Opening up Worlds: Intermediality Reinterpreted. (Joki van de Poel)


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One of my most memorable experiences happened a few years ago in 2002. At the time I was taking modern art classes and my interest for modern art increased by the day. I had noticed there was an interesting exhibition in the Centraal Museum in Utrecht and I decided to go there. It was a solo exhibition by an artist named Pippilotti Rist. Her work comprises a mix of video installations and moving and static objects. She had access to the whole museum and had been able to use each room or space she liked. She used many of the rooms in the museum which normally house the permanent collection and integrated the collection with her own work which she did, in my opinion, quite successfully.


After spending a pleasant tour I most vividly remember the old chapel in the museum which was the last stop of the exhibition. Rist had made a special installation for this specific space. Part of what is now the museum used to be a (medieval) monastery and at present the old chapel is still in use and functions as an exhibition area. This medium size chapel was now the site for one of Rist's most impressive works. When entering the space the first thing one noticed was the all-penetrating scent of peppermint. A scent which even seemed to affect ones pores. The next thing I noticed was a very distinct sort of light which cast everything in hues of red, blue and green. This light was evoked by the patched cloths Rist had put over the long windows of the chapel. Furthermore there were video projections projected in motion throughout the whole space of the chapel. The videos either showed the artist herself dancing naked in some kind of meadow or they showed objects burning. Because the videos were not static one had to visually follow them in order to see what was shown. Next to the scent, light and videos there was sound which was a mix of singing and high pitched sounds. On top of that there was a section in the room where one could walk through see-through draperies which one could touch.


Being on that spot and perceiving all these sensations simultaneously made me (literally) nauseous. I experienced such a strong sense of confusion caused by the ‘overload’ of percepts that I quickly walked out of the room. Even though the room had such a strong effect on me I felt fascinated by what I had just experienced. Up to then I felt I was a relatively experienced person in perceiving alternative forms of arts. But now this installation, which in effect had a relatively simple set-up, had me completely thrown of my feet. A couple of months later I visited the installation for the second time and knowing what I was up to I had guarded myself for the visit. But it was to no avail, I experienced the installation in exactly the same manner as I did the first time. Again I became nauseous from all the impressions and again I had to flee from the room in order to calm down.


You might think I am a very sensitive girl and am easily affected but the friend I took with me the second time also experienced the room as overwhelming. It got me to thinking why this particular installation affected me so much, because if one came to think of it the elements in the exhibition were all more or less known to me. I was familiar with artistic video projections, I knew the smell of peppermint, I had touched draperies before and those sounds were not that peculiar. This installation made me reflect on our dealings with media in general. How do we perceive things, are we affected by them and in what ways do we interact with media? I use the word media because when I started reading into the matter, and doing some research on the topic I decided to adopt Marshall McLuhan’s notion of the medium. He stated that every extension of man is a medium (Understanding Media, 2003 p 7), meaning that every tool or complex of signs can be seen as a medium. It is a topic which I will extensively delve into in my first chapter. At the time his theory was quite revolutionary but I soon discovered his ideas were in fact very similar to Martin Heidegger’s theory on Dasein. Whereas Heidegger used the word tool (Zeug) in order to explain the supplementary relation between subject /object and the experiental domain[1] which is subsequently opened up in this meeting, McLuhan reinterpreted this relation (quite successfully I might add) with the concept of medium or mediation.


Still deliberating on the experience I had I came to realize I had entered a new experiental realm. A new realm which made me reflect on my general perception of things, about the combination of media and about the effect it had had on me. Why was it that this combination of media had such an effect on me, whereas other similar combinations never had? For in daily life we are bombarded with a multitude of sensorial percepts mediated by many forms of media.


It was around the same time I started studying (mainly) French difference[2] theory and was introduced to a new field of studies: Intermedia or Intermediality. The concept, or as we will later see in this in this thesis, the process of Intermediality is a relatively new and unexplored. Apart from the person who introduced the term in Modern Media Theory; Dick Higgins, so far only a few German (Werner Wolf, Jürgen Müller, Yvonne Spielmann) scholars did some research on the workings of Intermediality[3]. What I miss in their studies though, is analysis of the relation between subject and medium. They generally study Intermediality as something which only happens between different forms of media. In my opinion by just focusing on this part of Intermediality one misses other important aspects of Intermediality. One omits to take into the account the relation between subject and media combinations. Combinations between media generally are caused by human interaction with media and in turn media combinations can have strong influence on the way we perceive our world. In this thesis I will elaborate on these aspects which are also related to difference theory. I am not the first to do this, since Henk Oosterling, a philosopher on modern culture, has developed a (radical) differential theory on Intermediality. I will follow his views to some extend but I will eventually develop my own perspective on the matter.


However, to come back to my experience in the museum I came to realize that the most important element of in my experience of the installation had been the specific combination of particular media. When I started studying the workings of media I quickly realized that the combining of different media happens all the time and in innumerous ways. I also realized that specific relations between, and combinations of, media are responsible for the way we experience our surroundings. I would experience my study room differently if I would have no computer but a typewriter. There would be no internet and I would have to type more carefully for every mistake one makes would be non-erasable. The specific form mediation takes and the specific combinations of media make a big difference in how one perceives ones surroundings. In my opinion these combinations can be roughly divided in two ways.


First of all we have Multimedia; a combination of different media which function next to each other and remain clearly discernable (for example an opera in which there is acting, music and the stage) . The effect of multimedia on the viewer or participant usually is immersive and the combination of the media is fully intelligible, with which I mean there is no ambiguity or confusion on the part of the spectator. The theories of Richard Wagner and Jürgen Müller have been of most influence on the characterization of this concept.


Secondly we have intermedia which comes into being through an integrative combination of different media or the implementation of a new device or medium in an already existing realm. With the integration of different media I mean that the usual frames and structure of the different media are affected and influenced by each other. In my view this integrative combination opens up a new experiental domain to the viewer. The implementation of a new device can also open up a new experiental domain or, as I also like to call it; a ‘new world’. Dick Higgins and again Jürgen Müller have had influence on the way this concept has been characterized as thus far happening solely between existing media.


In the thesis I will show that this form of integrative combination of media can be experienced in two ways: a new integrative combination of media can come into being in a gradual way, allowing people to better incorporate the changes which can arise in exploring a new experiental domain. The second way is when the new experiental domain is introduced to the viewer with a shock. Suddenly you find yourself in an unexpected situation and you are at odds as how to experience this new form of media. A certain reflectiveness comes into being, more so than in the gradual variant of Intermediality. The shock-wise introduction of new combinations of media or new devices often takes place within an artistic realm, because many artists try to create new experiences in the form of sudden impacts just as I described above. This however does not mean that shock-wise experiencing Intermediality can not happen in other domains.


Considering the above I decided to formulate the hypothesis of my thesis accordingly:


In contrast to traditional views on Intermediality, which generally see Intermediality as something which happens between media or as a different form of intertextuality, I pose that Intermediality is the opening up of new experiental domains or worlds as experienced by the subject. I want to stress the relational aspect of the medium with human understanding of their surroundings. In this opening up of new experiental domains I discern two variants. The gradual variant is quite common and often goes unnoticed as they originate out of familiar domains. The shock variant however, sensibilizes people to the hitherto unknown and causes them to reflect on their experience. Even though the unknown has its place within the everyday perception of ones world most subjects do not notice this due to a habitual experience of their world. Everything is pervaded by absence or the unknown and in the ambiguity of Intermediality this becomes more evident than usual. Intermediality in the context of opening up a (experiental) world will ‘force’ the subject to deal with the notion of absence in everyday life.


Intermediality is not just about a new medium between other media, nor does it just have integrative qualities, nor is it just a new way of mediating something or giving a new domain a name. Intermediality in the form of opening up a world has all these elements and a little more, which will enhance and expand the surroundings of the subject.


Since this field of studies is relatively new I will first go into more detail on the concept of medium, which is not as straightforward as it may seem, but will be of vital importance to our understanding of Intermediality. I will also extensively discuss Multimediality for it will show the other side of media combinations and our experience of them. In the third and fourth chapter I will go into respectively the technological (or traditional view on Intermediality) and the more philosophical aspects of Intermediality. Opening up, mediating something or becoming all have a difficult ontological and epistemological status. They float between absence and presence and in my opinion this is the most interesting element of opening up a world. How does one deal with the unknown, the ‘informe’ aspects of intermedia experiences and how do these experiences come about in the first place. The notions of passibility and sensibility (on which I will elaborate in the fourth chapter) will prove to be elucidating in the context of Intermediality opening up worlds. At the end of this thesis we hopefully will know why the work of Pippilotti Rist is intermedial of nature.



1 Medium/Media


“[I]t is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action. The content or uses of such media are as diverse as they are ineffectual in shaping the form of human association. Indeed, it is only too typical that the “content” of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium.” (McLuhan 2003, p9)


Before we get into the discussion what Intermediality exactly is or how it can open up new experiental realms we must pay more attention to the concept of media or medium. Eventually Intermediality and Multimediality will be about specific media combinations. Very often, when reading about Intermediality, I find that medium or media is not adequately explained. Somehow it is supposed to be a clear and straightforward concept. The concept of medium or media seems to come naturally to most people and we often use it in everyday language without giving it much thought. If we do, however, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Television, radio, magazines, newspapers and more of these kinds of things. The singular and the plural form are often used interchangeably. “People use media with the definite article as a collective term to refer not to the forms of communication themselves so much as to the communities and institutions behind them. In this sense, the media means something like “the press.””[4] There are, however, more significations to the word, meanings which are just as important and even more so when the workings of media in society are explored.


