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June 5, 1970

Ah, but it does make sense So says this critic


If you apply the standards of conventional wisdom to what Intermedia is all about you may well end up scratching your head, mumbling: "it doesn't make any sense to me."

If you have participated in the 12 Intermedia days at the Vancouver Art Gallery, trying to understand what was going on there without forgetting your old concepts of art, music, dance and artistic creativity, you may still have no clue as to what Intermedia is and what its aims are.

And if you have tried to gain immediate insight into the phenomenon Intermedia by talking to one of its members you will likely be as baffled as before slinked right past you, reading aloud after that member from a department store catalogue.

Yet Intermedia, in all its esoteric elusiveness, is up to great things. In a recent submission to the Donner Foundation it presented a proposal for the expansion of the Concept and Facilities of Intermedia.

The proposed one year budget starting this month (June) is $155,000. The application for a grant is prefaced with this:
"Step out on to the planet.
Draw a circle 100 feet around.
Inside the circle there are 300 things.
Nobody understands and , maybe nobody's
Ever even seen.
How many can you find?".

So what is Intermedia, this loosely structured organization which began to function in 1967?

The submission spells it out more or less clearly: "...with the assistance of the Koerner Foundation, the Vancouver School of Art, Simon Fraser University, material supplies from industry and operating grants from the Canada Council, painters sculptors film-makers, dancers, musicians. technicians, behavioral scientists, teachers and others have been exploring possibilities of artistic expression by combining the various disciplines in relation to available equipment."

In plain words, Intermedia is groping in the dark, searching for "new forms of multimedia communication and examples of experiments incorporating technology and art."

At present, Intermedia is located in a storefront on Forth Avenue, cramped for space. Film-makers edit their films there sound men edit their tapes, artists sculpt and sculptors paint, everybody is busy and no visitor ever understands what is going on.

How tangible are the events presented by Intermedia at the art galleries here, in Victoria and Edmonton, at universities in B.C. and Alberta? There are impressions — sometimes vague, sometimes more definitive — that visitors can take home and think about.

Impressions of underground films, of electronic sound experiments, of flickering images, of dancers who don't dance in the orthodox sense, poets reading their work in almost inaudible voices, of bizarre behavior (Intermedia poets ripping pages from the dictionary, handing them out to the audience) — are these impressions tangibles or intangibles?

All this may appear a little vague for some spectators. Yet there is a hard core of activity at Intermedia with very down to earth programs, such as the Intermedia Film Distribution Co-op, set up in 1969 , providing a rental outlet for locally produced 16 mm films. A catalogue is being printed.

Intermedia artists — more than thirty — have exhibited and performed at the now defunct Racetrack Gallery, an offshoot of the Vancouver Art Gallery. An Intermedia road show is planned for a tour of the Interior of B.C.

The key to the Intermedia puzzle lies in it's loose structure, in the fact that anyone — well, not everyone unless he is a bona fide artist — can use Intermedia's facilities, materials and resources to help an artist create a project, be it film, sound tape, geodesic dome, sculpture, whatever.

Intermedia has a nucleus of artists: Gary Lee Nova, Glen Lewis Maxine Gadd, Judith Coppithorne, Dallas Selman, Gerry Gilbert, Helen Goodwin, Ed Varney, Dennis Vance, Gathie Falk and many more.

There experiences don't always pay off in the sense of being accomplished works of art. That is not in the nature of experiments. But Intermedia is for them a common meeting ground where ides are born in long, sometimes agonizing sessions. Ideas which are then either discarded or developed into projects such as the recent Intermedia Spring Show at the Gallery.

The future of Intermedia is another matter.

"Artists now want to expand the area for their activities to include projects in communications, learning processes and community environment," the submission states.

Intermedia artists want more say in the initial conceptions of public projects such as airports, freeways, town planning, media uses, land displacement, use of streets and processes in education and communications.

They are convinced they can "add to the features of society we so often take for granted." Intermedia has been asked for information about media problems and from projects from all over Canada.

Thus, according to the submission, " there is an urgent need to centralize the storage and dissemination of information ranging from technical data to examples of media application in print, film and tape form."

The authors believe that" organizations would heartily welcome the exploration of new media concepts if they would not have to provide all the equipment and resource personnel out of their own pockets."

The submission goes into detail about Intermedia's plans and documents painstakingly every new area to be explored.

If the Donner Foundation grants Intermedia the required funds, new personnel would be hired to carry out the ambitious proposals for media language workshops, projects in institutions, communications and experiments and models for video processes: i.e a business manager, a technician and an additional secretary, and the necessary resource persons for the projects.

Intermedia has great ambitions. For three years its contributing artists have spent hundreds of hours working on projects within the loose structure called Intermedia. Most of them get by on poverty-level budgets and on occasional, individual Canada Council grants.

Intermedia is the 1970 equivalent of Canada's Group of Seven; more ambitious more broadly ranged, more concerned about all aspects of life, and more determined to change our way of artistic conception and participation than that Group of Seven painters ever were.


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