something introductory: Intermediality vs Multimedia

February 4, 2008

One hundred years ago the modernist tendency thrust itself upon western society through one keen shift in the way the act of creation was approached. Modernist artists discovered the uniqueness of the media in which they worked and exploited those differences in order to define their styles. With the trend of self-criticism, artist such as Pablo Picasso were able to approach three dimensional presentations through a lens that only a painting can recreate, cubism. Music saw composers like Igor Stravinsky who sought to redefine musical composition by experimenting with dissonance and narrative composition. Lastly in literature writers like Virginia Wolff and Franz Kafka used the narrative form of expression itself to aid their narrative styles of storytelling. From an observational point of view cubism and Kafka share very little, but when looking at how both Picasso and Kafka approached their work, they become similar in that they used what makes the medium unique. Medium specificity established the course of art for the twentieth century, paving the way for the convergence of media in the internet age of the twenty-first century.

The modernist course of art has evolved into the contemporary, postmodernist art world of today. Speaking generally, and utilizing postmodernist tendencies, the walls erected by modernism in exploring the specificity of media are being knocked down as the focus of exploration shifts from what is unique to what is shared. New works of art are exploring the relationship between media rather than the characteristics unique to each medium. Peter Greenaway’s The Pillow Book best emphasizes this new exploration. The film can be described as a visual representation of literature. The film uses literary tools to communicate while also transforming language into a visual art. The premise of the film revolves around a fledgling writer seeking to stake her claim in the publishing world. Frustrated by the rejection from her late father’s publisher, and lover, she seeks to use the publisher’s new lover in order to manipulate the publisher into publishing her work. She manipulates both the publisher and the lover by seducing the lover and using his body to transmit her text to the publisher. Thus the audience is given both a cinematic narrative between the three characters as well as secondary references to this literary narrative being created and distributed via a human body. The film uses, as its language of communication with the audience and with the characters, the written form in multiple languages. This form is presented visually, not aurally, and does not provide translation when presented in a foreign language. Ultimately the text in the film is not presented to be read by the audience but rather to be viewed. The characters, however, see the visual text as literature and seek to own it as quickly as possible. Were a text made cinematic it would not be interpreted for cinema like the multiple adaptations of classical literature currently popular in American cinematography, but rather it would be transformed into the cinematic image. Joy Sisley in an essay on the intermediality of The Pillow Book suggests “that as a radical mediation of writing The Pillow Book not only upsets a conventional separation of word and image as two separate entities and mutually exclusive media, but also figuratively closes the conceptual gap between word and image by reminding us that writing is a visual medium” (Literary Intermediality, 36).[1]  By closing the gap between word and image The Pillow Book skates the line between literature and film. Now it is very apparent as to which side of the line this “film” falls on, but nonetheless there are elements of the film that are more reflective of a literary narrative, such as the lack of any one character describing that which is written on numerous bodies throughout the film. The film’s inspiration is a real book written by Sei Shonagon at the end of the 10th century in imperial Japan. Shonagon’s pillow book was a journal of sorts where she kept detailed lists, comparisons, poetry and various other entries she felt a need to remember. The movie pays homage to this text through paying homage to the literary tradition. By emphasizing the visual aspects of literature, this film acknowledges the intermediality between the two forms of art. The essence of the book is preserved literally through the words on the body, while the film narrative seeks to create a relationship between text and image.