First, I will give a short explanation of the most relevant significations of the concept medium/media in order to elucidate its functioning with regard to Intermediality later on in the thesis. It is a bit arbitrary to start like this, but it will help us to analyze the concept of medium on a more philosophical as well as a cultural level. Understanding the functioning of medium will also give us insight in the functioning of (scientific) disciplines. I do not mean to equate discipline with medium but there are some parallels and links.


Many studies are based on the functioning of one particular medium. Literary studies for example concentrate on the medium literature or books. Theater Studies deal with the medium theatre and so there are many more disciplinary studies which are based on a specific cultural phenomenon, a singular medium. Many of these studies focus on the content of the media. I would like to use a different approach and that is why an important part of this thesis will be not so much on the content of media but on the effects of (new) media on society. I do this also because in our day and age one can observe an increase of interdisciplinarity, which means an increase in media combinations and new experiental domains.

We have to establish which signification of the word medium is useful for the analysis of Intermedia(lity). A possible conclusion would be that there are elements of every signification in the usage of the word medium with regard to Intermediality. If so, then it is important to clarify as much as possible which signification is used in what situation and to what levels of analysis it can be related.



1.1 Midway


1st definition of medium:


· Something, such as an intermediate course of action, that occupies a position or represents a condition midway between extremes.[5]


The meaning of the word media as something which is in the middle of two things already poses us with the first problem in the analysis of medium. The middle position always presupposes two (or more) other things in order for it to exist. It can never be a singular concept because it needs at least two other objects, words or concepts in order to fulfill its meaning of medium. So the concept of medium in it self, with the significance of midway, already contains something more than one thing, it is embedded in a context, even before it is used in other contexts. Its meaning and action potential are only developed in relation to other things. There is a differential element to it, for the difference with other things determines the position of the medium.


For a moment, I will jump forward in my analyses of the medium to intermedium because the differential element is also exceedingly present in the current theories of Intermediality. Dick Higgins, who was of much influence in the development of the concept of intermedium, expressly placed the ‘new’, not yet defined media, between the known media and called it ‘intermedia’: “Thus the happening developed as an intermedium, an uncharted land that lies between collage, music and the theatre. It is not governed by rules; each work determines its own medium and form according to its needs.”(Higgins 2005 §12) Higgins wanted to emphasize the ambiguous nature of such new media with regard to the older, established media. It may seem a bit superfluous to call these new kinds of media inter-media but Higgins uses two significations of the concept of media in one new analysis. He first uses medium or media as a system which communicates something in a particular form. It mediates something to other subjects through a semiotic system of signification[6]. Such a mediating system with rules and a structure is recognized and defined as a particular medium, for example the medium of television. There are however many forms of mediating information to others and not all systems are ‘clearly’ defined. The new systems, or new media, need to be recognized and establish a place among others. Higgins found a ‘solution’ by deliberately recognizing and placing these new media between the older media, calling them inter-media, which will last only until other new forms of media occur through which the preexisting inter-media will change into media. The problem with Higgins theory is that he presupposes the place and form of already existing media, between which new media arise as intermedia, as given. He does not ask himself why it is we recognize certain forms of media and do no recognize others. Why is one thing a medium and the other thing is not or not yet? It is also confusing when one thinks of media in a midway form, for then it is already in itself in the middle of something. The concept of intermedia seems to overemphasize this middle position, one could make a literal translation of intermedia as a between of the between. Higgins might not have meant medium to hold a middle position and might have seen the concept as solely something which transfers something, but it is rather obvious that the etymological connotations of the word may cause some confusion.


So to recapitalize, medium in itself signifies midway, thus needing several similar concepts, words or objects. It acquires its identity through the differentiation with these other objects but in everyday use this concept is more often connected to the notion of transferal. Transferal in this light may be seen as the ultimate middle between things and it will bring us to the most common idea of medium/media functioning as a transfer-system: the mass media.



1.2 Media


2nd definition of medium/media:

  1. A means of mass communication, such as newspapers, magazines, radio, or television.

  2. Media (used with a sing. or pl. verb) The group of journalists and others who constitute the communications industry and profession.[7]

Many people will instantly have the association with mass-media when they hear the word media. This usage of the word, however, is not very straightforward either. The most commonly used meanings of the word are related to each other but are quite different. Newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and of late computers and the internet are seen as media. The people who produce the content of these media, such as journalists, editors and producers are signified by the same word. Especially the content of these media and the people who produce the contents, the information, is usually studied in media research. The media are reduced to their technical aspects and are mainly seen as a means of transmission, something which transmits or mediates ‘information’ from a ‘producer’ to a ‘receiver’. Straightforward as this transferal and the relation between producer and receiver may seem, there is, however, more than just the content of the medium which is mediated and the direct relation between producer and receiver. It is essential to pay more attention to the structures and forms of the different media and explore how these might influence our perception and our way of thinking. Marshall McLuhan, an important media theorist, was one of the first to focus on the effects of the media themselves instead of focusing on the content. Even though in the following quote he speaks of technology, in his book The Medium is the Message (2003) he equates media and technology:

“The effects of technology do not occur at the level of opinions or concepts, but alter the sense ratios or patterns of reception steadily and without any resistance. The serious artist is the only person able to encounter technology with impunity, just because he is an expert aware of the changes in sense perception.” (McLuhan, 2003 p.19)

Although McLuhan thinks that only artists have an eye for the changes in perception (and maybe he is right) I think that we, as ‘normal people’ should try to come to a better understanding of changes through media-implementations, for it might help us to recognize certain areas of tension in society. I will go into this more extensively later on in the thesis. But for now we should ask ourselves what a medium exactly is. Is it sufficient to define medium as something which mediates or transfers something, for example in the form of mass media, holding a middle position between what is meant by the producer(s) and what eventually is understood by the receiver(s)? I think that by exclusively looking at mass media, information and in-between-ness some other important aspects are overlooked. Let us take a look at other aspects of medium.



1.3 Agency


3rd definition of medium:


· An agency by which something is accomplished, conveyed, or transferred: The train was the usual medium of transportation in those days.[8]

When we talk about mass media transmitting information from a producer to a receiver, these media function as agencies of the information. Agency, however, can be understood in a broader context. Generally information is not the only thing that can be transmitted or transferred. Electricity, power or light are a few examples of things which need an agency in order to be transmitted. So the concept of medium in the signification of agency comprises many more things than just the mediation of information as seems to be the case with mass media. Throughout history people have depended upon devices, objects and instruments in order to accomplish, convey or transfer something. Increasingly more devices have been developed in order to convey, accomplish and transfer more things at a greater rate and speed. For example Mikko Lehtonen, writing on Intermediality and multimodality, calls this development of, and dependence on media or agencies mediatization:

“Mediatization started in the history of humankind when people no longer used only their own physical resources in communicating with other people, but began to rely also on other, “non-human” objects and powers for this purpose.”(Lehtonen 2001 p 76-77)


Lehtonen later on clarifies the notion of “non-human” (Ibidem, p 77) objects by giving the example of ‘the development of impersonal communications’ like writing. Although mediatization is not solely related to communication this is the aspect Lehtonen mainly focuses on. It refers, as I explained earlier, to many kinds of mediatizations. Let us, just to simplify things a bit, call these transferrals information transferrals, while keeping in mind that information is meant in the broadest possible sense.


Media in the sense of agency carrying something (e.g. information) from one place (person) to another is something we are surrounded by all the time. And usually analysis of these processes tend to focus on what (content again) and how (technical aspects) something is conveyed rather than on what effects these transferrals have on everyday life, on the level of thought, perception and communication.

Marshall McLuhan, one of the ‘founding fathers’ of modern media theory was one of the first to recognize the far-reaching effects of media. He was the one to expand the meaning of the concept of medium. McLuhan considered all instrumental devices we surround ourselves with to be media. He pointed towards the scientific negligence of analyses of the form and action-radius of media. Up till then (almost) all research had been done on the content of particular media. The content was considered the message. He introduced his famous phrase: “The medium is the message” (McLuhan, 2003 p 7), which means that not (only) the specific contents of media have dramatic effects on the changes and developments of society but the media (tools or specific sign-complexes) themselves cause the biggest changes in society. “[T]he message of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs.”(Ibidem, p 8) “[I]t is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action” (Ibidem, p 9). “The railway for example did not introduce movement or transportation or wheel or road into our human society, but it accelerated and enlarged the scale of previous human functions, creating totally new kinds of cities and new kinds of work and leisure.” (Ibidem, p 8)


McLuhan furthermore states that every content of one medium comprises the content of another medium. He gives the example of thought put into speech and speech put into writing (Ibidem). A music video as seen on MTV for example hosts lyrics, which is a derivative from speech and thought, and a small movie which is a derivative of moving images, images and visual perception. When we realize the implications of these statements it becomes even harder to specify exactly what a medium is, or what it comprises. There are so many different forms which, moreover are all related to each other, that it is hard to think of medium as a singular, pure concept, always behaving in the same way. We should not look at it as something static, something that is at our disposal for simple analysis but we should look at it as a dynamic process, forever changing its structure, pace, action radius and impact.


However every medium appears to be bound by, or by convention constructed of, a certain set of rules, structure and form through which the medium becomes recognizable. One must keep in mind though that these forms have a conventional character and not necessarily stop being subject to change. Furthermore one should realize that these forms and structures (the specific form a mediation or agency takes) have influence on the information or content, as well as on both producers and receivers. Because there are so many ways in which something can be transferred and the amount of things transferred are innumerous it is not always easy to define how this influence manifests itself towards the information, producers and receivers. Mobile telephony for example has enhanced communication, that much is clear, but in what ways does it have effect on the economy, crime, terrorism, national defense, health, and aid to third world countries ton name but a few things. The effects are enormous on a global scale, all because of a simple device, an agency of mediation.

