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August 15, 1969

About Art...


This summer more of the theories around which Intermedia has grown have been put into play. Play, not practice.

What is sometimes dismissed as "just messing around" or as frivolous and a waist of opportunities is in fact fundamental to the theory.

With communication and leisure taken as the two keys to an understanding of contemporary society, what better way than play to re-engage people with that society?

Long before J.K. Galbrath, David Reisman, Buckminster Fuller and the theater of commitment, alienation from the urban scene was fraught.

The marketplace, the soap-box, public entertainment of all kinds; different cultures have had different solutions. But Canada has no culture traditions, and an urban situation which grew over night with them is gloomier than most.

Now that the problem has been identified as such, it may be too late, maybe only the surface might be scratched, flowers planted in the slum.

Intermedia would do the planting. It seems to be taking its social position very seriously, to be fascinated with its role as cultural entrepreneur. Some of its discoveries may come slowly and seem a bit naive, but thats probably the consequence of operating as a group, and optimism prevails.

At the new center on 4th Avenue a "better sense of community" is developing, and there's much more contact with "outsiders." "How do you measure progress?" asks Werner Aellen its director.

"For us , its not been a linear progression of ideas or artistic development." Ideally you could say that our changes of attitude have reflected changes in the environment."

This is a big claim which can only be justified by success of the various projects carried out in the environment this summer.

"Art as set piece, as self advertisement has come to an end." Perhaps an over-statement , but its a tendency which Intermedia finds itself much in sympathy.

Away from the individual and towards the communal. . . that's a change in attitude and environment? There are others, like the readiness of the Vancouver public to cooperate in street theater and other spontaneous events, in fact to play.

"Our first period is over," says Aellen. "We've brought things to a certain level of execution, and individuals have acquired information and experience as they never would have without Intermedia."

Bob Arnold added, "I don't think we are sacrificing our identity to the communal thing so much as bringing our own identity to it. There's a different situation for every person involved."

As Intermedia's reputation grows so do the number of commissions. A lot of those have been met by a collective effort, described as "a willing and effective collaboration in the true sense, both in conception and execution."

Plans for participation in Calgary University's Mediaseminar and an exhibition at the Musee d'ArtContemporarain in Montreal in 1970 are going this way. All this involves Intermedia with and groups with whom they might not normally be in contact. This makes for a broadening social spectrum in which to work, and moves away from the closed club threat.

or instance, Intermedia was responsible for the decor for the recent Trudeau banquet at the Seaforth Armoires.

The Prim Minster himself admitted that he'd never seen anything like it, and his experience of the fossilized conventions that surround formal entertaining should be conclusive. For many of the guests it would be an opportunity to experience the sort of environment, the mixing of media, the imaginative use of technology, which is familiar to their children from pop concerts, discotheques, and the rest.

Film and slides were projected onto screens around the room. Some of the screens were made of vertical one inch strips of plastic to fragment the images. Stop signs filmed by Jack Dale and Mike de Courcy's shots of people in the streets.

The lights glowed through rainbow plastic, balloons printed with Mounties floated above the tables; an elk head trophy was festooned with fruit and flowers and Trudeau spoke from a silver mylar dais.

Over it all was the "soundtrack"; the noise of trucks, planes, waves and restaurant put together by Dennis Vance, and Gerry Gilbert's rural noises.

Actual Intermedia projects of this kind absolutely require people with technological know-how to order the work ; and bridging the gaps between the media, between the forms, was after all the origin of the McLuhanesque concept.

There is room for a lot more technological experiment here, but it is interesting and symptomatic to see that in Vancouver Intermedia has come to be defined as involving people and their environment rather than Art and techniques.

"We are very people- oriented. Everybody is an artist, and just about everything is art" is a widely held concept. The provision of little events "that give people a chance to express themselves" is taken as a very important function.

So there was the a Lunatic event, while the men were on the moon, with green cheese and moon dance on the beach, messages sent up by balloon, etc. They happen all the time. The spontaneous efforts, quite apart from the well supported scheduled performances, by various "living Theater" and mime troupes throughout the city are doing the same thing.

Gathy Falk and Glen Lewis are two artists whose association with Intermedia has been very important to other members. Their pieces, though they may involve other people, are performances with a unique and calculated flavor. There effectiveness no doubt prompts a lot off the other ad hoc "participations" that go on.

A good chance for some of these is provided this month on the vacant lot at robson and Burrard where a dome is being erected and invitations given to artists, musicians, civic groups, theater groups and anyone else, to do whatever they like for the instant but free audience of the street.

It was thought by the benefactors of the scheme, that is the owners of the lot, that there are more people with ideas than there are opportunities for them to do something with them; so all through August here it is.
Behind it is Galbraith's comment that the city "must be much less of a playing field for the exercise of economic talent and more of a household with concern for the well-being of all members."

If this concern continues to grow in Vancouver then Intermedia can be sure that it has fulfilled at least one of its aims, in making it a better space for people.

"We've brought things to a certain level of execution."


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