These citizens are behind a happy summer festival
by Ann Finkel
The artist working in new media today faces a problem of obtaining equipment and materials beyond his means, or which he is untrained to work with. art and technology are blending into new forms, and often several people of differing talents must work together to release a project. This situation prompted a group of artists and educators late in 1966 to establish a center where like themselves could explore "new spaces in the arts" - a sort of cooperative where resources could be pooled and equipment made available . Ultimately, the public could be involved by being exposed to the new creations that could help them better understand their environment.
The result was Intermedia. With the help of the Canada Council, the Koerner Foundation, the local universities and the Vancouver School Board, it is entering it's third year. t has not only given artists access to equipment, technical help and exhibition space, but the fact there is a place where people gather and rug shoulders has given rise to new ideas and combinations of talent: inter-media.
Werner Allen, now executive director, joined Intermedia last September, leaving a position with the National Film Board in Montreal. He has many ideas about where Intermedia can go, but emphasizes that it must stay flexible and responsive to change.
Werner Allen sees two major trends among the working members of the group ( actually there is no formal membership; a member is anyone who is interested in working with their facilities or sponsorship). The first trend is the " electric" - using new technology as art material ( neon lights, tape recorders vacuum form ). The other is the " humanistic " - aiming primarily towards interaction with audiences and the creation of environments, often using happenings or mime. Both tendencies are exemplified at their recent show, " Electrical Connection ", at the Vancouver Art Gallery, which had asked Intermedia to put it together and footed 60% of the cost. Which way this duality will resolve itself will have to be decided in the next few months - or the two trends could continue to coexist. Such problems are discussed at general meetings among active "members" , the board of directors (mostly the founders), and the management committee.
HOW IT WORKS
Intermedia works on an informal basis. A particular project may be initiated by an individual or a group of artists; the project may relate to equipment , materials or some sort of concrete performance. the project is discussed and an estimate is made of costs. A management committee of educators and artists then decides whether the proposal is worth while, and may assist with partial or full financing; in the case of performers, the committee tries to find audiences or spaces.
The particular facilities now available are now housed in four floors of a warehouse at 575 Beatty Street. Included are a printing shop, film cutting room and studio space. A move is planed for june to a place which would provide at least a performance area for the four groups now associated with Intermedia, as well as more space for other activities. These groups are: Helen Goodman and THECO., Ted Hicks' mime troupe, Dean Fogel and the Living Theater and a recently formed group of young people around high school age, who want to perform plays written by Vancouver playwrights. The living theater actually does improvised plays or mimes in the streets - for instance downtown during theater hours a group will line up next to the queue waiting for a movie and do a mime scene to try and make people more aware of what they are doing as well as entertaining them.
Another experiment is the film distribution system formed two months ago. It is a cooperative of Vancouver film makers and Intermedia arranges the distribution of their film throughout the west, as far south as Los Angeles. So far bookings have been heavy, indication a growing interest in experimental, non commercial film.
Intermedia has a definite roll to play within the Vancouver community , according to Werner Allen, as well as for the artists. He sees a need to reach a larger segment of the public than that involved in the Vancouver Art Gallery. Events held there are limited in their reception; people from the East End seldom show up. Yet many trades people are involved in the same specialized skills and techniques as the artists working in new media, but don't think of other uses for them. If they could be exposed even once to the work of artists using the same materials creativily, perhaps they would be inspired to work on their ownin some simaler direction; in any case, it gives a new perspective to these materials. A more centrally located series of events on occasional or permanent basis, at a place such as the PNE would make this possible.
In fact this summer a group of sculptors will be taking apart an old wrecked car with acetylene torches in the middle of the Gardens, and assembling it into sculpture. This should be an exciting thing for people to watch. In addition, Werner Allen has submitted twenty or so projects that could be set up there. The general manager of the PNE seems to be quite sympathetic to Intermedia. Allen thinks " this space should become a public forum," that people should be able to learn while having fun, as they did at Expo 67, instead of being deluged by a mass of commercial products they can see any day downtown. Community centers to, could widen their narrow "recreation" programs to include creative projects of this nature; Intermedia doesn't want to become "institutionalized" and monopolize all the activity - it merely hopes to initiate.
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