An agency in this case, should be seen as something which forms an integrative and a constitutive part of a signification process one which makes our world meaningful, a process which consists of more than just information transferal. A signification process can also be viewed in the light of a semiotic system. A semiotic system is a system of signs. Semiology or semiotics was originally developed by Ferdinand de Saussure. (Macey 2001 pp. 342/3 & 347) The basic unit in this system is the sign, defined as a psychical entity consisting of a ‘signifier’ (an acoustic image, e.g. the word cat) and a ‘signified’ (a concept, the animal). The sign is said to be arbitrary as there is no logical or necessary relationship between the signifier and signified (there is no reason why a cat is called cat).

Whereas de Saussure mainly focused on spoken and written language, Roland Barthes elaborated upon this theory by saying that all sign-systems are part of semiotics (Ibidem p. 347). So even images, gestures and melodic sounds should be seen as being part of a semiotic system. Can we also define an agency to be part of a semiotic system? Can we speak of medium being part of a semiotic system? Jürgen Müller, another important theorist of Intermediality, is someone who sees the medium as a part of a semiotic system, indeed:

Das Medium ist für und zwischen Menschen ein bedeutungsvolles) Zeichen (oder ein Zeichenkomplex) mit Hilfe geeigneter Transmitter vermittelt, und zwar uber zeitliche und/oder raumliche Distanzen hinweg. Ein Medium wäre demzufolge in intentionale Handlungs-Zusammenhange eingebettet; es ist dialogisch und semiotisch konzipiert und umfasst mehrere Dimensionen, die im Prozess der Semiose zusammenwirken, die jedoch – entsprechend unterschiedlichen Erkentnisinteressen – zu Analysezwecken differenziert werden konnen.(Müller, 1996 p 80-81)

Jürgen Müller recognizes the intentional aspect of the use of signs in semiotic systems and this would appear to be an important element in any form of communication. The only problem, however, is that there are also a lot of unintentional aspects to communication. These unintentional aspects come about in the effects of the medium on society. So, to come back to McLuhan who reinterpreted the concept of medium as an extension of man, one could say that in a semiotic system not only the content but also the agency of that content can be seen as a sign or part of a sign in a semiotic system.

And in semiotic systems not only intentional but also unintentional aspects play a major role. But if we broaden the concept of medium so much how do we recognize it as a medium? How do we handle the fact that medium is not a singular sign but a multitude of signs, a system or a network, in co-existence with other media and having unintentional effects on society? When we see medium as an agency of transferal we expand the capacity of medium. Not only information is carried across but agency is needed for every kind of transferal whether it is power, water or knowledge or cargo. Every action in effect is mediated. These mediations all have meaning for us; significance, and thus we might say that an agency is part of a signification process, a semiotic system. This is a complex system and therefore we should take a closer look at the multiplicity of the medium.



1.4 Remediation and Modality


If it is the true that every media contains the contents of other media, the implications of this idea are mind-boggling. Imagine several family trees in which all the members are not just connected to their ancestors and to every other member of that tree, but to all the members of different trees as well. There is an infinite relational pattern between all the members of different trees. Although the tree metaphor suggests some origin from which all semiotic signification springs this is a position I would like to avoid, because it would presuppose a logo centric or teleological solution. From a philosophical perspective this is a highly problematic option. At the present stage I will not pursue this matter but come back to it in a later chapter. The main thing for now is that we should be aware of the relational network between the media. No medium has a singular origin. Not only are there relations between the media (and not just the artistic ones) but also within media themselves there are elements of many other, and often (defined as) pre-existing, media. This infinite relational, and constantly changing, network between and within media makes it difficult to do all-inclusive research and choices have to be made regarding the scope and depth of the analysis. This relational aspect has to be kept in mind though, because otherwise the scope of any conclusions made will be too narrow.


McLuhan was one of the first to recognize the importance of the relationships between media and many others after him have emphasized the plurality of media. Jürgen Müller is very adamant in his conclusion on the nature of the medium:


“If media (and also “media-texts”) are to be located in changing relationships, if their function also depends on historical changes of these relationships, then we have to conclude that the idea of isolated media-monads or isolated sorts of media has to be abandoned.”(Müller 1997, p297-298)


Mikko Lehtonen conceptualized this interrelatedness with the expression multimodality. With this he means that every form of media consists of several elements. For example a written text has to be written on something, with something and has evolved from the spoken language which in its turn has been made up according to certain cultural conventions. There are several modes to every form of expression, communication or transmittance. Starting at the level of the most fundamental instances of communication:


“If these most fundamental symbolic forms – speech, pictures and writing – are “always already” multimodal, then multimodality inevitably also covers the more complex symbolic forms that are developed after the three. Hence, multimodality characterizes all symbolic forms utilized by humans.” (Lehtonen 2001 p 71)

Lehtonen emphasizes the symbolical and communicational aspect of the mediation but the principle is the same. Media are not singular pure entities, they are plural and dynamic. Later on in his article he mentions the importance of the ‘cross-pollination’ of the different media. There is a constant process of simultaneous influence of the media on each other. Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin in their book Remediation (1999) recognize the same pattern and their analysis of the medium is very similar to the analyses of McLuhan, Lehtonen and Müller. They came up with a new concept for this process:

“We offer a simple definition: a medium is that which remediates. It is that which appropriates the techniques, forms, and social significance of other media and attempts to rival or refashion them in the name of the real. A medium in our culture can never operate in isolation, because it must enter into relationships of respect and rivalry with other media.” (Bolter & Grusin, 1999 p 65)

I am not convinced about the “in-name-of-the-real-part” for what do they mean by that? How do they define ‘real’ and how do they know media acts with this goal ‘in mind’? It makes the medium look like it has autonomy and even though I acknowledge the medium or media to be capable of a lot of things; autonomy is not one of them. The aspect of rivalry, however, mentioned here suggests that these changing relationships are not always developed in a straightforward way. It is a positive point that Bolter and Grusin bring in this element because usually these relationships are considered to just evolve between media without much consideration for any kinds of problems or tension which may arise. The relationships seem to be just there. Another good thing about their concept of remediation is that it emphasizes the aspect of change. There is, however, in my opinion, not enough focus on the multiplicity of a medium. Multimodality is more about multiplicity but not enough about change and ideally I would like to see a combination of these two concepts with regard to the medium. Remediamultimodality, unfortunately, is not a word which can be put to new flashy concept use. So for now I will employ both concepts in parallel and I hope the reader will remember the existence of the other when only one of them is used for practical reasons.

Even though I am moderately enthusiastic about Bolter and Grusin's theory of remediation I am not thrilled about their rather simplistic analysis of McLuhan’s theory of the medium:

“[M]arshall McLuhan remarked that “the ‘content’ of any medium is always another medium. The content of writing is speech, just as the written word is the content of print, and print is the content of telegraph.” (23-24) as his problematic examples suggest, McLuhan was not thinking of a simple repurposing, but perhaps of a more complex kind of borrowing in which one medium is itself incorporated or represented in another medium. Dutch painters incorporated maps, globes, inscriptions, letters, and mirrors in their works.” [My emphasis] (Ibidem p 45)

To my mind this kind of analysis seriously borders on derision in order to make one’s own ideas look more interesting. Anyone who seriously reads McLuhan’s book Understanding Media will know that McLuhan was not talking about a complex (what do they mean by complex?) form of borrowing and certainly not about painters incorporating objects in their painting. McLuhan was talking about structural changes caused by the integration of specific characteristics of one medium into another. This of course is very similar to what Bolter and Grusin come up with themselves and their eagerness to be original may explain this simplistic interpretation of McLuhan’s theory.

Despite this faulty interpretation of McLuhan’s theory the main point is that a medium is something which has (historical) connections with other media, is constructed of many different elements or modes, is constantly changing and is embedded in a context. How is it then that we’re able to distinguish between media if there are so many interconnections? I have touched upon it briefly earlier but this is where the mechanisms of identification are at work.



1.5  Identity


Identity is a fairly complex construct. While we usually have no problems using this construct and apply it with a certain ease, when one starts to really think it through it becomes rather difficult to get a grip on this phenomenon. Traditionally, in western thinking, it was common to think of identity as existing before difference. Let me elaborate upon this notion. People used to think of a certain object to have an identity and all the objects which did not match thus became something different with a different identity. First there is the original and then there is the copy, first reality then fiction. Martin Heidegger however questioned this idea of identity in his text Identität und Differenz (1957). In his first lecture of this book, Der Satz der Identität or the Identity-Principle Heidegger starts analyzing the commonly used identity-principle A=A. This principle expresses the equality of A and A. But is this what the identity principle wants to express? Heidegger thinks this is not the case and explains to us why. The identical, in Latin idem, means das Selbe or the same. When someone says: a plant is a plant, this is a tautology. To be the same one only needs one thing, not two. There is no need for two as with equality. The formula A=A speaks of equality. It does not speak of A being the same. The common formula of the identity-principle hides exactly that which it wishes to bring forward, that is: A is A, meaning every A itself is the same (Heidegger 2001 p. 13). If this is the only way the principle is meant then it is not a very useful formula. Heidegger mentions that this is not the full scope of the formula and goes into the extensions of this formula A is A, meaning A is A the same or with itself every A is the same itself. This means that the traditional identity principle wants to express that which coincides with itself – the identical. This principle poses the unity of identity. The odd thing of course is that we can only express this sameness with two terms. We only seem to be able of thinking identity through a doubling of A (A=A) (Brillenburg-Würth, 2004 p 24). When you say A=A one presupposes a difference between the two A’s to subsequently say that they are the same. Heidegger concluded that the difference is inherent to the identity principle.(Ibidem, p25) Identity is a result of a difference. The identity-principle speaks off the Being of beings. The “present-ness” of being. (Heidegger 2001, p17)

After Heidegger especially Jacques Derrida and Gilles Deleuze worked on difference before identity. They not only based their theories on Heidegger but were also inspired by Ferdinand de Saussure, the linguistic philosopher mentioned earlier in relation to agency and semiotics. He stated that the meaning of signs is always conventional and arbitrary. Signs acquire their meaning within the rules of language and within the cultural codes and conventions which guarantee meaningful communication. De Saussure came up with the notion signifier (the word or concept) and signified (that which is meant by the word or concept) in order to show the workings of a sign. But meaning does not only arise from these aspects. (Macey 2000, p 342-343 & 352-353) Meaning is also formed by the differences with other signs. Bed and bad are very similar in writing but have totally different meanings. The meaning of each arises from the difference with the other. In fact not only the differences within similar words initiate identity but also the difference with every other word.