The late 20th century saw an increased focus in this intermediality with the rise of adaptations as well as new original works. It is very easy to brush off adaptations as unoriginal works of art reflective of a financially driven industry, but it is naïve to suggest that these reinterpreted narratives do not provide their own “original” elements. Take for example A Charlie Brown Christmas animated short, the first animated version of the famous Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz. Today the film and its soundtrack, composed by Vince Guaraldi, are seen as synonymous with Charlie Brown himself. But the original Peanuts comic strip was only a comic with no musical accompaniment. Once the Peanuts characters were combined with Guaraldi’s music, a relationship formed that transformed the narrative for a new medium, television, giving it a whole new depth and perspective. This new version is not a stand alone television special however, its style of story telling is completely reflective of the comic strip character that originated the story, thus it is a hybrid animation created through the combined processes of comic narrative styles and animated. auditory elements. The idea of retelling a narrative through a new medium is not a new concept; artists have been visualizing mythical narratives for centuries. But the way in which these different medium interpretations are interacting is. For example when the NBC television drama, Heroes premiered in the fall of 2006 it was accompanied by an online graphic novel that was published once a week, with the airing of every new television episode. The comic described back stories to the characters featured in the series while foreshadowing events to come. The comic was not a retelling of the show but rather it added additional narratives to the ones featured on screen. While it helped to advance the narrative it also reflected the intermediality of the show itself, a cinematized comic strip. Though the show’s narrative was completely original, it was inspired by earlier comic strips such as Superman and X-Men. Thus in the late age of modernism or rather in the age of postmodernism, media are integrating to evolve the narratives they are telling; giving The Lord of the Rings trilogy a cinematic equivalent complete with theme music or showing the tragic hero behind the wicked witch of the west from The Wizard of Oz in Wicked.

On the other side of this push towards intermediality is the immersion of a new medium of artistic expression, the computer and more specifically the internet. Thus far the medium of the internet has been mostly used to present preexisting art to a wider audience. The medium specific art for such a tool is still be debated, the argument of the artistic merit of video games and websites has not come to a close just yet. But it is important to understand that too many who are exploring the artistic potential of blogs and the internet at large do believe to a certain extent that the creativity behind the creation of a webpage deserves the same kind of respect as the artists who use brushes and canvas to express themselves. What can be agreed upon is the artistic potential of such a tool. The internet, using the computer as its tool for communication, acts as a fully interactive virtual space where anything from a painting, song to even video clip can be transmitted. This versatility allows it to be extremely adaptable to our growing desire for intermediality. As mention above, the NBC television show, Heroes, used the internet to publish its graphic novel that accompanied the show’s weekly airing. This novel could have been put into print, in fact in its online form it used many of the signature characteristics of graphic novels in print, such as the thought bubbles and organizational structure, the latter of which does not aide an internet reader in following the narrative. Because they placed this graphic novel online there were able to present it in multiple forms: a printable version, an interactive version, and an animated version. Each version of the comic told the same story but used different attributes to tell it, attributes that before the internet would have been considered medium specific. The internet as it is being used in the year 2008 (this distinction is extremely important as the uses and design of the internet are very rapidly changing in its ever growing popularity) has defined the idea of multimedia. Therefore the concept of an internet based artwork utilizing multiple media to present the creative idea is neither unique to blogs nor does it originate from them. But as we will see blogs have served a crucial role in expanding the concept of the internet’s multimedia capabilities.

[1] Literary Intermediality, 36


Post #50, a scene without answer

December 25, 2007

Well here has come my fiftieth post. And that is all there is to that now is there.


So what more to the score must now be added, well that is where we are at hand.


This blog promotes the discussion, appreciation, critical analysis, and in general culture and communication of art and the world it lives in, namely this world.


So for this fiftieth post I say happy holidays and a wonderful new year.


For myself I want to thank those that have engaged in my discussions and present this:


A scene without answers:

