discussed. While the various approaches inspired by phenomenology and experiential aesthetics, for example, emphasize a mode of “immediate” perception, media studies still think of perception as inherently influenced by media technologies (in the anthropological sense developed by Marshall McLuhan). Perception is considered exclusively mediated. Concurrently, the cognitive sciences also play an important role in developing epistemological models: new fields such as neuroaesthetics have emerged and attempt to access and explain aesthetic experience with scientific methods of quantification and assessment. Both approaches require critical thinking and analytic consideration, both within and without the academy.

Dick Higgins’s 1960s model of Intermedia:

higgins-intermedia

These threads of discussion point to a pivotal question: what sort of (new) epistemological models do we require to address convergences in production and perception? The most dominant ones still implicitly rely on the visual sense as THE perception paradigm. It seems, though, that we face increasing polarization: on the one hand, there is the idea of “embodied cognition,” related to the phenomenological concept of pre-conscious holistic sensing; on the other, there are the traditional models of visual, sometimes audiovisual, modes of perception, complemented by research in the cognitive sciences, that still prioritize the two senses Western cultures deemed epistemologically significant. Meanwhile, the attention to other forms of perception has increased – thanks to the topical developments in the arts (e.g. interactive installation art) and to shifts in research and analysis that include alternative and equivalent ways of knowing. The interdisciplinary debates on the meaning of synaesthetic ways of perception, for example, have intensified, freed of stereotypical readings that hark back to the 19th century. And the cultural and cerebral meaning of the “lower” senses, most significantly tactility, taste and smell, has attracted heightened attention and scrutiny from different areas in the last few years.

These are only a few of the topics under discussion in this blog. The blog itself presents an initiative by Anke Finger (University of Connecticut, USA) and Christiane Heibach (Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design, Germany). It serves three functions:

a)    to provide access to international research, resources, and other relevant products within the field of interart studies;

b)   to put scholars, artists, and the general public into dialog with each other (in a weekly update we will discuss new books, provide links for related events – conferences, exhibitions, performances, talks, media, etc.), and

c)    to provide short comments on relevant topics, inviting our readers to participate in and engage with this new era of convergences.

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