The reason why I bring up this identity issue is that it plays an important role in the analysis of medium. Since there is difference at the very root of identity and meaning evolves in language, culture and difference with other meanings, the way we identify a medium (or any other concept) is subjected to the same process. Meaning is not constructed through a referential relationship with an object but through differential relations with other signifiers. Identity or meaning is a result of difference. Medium is the effect of the movement of difference between signifiers.

According to Paul Moyaert, Derrida especially wanted to undermine the idea of a preliminary given signified. The signified (according to Derrida) does not precede the signifier but is articulated by a differential network of signifiers. The signified appears in a differential interval between signifiers and is the effect of the difference between signifiers; it is produced by the signifiers. This has the consequence that the signified is never given full life; the signified is an effect and appears as a trace, une trace, in a track of difference, a track without proper origin or definite end. The signified is a track which one can follow endlessly without ever coming to an end. (Moyeart1986, p53) In other words, one would always need other words to describe a certain signified and these words would also need explaining and so on and so forth. For this reason it is not possible for a signified to be the same self with itself. Such a signified is always the result of an interval, a between not of itself. Derrida calls this deferral and difference of the signifier différance (Derrida 1995 (a) p29).

Kiene Brillenburg-Wurth tries to focus on the medium in the process of interval. She poses that if one thinks of medium as midway or middle, or in-between, the medium simultaneously mediates and erases something. If one sees medium as a sign then one automatically is confronted with the logic of substitution or the interval between signifier and signified. If one wants to transfer a thought one has to translate this thought into words, sounds or images (substitutions of the original intention). The translating is an intervention, the mediating of a thought into words, sounds or images is a necessary mediation, without this mediation there would be no communication possible. But this mediation is only possible through the difference with other media or mediations. A Monomedia, as Brillenburg - Würth calls it, can only be thought as a result of the difference with other media.(Brillenburg- Würth 2004, pp 22-36) Just like any other concept etc. one should think of media as a result of difference and not the result of identity as Higgins does. There is a bit more to say on this topic but I will come back to difference in the chapter on Intermediality.

I mentioned it briefly before but in many of the relationships between media and within the medium there is tension as a result of difference. In the case of a conventionally firm established medium or concept this tension is hardly noticeable but in the evolving of new media or a new experiental domain the tension is building up since identification is more difficult. What the importance of tension to a medium is I will explore in the following paragraph.



1.6 Reflexivity/ Reflectivity


So what can we conclude from the above mentioned qualities of a medium? First of all it is not a substance; it is a dynamic process, which alters things by carrying something from one point to another while at the same time it undergoes alteration itself. Secondly there is infinite interrelatedness between media. We cannot see it as a singular, static, pure concept although it seems to take that form sometimes. Media can only be in a context, a context which is forever changing. But what good do all these conclusions do? How can it help us with the analysis of the functioning of media and ultimately the functioning of Intermediality? To get more insight in the matter we need to add another element to the concept of media namely that of reflection. Most of the time we are not aware of the changes we undergo related to the way we think, perceive or express certain things. These changes seem to happen naturally and we can hardly imagine doing things differently. Imagine not having a cell-phone? While older people might still be able to perceive it as a possible world and the oldest people remember a world without any phone at all, ‘us youngsters’ will find it nearly impossible. But how can we become more aware of the changes happening to us and around us? Is this a characteristic of the medium itself or do we have to do something else in order to recognize or sense the changes? Henk Oosterling thinks there is a certain reflective element within the functioning of the medium. He uses the word reflective instead of reflexive in order to emphasize the contemplative interval of reflection whereas reflex suggests a more immediate reaction without any contemplation[9]. He situates this reflectivity in the experience of tension. This tension is evoked by the medium when it mediates something while simultaneously it is changed by its own mediation or in the emergence of new media in relation to the old media. Of course most mediation happens within a certain domain or discourse[10] and follows anticipated patterns. It allows for a sort of immunity to the tension but as soon as there is a diversion from the designated paths we re-experience this tension and a certain reflective-ness comes into being. Because, if there is an anomaly, where or how should we place this occurrence? The experience of this tension calls for a certain reflective sensibility. Sensibility only comes about in, with and through the medium. The medium is an agency but it is also that which changes in the mediation. (Oosterling 1999, p 94) Oosterling calls this experience of tension sensibility. This transferal and changing or substitution is most evident in the opening up of ‘new worlds’, the unfamiliarity of the situation cause people to be more sensitive and reflective. We are generally familiar with most mediations and developed a sort of immunity to its tension. I mean, do you ever reflect on, for example, the use of a microwave? Most tension, however, arises when several media are combined in an unusual way. This can be done in two ways of which we will first discuss Multimediality.



Chapter 2 Multimediality


The combining of different media can be done in several ways. I will first discuss the most common form of combination: Multimediality. I especially want to focus on this form because it is often confused with Intermediality. It is also generally understood in a too simplistic way. One can find the term often in connection with the internet with which is meant that there are several different applications on the website such as music, video-clips and interactive elements. While this is not a completely wrong idea of this concept I think it is useful to analyze it more closely in order to come to a good understanding of what this Multimediality consists of. It will give us insight in the popular use of the word as well as the more theoretical applications in science. A historical introduction of this notion in the form of Gesamtkunstwerk developed by Richard Wagner is a good starting point in defining the key elements of Multimediality. It will also give us insight in how different sorts of media combinations are experienced by the subject.



2.1 Wagner, Schopenhauer and the Total Work of Art


In every work on Multimedia (and even Intermedia) the first person to be mentioned in connection with the theory is Richard Wagner and his Gesamtkunstwerk.

When we talk about media or Intermediality we should not forget that combining media is not something new. Throughout history many combinations of different media have been made. Theatre for example has been combining text, image, sound and movement for centuries. And ekphrasis[11], the combination of a text and an image, has been used on a regular basis in the form of written analyses of paintings or to complement poetry. As we were able to see earlier in our analysis of the medium these specific media usually developed out of other media. What distinguishes them from each other is that they have developed a set of characteristics (in interaction with subjects) by which they can be identified. Whereas in the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century there still seemed to be clear distinctions between different forms of art, with artists operating solely within their own field, towards the end of the nineteenth century focus shifted to a synthesis of the arts. Before this shift in focus there had of course been new developments and formations of new media but these only came about gradually. Some of the developments (e.g the turn to a more individual experience of ones world resulted in romantic literature and in the field of painting to impressionism and eventually expressionism) had some influence on the established arts but because the pace was so gradual the established arts in their specific form held firm ground in the minds of the general public. To them distinctions were clear and the arts served as a form of entertainment. But then the romantic period caused a number of changes and there is a shift in the development of combinatory arts. Through the changes in culture, art becomes more and more connected to the subjective experience. Audiences start to analyze art from a reception-aesthetical perspective. This causes art to become a mediated process between the subject and the world; it becomes more than just a representation of the world, which up to then had been the main incentive in most of the arts. The arts are no longer supposed to just mediate the intention of the artist but they also have to elevate the audience into a sphere of higher ideals. The relation between subject and its surroundings (or objects) changes into a more complex symbiosis. There were several philosophers who wrote on the relation between the subject and the object but Schopenhauer proved to be one of the most influential philosophers in that age. He was the most influential writer on Wagner who actually executed some of his ideas. Not only influenced by Schopenhauer but also by ancient Greek theatre Wagner was one of the first to experiment with combining several media into one production in order to cause a “total effect”(Oosterling 2005, ch. II §7) on the audience. Wagner sought to create a work of art in which the multiple components like dance, music and poetry reinforce each other in such a way that the total becomes more that the sum of the parts. In order to understand what I am talking about we need to pay more attention to the ideas of Schopenhauer.