ACT ONE A simple conference room with three tables set up in a box like formation, the missing side of the box is the side closest to the audience. Each table has two chairs on the outer side all with filled. Behind the table to the back, parallel with the audience, on the wall lies a reproduction of Frank Stella’s The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, II. On either side of the painting are two large windows both open with the curtains tied back. The view from the windows is that of a clear blue sky, the room is a few floors up and its view is not blocked by any other buildings.. The rest of the room has a simple design, reflecting its sole purpose as a place for conference and discussion. There is a table off to one side fitted with coffee and refinements while each table has a pitcher of water and glasses. The room is lit from over head resembling simple yet formal lighting.             Behind the back table sits F. STELLA and N. M. C., they are talking and shuffling through papers. F. STELLA is an older man, but clearly not an old man who has found a casual formal dress which, he thinks, makes him look like a chic urbanite. N. M. C. is clearly an older man with an air of importance. He has decided for this preliminary meeting to wear the traditional judge outfit, even though it is not necessary. It is in his opinion that those in attendance must show him that respect, for him the clothes help achieve that. Sitting behind the table to stage-right is MATHIAS and UNDERSTUDY AS MATHIAS REPRESENTATION, MATHIAS REPRESENTATION is very much engaged in his conversation with MATHIAS who seems to be much less interested and keeps staring off stage. MATHIAS appears to be a middle-aged not in his prime anymore though. He is wearing a somewhat beat up suit, it’s the only formal outfit he has. MATHIAS REPRESENTATION is of younger appearance and is dressed in a newly purchased formal outfit, very proud of it.  Behind the table across from them sits MEMORY and UNDERSTUDY AS MEMORY REPRESENTATION. Both of them are not in any kind of discussion but are staring rather angrily at MATHIAS. MEMORY, like MATHIAS is just coming out of the prime of her life, the most formal outfit she has is her “Sunday best” for church, which is what she has on now. Her representation, like MATHIAS’S is wearing a newly bought formal suit; it appears as if the two representations have a little bit of a competition going on. Lastly, behind the window to stage-right is NAIRD-NOM standing on scaffolding cleaning the window. NAIRD-NOM is in full uniform for the job and appears to be an older man who has found the one job that doesn’t have a retirement age.             Directorial note: If the dialog of this act is to be changed by the direct it must still follow the production constraint designed by the playwright, every line must be a question. 

            MEMORY (to MATHIAS). What is it you’re looking at…my dear?

            MATHIAS (without turning to face her). What does it matter to you?

            F. STELLA (to everyone). Do you guys want to finish this or not?

            N. M. C. (after checking his watch). Are you all aware of the time? Can we move onto custody of the children?

            MATHIAS REPRESENTATION. Do you really think we can resolve that question today?

            MEMORY REPRESENTATION. And why do you think we can’t?

            MATHIAS REP (now annoyed with the question). Can we leave the children for tomorrow’s meeting? Don’t you think we’ve argued enough today?

            MEMORY. Why are you so keen on postponing this discussion? Judge, isn’t it obvious that I should have custody of the children? Did he, (points to MATHIAS) not demonstrate through his actions a lack of responsibility?

            MATHIAS (focusing back onto the argument). Are you suggesting that this one incident is enough to ignore the years of service I have given our children?

            MEMORY. What service?

            MATHIAS. How can you say that?

            F. STELLA (to MEMORY). Is there a way we can work around absolute custody of the children? Judge (turns to face N. M. C.) don’t you think that custody is too serious of an issue for this preliminary conference?

            N. M. C. (with a pondering expression). Is it possible for us to discuss the incident in its entirety today?

            MATHIAS (a little puzzled). You want me to tell you the story of my transgressions?

            N. M. C. Don’t you think it will help your case in my eyes if we all can get the incident in question out into the open?

            MATHIAS. And what relevance does my story have with the division of assists?

            MEMORY (very annoyed with MATHIAS’s attitude). You think it has no relevance?

            MATHIAS. What relevance does it have?

            MEMORY REP. You tell us?

            N. M. C. (to MEMORY REP). But on the other hand, don’t you think his account of it will be bias?

            MEMORY REP. Is there another account of the incident? (To MEMORY). Wasn’t your late uncle with Mathias when it happened? What’s his name again? Edouard?

            MEMORY. Are you sure it’s not R. G.?

            MATHIAS. What does he have to do with this?

            F. STELLA. Was he here with you during the time of your affair?

            MATHIAS. And if he was?

            F. STELLA. Shouldn’t his account of what happened be inspected?

            N. M. C. Do we have a home or mailing address for the fellow?

            MEMORY. Judge, you didn’t hear that he died last year?

            N. M. C. Did he really? How will we ever move forward without him? Do you have access to any of his records?

            MEMORY REP (proudly). Aren’t his personal journals on file at the Museum?

            MEMORY (a little surprised). Are they?

            N. M. C. (impatiently). Mr. Stella can you get us a copy of his journal?

            F. STELLA (Standing up). Can you handle them without me?

            N. M. C. (chuckling). Can you hurry?

 (F. STELLA stands, takes one last look at the group of people all with frustrated expressions, he exists stage-right and on his way out waves to the window washer who waves back, excitedly.) 

