Intermedia are interdisciplinary art forms that fuse two or more genres into one work. Both intermedia and multimedia pieces mix visual, sound, performance and digital art into one piece. However, multimedia pieces juxtapose various mediums whereas intermedial pieces seek to become new mediums. Ultimately, when seeking to define “intermedia,” it’s helpful to remember its roots in Fluxus, an art movement that championed experimentation and a lack of fixity to preconceived notions of genre.
In 1965, Dick Higgins, founder of Fluxus and the Something Else Press, coined the term intermedia to describe fusions between art forms that he both witnessed and created during the 1960s. The spirit of play and experimentalism were particularly important concepts to the Fluxus movement for the potential to create new genres out of hybrid mediums. (Fluxus member Ken Friedman argues that film is an example of an intermedial hybrid that has become its own genre.) Fluxus artists working in print, such as Alison Knowles, pushed boundaries of book genres, thus paving the way for electronic literature some several decades later. Knowles’ 1967 project, “Big Book,” was an 8-feet tall, 16-page-long book complete with a tunnel, bathroom facilities, kitchenette and telephone-- essentially a book meant to fully immerse the reader and encourage her to read non-linearly.
Intermedial electronic literature, or hypertext fiction, became possible with the rise of computer culture in the 1980s and perhaps takes its namesake from the Brown University hypertext project called “Intermedia.” Early adopters of hypertext fiction include Michael Joyce’s 1987 afternoon, a story, Stuart Moulthrop’s 1992 Victory Garden and Shelley Jackson’s 1995 Patchwork Girl. More recently, intermedial electronic authors are using apps to create immersive, cross-genre narratives, such as Danny Cannizzaro and Samantha Gorman’s “film/game/novel” hybrid, 2015 Pry. As of 2019, over 100 art schools worldwide offer intermedia as a discipline with a digital emphasis. Moreover, digital intermedia is likewise rampant in popular contexts, such as the New York Times digital supplements and SCALAR, the open-source platform for digitally-born, long-form scholarship.
Friedman, Ken and Lily Diaz. “Intermedia, Multimedia and Media.” Adaptation and Convergence of Media: ‘High’ Culture Intermediality Versus Popular Culture Intermediality. Edited by Lily Diaz, Magda Dragu and Lena Eilittä. Aalto ARTS Books, 2018
Higgins, Dick. “Some Poetry Intermedia.” Intermedia, Fluxus and the Something Else Press: Selected Writings by Dick Higgins. Edited by Steve Clay and Ken Friedman. Siglio Press, 2018.