In his principle work, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (1818), Arthur Schopenhauer sees reality as existing on two levels, an idea which closely resembles the ideas of Kant and ultimately Plato[12]. There is the level of the “appearance” or phenomena and the level of the “essence” or noumena. The appearances only show the exterior form of things whereas the essences or noumena are veiled by the appearances. Schopenhauer holds the noumena in higher esteem since it gives the true essence or true reality of this world. This reality is, however, a force or stream of chaos and confusion driven by what Schopenhauer calls the “Will”. As the name already indicates the Will is based on a perpetual experience of lack, of need. In other words, the Will is the cause of suffering and pain. The phenomena are a mere manifestation or objectification (the becoming of an object) of the Will. The way I objectify the world I also objectify myself. Nevertheless the Will is always already part of me and that is why I am initially a suffering subject. The only way to experience the noumena is on a subjective level. This becomes clear from the first sentence of Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung: “The world is my idea.”(Schopenhauer 1997, §1) Through reason – active perception, ordering, and synthesizing of fragmentary bits of experience – I create my own representation or idea of the world; that is, the world exists only as I understand it. Put another way, all perceived phenomena are merely various grades of objectification of the “thing-in-itself.” True freedom or release of the will can only be achieved through a resignation of desire. One must simply stop wanting. (McClatchie 1998, p 28). Schopenhauer saw an important role for music in the achievement of freeing oneself of the will. Unlike all the other arts which are just reflections of the noumena, or in other words which are mere phenomena, music is a direct objectification of the will. Music never expresses the phenomena but only inner being, the an sich of the phenomena, the Will itself. The other arts can only represent the Will indirectly but the Will is always already present in music. There is no relation between the world as phenomena, there is no imitation, it just is. There is no mediation needed through which its idea is transported. Music is nonrepresentational, stands apart from the other arts and is independent of the world of appearances. In short, it belongs to the noumenal realm. On a side note Schopenhauer mentions that although music is very important in experiencing the noumenal world he does think that music should free itself of the rhythmical regularities, which were up till then very common in composing, in order to come to a better experience of the noumenal world. Music which loses its own contours becomes a fragment without beginning or end, for example the music of Steve Reich. One looses sense of time and space and this is the true manifestation of the Will (Brillenburg Würth 2002, p 148)


However the subject is more than just a needing being, it is also a knowing subject. There are not only impulses and a body; there are also the ideas and the mind. When the subject consciously tries to turn away from the Will, when it tries to think it self as a thinking, knowing subject the force of the Will will momentarily undergo a lapse and the subject will experience this lapse as freedom from the Will. This ecstatic feeling, however, will not last long for this momentary relief can only be brought about through hard conscious effort which paradoxically will keep the memory of the will alive. This constant memory gives this experience between liberation from the Will and simultaneously remembering of this Will a sublime quality. This sublime experience takes the shape of an aporia[13]. The subject is mangled between these two forces and it can not discard either one of them since they are interdependent. There is a constant hesitation between on the one hand a sense of liberation but on the other hand never truly experiencing this liberation. Schopenhauer’s ideas about experiencing the beautiful are quite different from experiencing the sublime and he regards it as simple and of lesser importance than the sublime. (Ibidem pp 146-147)


Wagner interprets Schopenhauer’s notion of the sublime with regard to music in his own way. Instead of opposing the beautiful and the sublime Wagner relates the two aesthetic forms. In his theory the beautiful eventually leads to the sublime. This has as a result that Schopenhauer’s paradox of liberation (forgetfulness) and anxiety (the not forgetting and being bound by Will) is eliminated in order to come to a state of, in the words of Brillenburg-Wurth ‘super-forgetfulness’ or oblivion.(Ibidem p 169) In other words: Schopenhauer’s aporia is being sacrificed for univocity. Such a state of forgetful bliss presupposes the evaporation of the forms of time and space. Wagner thinks this is possible by introducing the idea of a frozen cadenza (also conceived by Schopenhauer) which encompasses the possibility of a series of free consonance-shifts which free themselves of the rhythmical regularity and thus free themselves of time. (Ibidem pp 157-158)


For Wagner the aspect of momentary freedom through the experiencing of a true world or the noumena was an objective. He sought to convey his aspirations to the public. He was, however, not solely inspired by Schopenhauer. The Athenian theatre, or at least the nineteenth century notion of the Athenian theatre, also played an important role in his ideas about relating to the Innerlichkeit of the subject. (Oosterling 2005 § 1) Wagner foresaw a renaissance of the ancient Greek theatre. In the Greek drama the different artistic media such as text, song, dance, drama and music still formed, according to Henk Oosterling, an “embryonic whole.” In the Greek community drama still had a literately political function for it mostly was about the ins and outs of the polis, the city-state. This drama and its political function had its origin in the Dionysian ritual which related of the (unbearable and strenuous) relation between the community and the immortal Gods. This relationship was thought to be a more natural and pure relationship between humans and their world than the relationship which evolved after the collapse of the Greek polis. (Ibidem) If the Greeks had produced a pure and noble art (classical tragedy), this was because they lived in a free and self-confident society, one that took delight in nature and the gods. According to Large “[s]ince the days of the Grecian glory, man had produced one despotic regime after another, and the result had been nothing but sham: Imperial Rome’s gladiatorial combat and vulgar comedy; the decadent court culture of the absolutist princes; finally the “civilized” art of modern industrial capitalism. Western man could rediscover the wellsprings of genuine culture only by relearning to be free.”(Large 1984 p 76) The combination of momentary freedom from the Will and Wagner’s notion of the Athenian theater resulted in the total work of art or the Gesamtkunstwerk.


In The Art-Work of the Future, Wagner attacked the hitherto common notions of utility (brought about by the imperatives of the industrial revolution) in favor of what he thought was truly necessary—namely the expression of man’s innate creativity and his harmony with nature. Large notes that Wagner extrapolates “[n]ecessity versus utility: this polarity lay at the heart of Wagner’s worldview and explains both his categorical rejection of nineteenth-century culture and his utopian vision of a “purely human” society based on “inner necessity” rather than external imposition.” (Ibidem) The artwork of the future would be an initial step towards the idea of a culture being itself instead of being forced into what it is not. The result would be perfect freedom, freedom in nature and art could be truly free when no longer ashamed of its connection to life.


Wagner realized, in the light of these ideas, that the potential of the separate media could be enlarged when they were put to different use. In the last decennia of the nineteenth century the urge for renewal and enlightenment was omnipotent and Wagner thought that the combination of the separate media could greatly enhance or transfer the potential of each medium to a larger, almost divine, collaborative plane in order to liberate and enlighten the audience. And he also thought of the transformative aspect of combinatory media to affect both artist and viewer:


“Artistic man can only fully content himself by uniting every branch of art into the common artwork: in every segregation of his artistic faculties he is unfree, not fully that which he has power to be; whereas in the common Artwork he is free, and fully that which he has power to be.

The true endeavor of Art is therefore all-embracing: each unit who is inspired with a true art-instinct develops to the highest his own particular faculties, not for the glory of these special faculties, but for the glory of general Manhood in Art.”(Wagner 2001 p 4)


In the above quote one can understand with what forceful terms Wagner described the importance of the effects of the combination of media. Freedom, all-embracing, the glory of general manhood; in short the full potential of Manhood and man could only be reached in the combination of multiple media, in Gesamtkunst.


Wagner put his theories to use in a large new theater in Bayreuth and composed operas which he preferred to call Drama (Ibidem) in order to underline the affective impact of his new approach and the relation to Athenian theatre. Wagner used several new techniques to address and capture the audience in a different way. Up till then the opera functioned more like a social event. People came to meet each other and talked or walked around during the performance. Wagner wanted the performance to be different from what used to be customary and demanded of the public to maintain silence during it. No applause between acts or for an impressive aria. Besides, Wagner’s music did not really lend it self for applause after aria’s, since his music (often) is one uninterrupted sequence with several leitmotivs. The orchestra moved to the orchestra pit, out of sight for the public, which was quite special for the time; music present without any of the musicians in sight. Décor, entourage and interior of the hall were in line with the performance and music and acts on stage were in tune with each other.[14]

All these facets together altered the way in which the drama was performed by the artist(s) and perceived by the audience. Whether one truly experienced the drama in a more metaphysically elevating way is of course questionable. Fact is that there was a change in perception compared to the traditional way of performance. Wagner tried to let the Drama be more immersive and intelligible. In the following analysis I will show why these two aspects are significant for Multimedia and not for Intermedia and what consequences this has for understanding Intermediality.


While Wagner was one of the firsts to deliberately alter the way in which different media were used on stage it will be interesting to see whether the main objectives of his explorations in art still hold ground for present day multimedia. What has changed and what has not and why is this of importance with regard to Intermedia?



2.2 Multiple media


We just discussed the historical forerunner of multimedia. And now I would like to discuss what the similarities are between Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk and present day forms of multimedia? Does multimedia have influence on intermedia?


One could interpret multimedia rather superficially as media put together doing something together. I however would like to state exactly what I understand under multimedia. I do this because books like Multimedia (2001) by Randall Packer and Ken Jordan use the term too loosely, in my opinion. The subjects in their book range from essays from the futurists, to man-computer symbioses, to responsive environments, to virtual interface environments and to collective intelligence, to name but a few elements. Basically their book is a summing up of interesting technological developments and not a theory on Multimedia. This is deplorable because the set-up of their book is quite interesting and the concept could be used in a more elucidating manner. Packer and Jordan bring many important texts together in order to create an overview of all the major developments in the “evolution” of media. With their collected essays of many illustrious persons in the development of arts and digital media they view the many conceptual, technical and artistic changes in the last hundred and fifty years all under the common denominator of Multimedia. By sticking this concept on so many different developments in the arts without setting forth exactly what is meant, leads to a corruption of the concept which in turn clouds a thorough analysis.


I will again turn to Wagner and discuss more aspects of the Gesamtkunstwerk in relation with theories about Multimediality today in order to show the dis- and similarities.

An important aspect of Wagner’s work is that in the combination and collaboration of the separate media they maintain their own qualities. Structure and specific aspects remain recognizable. Not so much the integration of the different media is the objective here, but the cooperation of the different media is important.