N. M. C. (annoyed as he turns back to face the group). Okay everyone, can we try at least to get through some more of these proceedings while we wait for the journal?

MATHIAS REP (with an air of procedure). Shall we move to the marital assists then?

N. M. C. (looking to the rest of the group). Are there any objections?

MATHIAS REP (very pretentiously). Now MEMORY, did you work during the marriage?

MEMORY (annoyed at the question). Don’t you know the answer?

MATHIAS REP. Can you give it for the record?

MEMORY REP (very annoyed). Why do we have to get into this? Wasn’t her job to take care of the children? Do you not think that that is a full time job in itself? How can you accuse my client of not doing her part?

MATHIAS REP (Proudly). Should we take that as a no?

MEMORY (frustrated but calm). What do you think?

MATHIAS REP. Does that not entitled my client to 100% of the assists acquired during the marriage?

MEMORY. Do you think that without me he would have the same amount of assists?

N. M. C. Shall we leave the question of assists for when we have a marriage counselor again?

MATHIAS REP. And what, then, does the judge want to work out now?

N. M. C. (thinking to himself). Where are we in regards to the frequent flyer miles?

MATHIAS REP. Aren’t we nowhere?

MEMORY REP. Didn’t we decide that my client should have the miles?

MATHIAS REP. When did we decide that?

MEMORY REP. Are you accusing me of lying?


MEMORY REP. Judge, aren’t you going to stop these ridiculous outbursts?

N. M. C. (impatient, frustrated, and a little angry). Mathias representation, can we leave the arguing for after the discussion?

MATHIAS REP. You think I am willing to sit back and let this hack of a layer fuck over my client?

N. M. C. Are you seriously going to question my authority here? Now, can we get back on track?

MEMORY REP. Is the judge aware that the question of ownership over the miles was dealt with on a preliminary basis resulting in my client’s ownership of all the miles due to the fact that their origin came from the use of my client when visiting her dying uncle?

MATHIAS REP. Are you aware that it was my client who financed her trips, thus resulting in his ownership of the miles?

MEMORY REP. And are you aware that your client prevented my client from securing employment due to her responsibilities on the home front?


(Around this point MATHIAS will get extremely bored with the proceedings and get up and walk off stage, this will surprise the entire cast on stage as well as the window washer. This will end the current argument.)


N. M. C. (Stunned). Can you believe he just did that?

MATHIAS REP (also stunned). Does he not know that the scene is not over?

MEMORY REP. Is this not a great example of his irresponsibility?

N. M. C. (confused). Are you talking about the actor or the character?

MEMORY REP. Does it matter?

MEMORY (frustrated but confident). Judge, don’t you think we’ve had enough of this? Isn’t it best at this point to push this back just one more day?

N. M. C. (thinking it through). Does the legal representation support this motion? (He eyes both REPRESENTATIVES while asking the question).

MATHIAS REP. Do you think we should resolve the issue of this “Uncle’s journal” first? (MATHIAS REP. makes quotation movement with his hands).

MEMORY REP. How long do you think he will be? Is he really going all the way to the museum?

MATHIAS REP. Isn’t the museum way uptown?

MEMORY. Can we just store the journal here when Mr. Stella returns and examine it tomorrow?

N. M. C. (looking offstage). Are you serious? (Eyes the audience, and then turns back to who ever he is talking to offstage, he is receiving instructions through an earpiece). What should I say though?… But isn’t he supposed to come back tomorrow?… Why aren’t we gona do scene two?

MEMORY (looking offstage as well). We’re not doing scene two?

MATHIAS REP. Do they really want to make these changes?


(As the level of confusion amongst the characters rises, F. STELLA will return from stage-left, opposite side to which he left from. In his hands, he is holding an incredibly old and fragile journal, a very large document that looks to be at least one hundred years old. F. STELLA quickly finds his seat and eyes the other characters to get their attention.)


            F. STELLA (to everyone). Did you all miss me?

            N. M. C. (still confused). Did you find the journal?

            F. STELLA (holding up the old document). What does it look like?

            MEMORY REP. How did you get to the museum and back so fast?