Jürgen Müller, who has written many articles on Intermediality recognizes the importance of cooperation in Multimediality and sets it apart against Intermediality. He makes, like Wagner, a distinction between multimedia and intermedia along the lines of the functioning of media next to each other (Nebeneinander) and with each other (Miteinander). With Nebeneinander he means that the separate media function within a larger production but maintain there own qualities, concepts and structure, whereas in the Miteinander variant the different media function in an integrative way. The media take over each others structure or concepts and are changed in this integrative process. (Müller 1996 p 83)


For Multimediality the Nebeneinander-variant is the only possible option, because it enlarges the immersive qualities of the different media. These immersive qualities were also important for Wagner as we will see further down. Jürgen Müller, in fact, makes explicit what Wagner described before in his article “Outlines of the Artwork of the Future,” The Artwork of the Future (1849):


“It is in him, the immediate executant, that the three sister-arts unite their forces in one collective operation, in which the highest faculty of each one of them attains the power to be and do the very thing which, of her own and inmost essence she longs to do and be.

Hereby: that each, where her own power ends, can be absorbed within the other, whose power commences where hers ends,—she maintains her own purity and freedom, her independence as that which she is.” (Wagner 2001 p 8)


Wagner means with the immediate executant the artist who combines the “three sister-acts” (as dancer, tone-artist and poet) in order to attain the fullest effect of all the art-forms. He states that the powers of each of the art forms is exploited to the fullest but maintain their own purity and freedom. Although the absorbing part is a bit confusing with respect to maintaining purity and freedom I think we can conclude form this quote that the different media are separate from each other and remain recognizable. It is only their effects which are strengthened.


“This purpose (enlightenment through the totalizing Drama, JvdP), however, the separate art-branch will never reach alone, but only all together; and therefore the most universal is at like time the only real, free, the only universally intelligible Art-work.”(Ibidem p 9)


I think we must see this intelligibility in the light of Wagner’s ideas about the relationship of the subject in his natural habitat. It is about the subject and its being at ease with nature and striving for freedom from the Will through the means of the Gesamtkunstwerk – it is an intelligibility which not only is about the rational faculties of man but also about the other senses of man. Every aspect of man is addressed in the Gesamtkunstwerk. When this state is reached then everything will be clear and there will be no more chaos.



2.3 Intelligibility & Utopia


As we saw earlier in a quote by Wagner he found the intelligibility of the art-work very important. The combination of several media into one project is the condition for a real, free, universal and intelligible Art-work:


In proportion as it (branch of art, JvdP) passes over into Drama, as it pulses with the Drama’s light, will each domain of Art grow all-intelligible, completely understood and justified.(Ibidem p 7)


The total work of art had to be intelligible because Wagner had the objective to reform or enlighten society. With the example of Athenian theatre, the stable and pure city-state and Schopenhauer’s ideas about liberating oneself from the forces of the Will, Wagner tried to come to a new and pure synthesis which subsequently would prove itself to be a clear and transparent state of being to the public. Any ambiguity would indicate the presence of the Will and the reformation would not be successful. The problem, however, with these kinds of objectives is that totality and complete understanding show an inclination towards a utopian kind of worldview. Henk Oosterling recognizes the far reaching underlying presuppositions of total reformation and understanding as a political objective. He mentions fascism and communism as examples of regimes which had exactly this kind of idealism imbedded in their programs, and which subjected all art to this common goal. As we all know these kinds of Utopian thoughts did not evolve into new peaceful societies but instead these societies slid into exactly the opposite state, a Distopia.(Oosterling 2005 § 3) While the equation with totalitarian regimes may seem a bit rash Oosterling has a point when emphasizing the ‘darker sides’ of totalizing ideals. Nevertheless these ideas were quite powerful in those days which is not very surprising since the darker side of totalitarian ideas had not manifested themselves yet. The rise of industrialization opened up many new possibilities and with them the realization of a better world became within reach, or at least that is what people thought. One might say that in the arts as well as politics an important notion or drive has been the thought of ever achieving such a blissful state. It has been the Hang zum Gesamtkunstwerk which has been a driving force for the innovations in art and other area’s. Oosterling quotes Harald Szeemann according to whom, Gesamt-experiments of the last 150 years manifest an “inclination towards” [Hang zum] as “the wish for salvation”, implying “fantasies and ideas of intended coherency”.(Oosterling 2003, p 32). This state however can never be reached if one goes with the actual meaning of Utopia. Utopia (Ou-topos) can either be translated as “ideal place” or as “land of nowhere. (Oosterling 2005 (1), p1) There is no conclusive answer.

In the final analysis the Gesamtkunstwerk never was really successful. The subordination of art to other domains destroyed the openness and ability to change, so characteristic for avant-garde art. In retrospect, it is not the result but the “inclination towards” that appeared to have been decisive. (Oosterling 2003, pp 32-33)


Although the idealism behind these Gesamt-experiments may not always have worked it has been followed by many afterwards. Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes assumed an interdisciplinary approach in producing ballet. Famous artists like Picasso and Henri Matisse did the decor and composers like Igor Stravinsky, Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, Eric Satie en Sergei Prokofiev wrote music all in order to come to a unification of these art forms.[15] This year in an exhibition in Groningen on Diaghilev’s life and work in Groningen the curators sought to revive the old ideas of the choreographer and chose to let the exhibition coincide with a festival in which his ballets and music were performed again. People from many different disciplines worked together to make this possible and it became a big success.


Others, such as the futurists wrote manifestos in which they exalted the new possibilities in life through combining existent media:


[i]t will be painting, architecture, sculpture, words-in-freedom, music of colours, lines and forms, a jumble of objects and reality thrown together at random. We shall offer new inspirations for the researchers of painters, which will tend to break out of the limits of the frame. We shall set in motion the words-in-freedom that smash the boundaries of literature as they march towards painting, music, noise-art, and throw a marvelous bridge between the world and the real object. (Marinetti 2001, p13)


As one can see here is that even the futurists, although they are not as precise in formulating whether the media will cooperate or integrate, had an ulterior motive in aiming at the real object. At this moment, given the wide array of forms that multimedia currently takes—Internet art, virtual reality installations, graphical on-line chat spaces, and real-time networked performance, and many more to come—it is difficult to say whether these new multimedia forms all have an ulterior motive, a Hang zum salvation. It is very probable that they don’t. They do however continue to function next to each other. Sound, image and text can usually be clearly distinguished from each other. Of course there are cases in which it is difficult to tell but these cases tend to belong or evolve into intermedia. Another element which is still intact from the Wagner’s original ideas about the Gesamtkunstwerk in relation to Multimediality is the immersive element belonging to Multimediality. Although not brought about by an underlying ideal, immersivity nevertheless is important for the concept of Multimediality.



2.4 Immersion


“[t]he demand of the collective (gemeinsam) audience is the demand for the artwork, to whose comprehension it must be distinctly led by everything that meets the eye. Thus the spectator transplants himself upon the stage, by means of all his visual and aural faculties; while the performer becomes an artist only by complete absorption into the public. Everything, that breathes and moves upon the stage, thus breathes and moves alone from eloquent desire to impart, to be seen and heard within those walls which, however circumscribed their space, seem to actor form his scenic standpoint to embrace the whole of humankind; whereas the public, that representative of daily life, forgets the confines of the auditorium, and lives and breathes now only in the artwork which seems to it as Life itself, and on the stage which seems the wide-expanse of the whole World…”(Wagner 2001 p 6)


What Wagner describes here is a typical instance of immersion taking effect. The audience is enraptured by what happens on stage and forgets everything else. It seems as though the stage is the world. The reason Wagner strives for these immersive effects is because in this way he can bring about a temporary illusion of Utopia. Wagner was one of the first to understand the power of immersion and ever since, his techniques to capture the audiences have been applied in theatres, orchestra-houses and movie-theatres. While Wagner may have thought to actually achieve his ideals through immersion, others (e.g film makers) after him realized that immersion worked as a temporarily illusion of another world and used the mechanism as such. Immersion of course was not something new; people experienced it mostly through reading books or watching common theatre. The difference with these kinds of immersion is that they were not put to full potential. Wagner mentioned already the stage being like a world and it is this notion of world we must look into in order to understand the full effects of immersion. Marie-Laure Ryan in her book Narrative as Virtual Reality (2001) wrote extensively on immersion in relation to narrative texts and virtual reality. We will take a look at her ideas in order to understand the importance of immersion for Multimediality. Although she usually relates her theories of immersion to texts we should be able to extrapolate these to Multimediality.


What makes the semantic domain of a text into a world? All texts have a semantic domain, except perhaps for those that consist exclusively of meaningless sounds or graphemes, but not all of them construct a world. A semantic domain is the nonenumerable, fuzzybordered, occasionally chaotic set of meanings that is projected by (or read into) any given sequence of signs. In a textual world these meanings form a cosmos. “How does a world exist as a world?” asks Michael Heim, theorist of virtual reality. “A world is not a collection of fragments, nor even an amalgam of pieces. It is a felt totality of whole.” It is not a collection of things but an active usage that relates things together, that links them… World makes a web-like totality… World is a total environment or surround space. (Ryan 2001, p 91)


So according to Ryan the main element of immersion is feeling the totality of the whole, or a whole world. It is creating an illusion that one is in a different world. How does one make believe that this is the case? Ryan mentions a few processes which are at work when a subject is experiencing immersion. First of all one must realize that any world presented to the reader or viewer never is a complete world just for the mere fact that the viewer is not actually in it. The reader uses this world handed to him “to build this always incomplete image into a more vivid representation through the import of information provided by internalized cognitive models, inferential mechanisms, real-life experience, and cultural knowledge, including knowledge derived from other texts” (Ibidem)


Ryan discusses three main forms of immersion in her book Narrative as Virtual Reality and those are first of all spatial immersion in which the reader develops a sense of place, a sense of being on the scene of the narrated events. Secondly we have temporal immersion in which the experience of a reader caught up in narrative suspense, the burning desire to know what happens next. And thirdly there is emotional immersion which is the phenomenon of developing a personal attachment to the characters, of participating in their human experience. According to Ryan narrative techniques are evaluated in terms of their ability to promote these various types of immersion, and immersivity is shown to be more important to the effect of literary realism than the life-likeness of the fictional world. In contemporary culture, moving pictures are the most immersive of all media. (Ibidem, p 120) Movies give a lot of starting information and it is easy to feel empathy because the characters are so life-like.


The subject enters a certain world through the mediations presented to him; this world is not totally new. The media which are used in this particular instance are familiar and their cooperation as well. One can relax and enjoy the show, without needing to reflect on unfamiliar elements. The media in this combination are strengthening each other; this in contrast to Intermediality as we shall soon see.



Chapter 3 Intermediality


One of the main notions of Multimediality is that it is immersive, absorbing, and completely understandable. There is no confusion, no ambiguity on the part of the spectators. The question we subsequently ask ourselves is why Intermediality (integrative, ‘between media’, ambiguous) is so different, for it has much in common with multimedia. There is a combination of different media and medial effects are created. In order to point out the differences we will take a look at the technical aspects of Intermedia with a focus on identification, ambiguity, immersivity and tension. In the following chapter I will set apart what the main discussion on Intermediality till this point has been, since it allows me to pinpoint the missing elements in this debate. I also do this because this field of research is relatively new and not many people have heard or read about it yet.



3.1 Intermediality compared to Multimediality


Although the topic of Intermediality is relatively new, some research has been done and several theories have been developed. We will take a look at the most important contributors to this debate. I have mentioned some of them before but in this chapter I will take more time to analyze their theories, starting with Dick Higgins who (re)coined the term in 1965 (Samuel Taylor Coleridge actually coined the term trying to describe experiments between images and texts but the word fell into disuse.).


Higgins developed the term in order to pinpoint the area from which many new branches of art arose. He thought that the best work produced in his time seemed to fall between media. He scorned the separation between media to be too mechanic and based on a Renaissance idea. He illustrates this with examples of ‘pure’ media such as painting and sculpture. Higgins mentions the work of Marcel Duchamp and John Heartfield as art which is truly between media:


“[t]he German John Heartfield [whose work is a mixture between collage and photography, JvdP] produced what are probably the greatest graphics of out century, surely the most powerful political art that has been done to date. The ready made [Duchamp, JvdP] or the found object, in a sense an intermedium since it was not intended to conform to the pure medium, usually suggests this, and therefore suggests a location in the field between the general area of art media and those of life media.”(Higgins 2005, § 6 & 7)


Here Higgins explicitly mentions that he sees these new forms of art happening between the older and already existing art. What is noteworthy here however is that Higgins not just talks about the arts but also about “life media”. Although he makes not entirely clear what he means exactly with life media I think we can make some cautious remarks on this topic. In my view Higgins is not just taking the conventional arts into account but also the influences of other cultural or social processes. With his example of the readymade he seems to endorse that not just intentional art practices belong to the realm of art but also those practices which do not belong to this realm eventually take a place within the arts. It is a conceptual change and because of this conceptual change a new artistic or medial realm seems to develop between the other, already existing media. These conceptual changes however are not automatically linked to just the art practices. Higgins implies however that these changes may come from anywhere and it is this I think he means with the influence of life media.


Higgins later on talks about the rise of “the happening” (Ibidem § 12) in which he himself took part. These happenings also may not just develop from conceptual changes within the artistic field but also from interaction with other experiental realms in life. Through Higgins explication of “the happening” we, again, are made aware of the in-between-ness of these new forms of media:


“Thus the happening developed as an intermedium, an uncharted land that lies between collage, music and theater. It is not governed by rules; each work determines its own medium and form according to its needs.”(Ibidem)


Especially Higgins’ stress on the absence of rules is an indication of the fluidity of the use of media. No clear boundaries but ‘decompartmentalization’ of the existing media in order to come to new combinations and new forms of art. Higgins also mentions that this form of making art is “more or less universal throughout the fine arts, since continuity rather than categorization is the hallmark of our new mentality.” (Ibidem § 13)


In a later reflection on the 1965 article Higgins explains his reasons for coining a term like intermedia. His intention was to simply offer an ingress into the works which already existed because without a “classification many of the viewers would be turned off by these kinds of works” (Ibidem § 14). He wanted to give the public a way of viewing these artworks without the intervention of history and historical judgements. The term intermedia was however often confused with “mixed media” (Ibidem § 16). This term, however, is according to Higgins not the same as intermedia. Mixed media was used in order to indicate that the artwork was composed of more than one sort of material. For example in paintings a combination of guache and oil might have been used and in the case of opera the term may have been used in order to indicate that it consisted of music, libretto and mise-en-scene. The point is however that these different materials or processes are clearly distinguishable and always take place within a familiar, conceptually well defined form of media. There is no confusion as how to regard such a particular form of medium. Even though there might be some resemblance to multimedia, with mixed media one should always remember that this is a process or structure which takes place within a single medium and not between combinations of different media.


By stating the difference between mixed media and intermedia Higgins indirectly suggests that for the audience the reception of intermedia artworks is ambiguous. It is difficult to define and to know how to look at it. He furthermore insists that intermedia is not a movement. “Intermediality has always been a possibility since the most ancient times, and though some well-meaning commissar might try to legislate it away as formalistic and therefore antipopular, it remains a possibility wherever the desire to fuse two or more existing media exists.” (Ibidem § 18)


So to sum up the basic notions of Higgins theory of Intermediality: instead of looking at media as ‘pure’ one should regard media as not being static but subject to change. In combining different media with ‘open’ borders a new kind of medium arises; a medium which falls between existing media. This in-between-ness of media is and has always been possible. Therefore one cannot say that it is a movement. By saying this Higgins seems to take the positions of earlier established media for granted, he focuses solely the area between these established media and does not look at the effects of change on the already existing media. There is no focus on the mutual interaction of these media and the new area and the possible problems which can arise because of it. It also seems a little bit too simplistic to me to just say that after a while people get used to the new medium and it is no longer considered to be intermedial. It is not that I do not agree with these lines of thinking, I just would like to see why and how it is we become used to new forms of media and what it will do to our general sense of perception and course of action.

Although I have some problems with some of Higgins points I do think he made a valuable addition to the research of media interactions. His points of in-between-ness, the influence of other fields than art, hybridity of borders and making an ‘ingress’ for unknown works still stand in current debates on intermedia. Some authors (e.g. Werner Wolf) might think a bit different about some of the topics but usually the aforementioned points are in some way included into their arguments as we will soon see.



3.2 Medial Dominants


Werner Wolf takes a more analytical approach towards Intermediality. A very thorough and detailed approach gives us insight in the workings of intermedia as Wolf analyzes it. Wolf is one of the very few who has asked himself what a medium exactly is. As we have seen in an earlier chapter this is a concept very often taken for granted or explained rather briefly. Wolf neither wants to narrow the concept of medium to just the institutional channels of communication nor take it as broad as McLuhan’s medium for whom medium is any extension of man. Wolf prefers to use medium as a conventionally “[d]istinct means of communication, specified not only by particular channels of communication but also by the use of one or more semiotic systems serving for the transmission of cultural ‘messages’. This definition encompasses the traditional arts but also new forms of communication that have not or not yet advanced to the status of an ‘art’ such as computerized ‘hypertexts’ and virtual realities.”(Wolf 1999, 35)


Wolf then goes on to implement differentiations with the concept of intermedia in the order of ‘overt’ or direct versus ‘covert’ or indirect Intermediality. Furthermore he recognizes the formation of medial dominants. (Ibidem, 38) According to Wolf there are combinations of media in which one of the media involved clearly has a dominant status over the others. With other combinations it is more difficult to establish which one of the media plays a more dominant role or whether it happens at all. Let us turn, however, back to the distinction Wolf makes between overt and covert Intermediality. Wolf understands overt Intermediality to be an ‘and-variant’. For example music and literature, dance and theatre, etc. “[B]oth media are directly present and with their typical or conventional signifiers each medium remains distinct and is in principle ‘quotable’ separately.” (Ibidem, 40) In other analyses of Intermediality this form corresponds to the cooperation of several media in the form of Multimediality. I therefore find it a confusing differentiation and will abstain from using the terms overt and covert Intermediality.


Wolf defines the covert or indirect form of intermedia to be the participation of at least two distinct media in the signification of an artifact. Only one of the media appears directly with its typical or conventional signifiers and thus is called the dominant while the other medium is indirectly present within this dominant medium. The signifiers of the non-dominant medium do not retain their specific character as opposed to the dominant, which does retain its typical identity. Wolf asserts that covert Intermediality always necessarily implies a relationship between a dominant and a non-dominant medium. (Ibidem, 41-42)


He never considers a relationship in which none of the media involved holds a dominant position and therefore are not quotable separately. In other words, what happens if two media merge in such a way that it is impossible to tell which medium is which? I only bring up this point because if there is a dominant medium involved there is always the possibility for recognition and categorization. It seems to me that one of these media is just expanding its borders and seems to comprise more than what it was originally defined for. Although interesting enough it does not form an entirely new medium domain ‘between’ and in ‘interaction’ with other media.