            F. STELLA. What makes you think I went to the museum?

            MATHIAS REP. Isn’t that where you were going to go to get it?

            F. STELLA. Is that where I was supposed to go?

            N. M. C. (more confused than ever). You didn’t find that here did you?

            F. STELLA. Do you think I went all the way to the museum?

            N. M. C. We have a copy of his journal here? Why? How? Since when?

            F. STELLA. Wouldn’t it be best to read it for the purpose of this conference first, before going into how I got it here?

            N. M. C. (again looking at his watch). Shall we read it after a short recess?

            MEMORY REP (to MEMORY). Is that okay with you?

            MEMORY (to MEMORY REP). But we will go over it today, right?

            MATHIAS REP. Can we take a break first though? I mean, don’t you think it is best if we have Mathias here for the reading?

            N. M. C. (to everyone). So meeting back here in about twenty minuets? Does that work for everyone?

 (In silence they all nod and get up. MATHIAS REP, N. M. C., and F. STELLA exit stage-right while MEMORY and MEMORY REP exit stage-left. Upon their exit NAIRD-NOM , who has been quietly washing the one left window this entire time signals off stage-right with his hand and then the lights fade out and the curtain falls. This intermission will be no more than five minuets, just to change the set.)

Who owns the art?

December 18, 2007

I have been very distracted lately with finals and my thesis and have not been able to continue the discussion I and Everett have engaged in recently. Well I have time now and here is my response to his most recent post on the ownership of art.


Everett concludes his thoughts with:

“So what is left? The reader is not useful for the Art, for whatever personal growth he gains from a work, it is useful only to him; the Artist is only useful while writing– and only limitedly then, because he knows only partially what he is doing, sometimes less than that– leaving behind… what? In the end, all we are left with is the work itself, with its vast ambiguities and questions. And really, here is a central aspect of Art: ambiguity. It’s one of the significant distinctions between Art and Entertainment: Entertainment is inherently reductive. If we are to escape, we do not want to think about complex items: we want life simplified into a compact story, whether it is a comedy, a romance, an adventure. Entertainment succeeds when it does not challenge us: it may surprise us, but the surprises occur in a frame, so to speak. Spiderman is shocked– as are we– by the sudden arrival of an enemy, but it’s not that we didn’t expect an enemy….”


This has been a topic of our discussion for some time now, the role the artist and the reader play in defining art. Everett is of the opinion that the reader does not play a role in making it art, that is not to say that the reader is not important, far from it, but rather that the reader or viewer in the world of visual arts, is a critic following the establishment of the piece, therefore he does not partake in leveling it up to the world of art (if I am misunderstanding you let me know Everett). Here is where I have a problem with his argument. I agree that the artist is fundamental to the creation of the piece, but then we are left with that good old tree in the forest question. If the artist creates art and no one is around to see it, does it exist as art? My answer is no. It cannot be art without a viewer. At the same time I can easily be persuaded to say yes, especially if someone was to say that if they placed Guernica in the middle of the forest is it still art, yes obviously, but its artistic merit was already established before its placement in the forest. To me this goes back to when I was a physics major: you can’t measure what you can’t observe and by observing, you are altering what you observe. Thus I see the same in art, when we observe a piece we add to it, when we comment on it; we alter its existence and therefore redefine it.

Everett earlier brings up the interesting element of works of art that are “open” that is works that were or are never finished. But he suggests that they become finished upon the death of the writer, an obvious fact. However if I may suggest here that this the new power of blogs, here we have works of art that are both timeless in that they exist as long as there are contributors and interactive in that they are expanded upon by the involvement of the readers.


So for me as Everett did mention, art exists on its own, even the artist passed creation doesn’t own his art, he simply become another critic. But at the same time I return to my original idea which comes from the Reader-Response idea that Everett brought up; that art really exists in its interaction between the object and the observer, because each time that interaction happens it is different and when you replace either party, the interaction is different. Thus with this understanding we lose the categories of art and entertainment, it is up to each person to decide whether something falls in one or the other category, or neither.

Just some earlier (should be studying for my test) thoughts, sorry it took so long Everett to respond,