3.3 Intertextuality


I discussed Lehtonen earlier in the context of the definition of a medium. Lehtonen distinguishes an important element in the functioning of the medium. With the concept of multimodality Lehtonen describes the multiplicity of a medium. We tend to think of medium as singular and well defined, but Lehtonen rightly discusses this ‘presupposition’. There are multiple semiotic systems and these all intermesh and are made up of each other. There is not just one way to say something or represent something. When we talk about medium there is (an arbitrary) convention regarding the way this medium is defined and identified. We understand a painting to be a flat panel on which paint is used to depict something whether it be realistic or abstract. Whereas painting might be relatively simple to define there are other media which are more complex of structure. Lehtonen thinks that the rapid development of technology causes an increase in the use and complexity of semiotic systems. This increase in use will also cause more and more intermingling of more and more media. There will be more transgressing of conventionally established borders. (Lehtonen 2001, p 75)


“All symbolic forms are multimodal by nature, which means that they simultaneously utilize several material-semiotic resources. However, as such, multimodality always characterizes one medium at the time. Intermediality again, is about the relationships between multimodal media” (Ibidem)


To my opinion this notion of Intermediality is rather simplistic because what Lehtonen is actually saying is that Intermediality is the relation between different media (which happen to be multimodal). He does not say anything about the nature of the relationship itself. Are there different forms of relationships? When is a relationship intermedial and not multimedial or does Lehtonen dismiss the concept of Multimediality altogether? Lehtonen tries to explain Intermediality with the help of intertextuality[16]. He is not the first to make the comparison and there are apparently some parallels. Lehtonen even makes distinction between horizontal and vertical intertextuality in which horizontal intertext refers to explicit relationships between primary texts which usually are entangled with such matters as genres, characters, plots and themes, and vertical intertext refers to primary texts and other texts that explicitly refer to these primary texts. (Ibidem p 76) Without examining too deeply the topic of intertextuality there are a few elements which may be of interest to Intermediality. According to Lehtonen horizontal intertextuality contains intermedial dimensions such as genres, characters, plots of themes (which are intermedial because they are not restricted to solely one medium), and therefore horizontal intertextuality is the principle area in the study of Intermediality. (Ibidem)


Eventually Lehtonen reaches the conclusion that Intermediality is intertextuality that transgresses media borders. (Ibidem). Again in my view this is not a very convincing statement. I for one have trouble accepting the parallels between intertextuality and Intermediality because intertextuality happens within a single medium or a single domain (that of texts) whereas Intermediality takes place between several media.



3.4 Nebeneinander & Miteinander

Jürgen Müller is one of the few, so far, who actually wrote a book on the subject and along with several articles gives a clear view on especially the technical aspects of Intermediality. In Intermedialität, Formen moderner kultureller Kommunikation (1996) Müller starts with a thorough examination of the historical development of semiotic systems. It becomes apparent that the idea of singular pure media is something that does not exist and never did. “Already the human body and language as the basic media of human communication imply intricate intermedia-interactions. From their very beginning, written texts have been imbedded into multi and intermedia performances and acts”. (Müller 1997, p 296)


Müller stresses that the concept of Intermediality does not mean that media are to be found in a relationship of mutual plagiarism but that they integrate questions, concepts and principles, which have been developed in their history and in the history of other media into their own context. A media-product becomes an inter-media product if a multimedia coexistence (nebeneinander) of different media-quotations and elements is transformed into a conceptual intermedia coexistence (miteinander), the aesthetic refractions and faults (Verwerfungen) of which open new dimensions of experience to the recipient.(Ibidem, p 298) In other words in the nebeneinander, multimedia-variant the different media cooperate but retain their own characteristics, in the miteinander, intermedia-variant the different media conceptually intermesh and the conventional ‘identity’ of the media involved is changed.

Müller tries not to develop a “system of systems” (Ibidem) but instead tries to describe the dynamics and fusions of media patterns in certain productions and in the history of media. He does mention that new dimensions of experience can be opened to the recipient but the reference to this notion in his book is meager and he neglects to analyze the role of the subject and the influence the subjects has on the new experiental domain.


Indeed not a system of systems but a system which appears to be (by these authors) totally autonomous. So far most of these authors, except maybe for Higgins, stayed within the realm of the arts. What happens if we expand this realm and look at influences other than artistic? It surely is too easy to think that newly evolving artistic product have solely been influenced by their artistic brothers and sisters. As Lehtonen rightly remarks; there are so many technological developments happening at the moment in all sorts of fields, that to think like that is an illusion. Even though the authors stay mostly within the arts an important element in their research is the integration of domains, and the becoming of new domains. However, I think that becoming aware of the vast and complex amount of mutual influence of different major fields outside the arts is a first step towards new forms of research. The hard part however is to reform research of this interaction into an intelligible and workable structure which will help us understand our present society. And this is where Intermediality as opening up worlds comes into place.



Chapter 4 Intermediality is Opening Up



While in the last chapter we discussed Intermediality on a mainly technological and conceptual basis I would now like to delve into more philosophical areas because it will allow us to reflect more on the relation between subject and mediation. In my opinion mediation in whatever form it presents itself is always dependent on the subject. In every instance of a media process there is a relational aspect with earlier, conventionally established and framed elements of media and with the subject. Later on in this chapter I will discuss its supplementary relation. Understanding this relation will help us elucidate Intermediality. None of the analyses of Lehtonen, Wolf or Müller discussed in the earlier chapters deal with the specific nature of these relationships with the subject. At best ambiguity is mentioned as being part of the primary perception by the subject of an intermedia art form.


Even though we have established in the chapter on media that the main function of media is to mediate something (and that this can be the mediation of many things, from information to power), most analysis of media processes take place within a specific domain such as art, economics and academics to name but a few. In my opinion these kinds of analyses are inadequate because they do not reflect our (the subjects) sensorial/mediated dealings with the world. Discussing how television has had influence on for example the style of writing in a specific era does not discuss our way of perceiving this writing or the way we perceive television programs. How do we experience a world in which writing no longer has a Louis Couperus style but a flashy Dan Brown or postmodern Paul Auster style. We’ve become bored by slow books and, for that matter, movies too. Just mentioning that styles have changed is not enough, our way of perceiving and experiencing things changes as well. Think about for example school teachers who complain that the attention span of children has diminished compared to 30 years ago. Changes in mediation have effect on our general way of perceiving and experiencing things. This has implications for the way we study intermedia. I would like to describe the workings of intermedia not just from the perspective of the artistic domain but in relation to an experience of the world in its pluriformity. Because this pluriform or heterogeneous experience of the world by the subject is exactly what intermedia is about. I have given some artistic examples but the intermeshing of different disciplines happens on a large scale. For example the fact that smoking is now frowned upon is the result of a combination of medical knowledge and political policy. Smoking, as compared to the sixties in which it was normal to present your guests with cigarettes, has lost its self evidential quality in everyday life. It is not just about combining different disciplines and the effect they have on each other, it is also about the effects it can have on ones world as one experiences it. How one combines these different disciplines, domains or discourses determines how the subject reacts on it. Ambiguity or immersion depends on the combination of the media involved.


Artists make many new disciplinary combinations but are not solely influenced by other forms of art. They take inspiration from normal/everyday life, and people are not solely affected by artworks but also by processes in everyday life. Exactly this element: the inspiration of ‘normal life’ has been the basis of many innovative works of art and new experiences. And in turn these innovative works will affect our way of thinking and perceiving, which will allow for new experimentations, which will create even more new experiental domains and so on and so forth. I think that new combinations of experiental domains and implementation of new devices is the key to opening up ‘new worlds’ or new experiental domains. In fact in a way this reminds us of Higgins who identified Intermedia as ‘fusion texts’ resulting from the merging between everyday life (ready-mades) and art.


In this chapter I will reinterpret Intermediality as a process of opening up spaces or worlds. This opening up of worlds can be done in at least two ways. First, people, whether they are artists, economists, housewives or children can make new integrative combinations of previously existing experiental domains[17] and secondly this may happen through the implementation of new devices[18]. The first problem arises when one realizes this is not an exclusive process happening within the arts. In economics or in law new combinations of existing domains are possible and new devices are usually not solely used within the arts. Hence, in essence Intermediality is a common process.


The second problem which arises is that the process of ‘the becoming of new worlds’ never is something which stands on it own. It is always connected to the subject. In fact subject and process depend on each other. Since everything we observe or experience is mediated and meaningful from a human perspective it is therefore that without the subject things which are would not have their present meaning and without things or objects there could be no meaningful existence for the subject. In short the relation between subject and world is supplementary and Intermediality as ‘becoming’ or ‘opening up’ is part of this supplementary relation.


I do however differentiate between opened up (mediated spaces) spaces and opening up (intermediating) spaces. Although the opened up space still depends on the supplementary relation[19] between subject and world it is different from the opening up of spaces. Whereas opened up spaces to the subject have some spatiotemporal coherence, the opening spaces have a difficult ontological status. Since the spaces are coming into being they reside between absence and presence. Since people generally structure their worlds on the basis of present beings, this status might cause problems for the subject who is creating coherence. Not being able to create coherence does not always happen though since one has the ability to anticipate possible acts, processes and possibilities. However if the new combinations or new devices deviate too much from what is known (the opened up spaces), one can feel oneself to be alienated from this becoming world.


Artists often try to evoke this sense of alienation (for example Pippilotti Rist who combined the realms of scent, sound, touch and image in a new way, opening up a new experiental realm in which relaxing immersivity was not possible and reflection arose.) and with the notion of passibility I will try to show, in the last paragraph, how new combinations of certain domains and new devices come into being in the first place.


So far I have been talking about existing domains and opened up spaces as if these notions are a given fact. This of course is not the case since all familiar domains have come into being via the same intermediary process as I have described above. Differential theorists, mainly French philosophers such as Derrida, Lyotard and Deleuze, have dealt with issues of identity, becoming and absence. Under the common denominator of difference theory their ideas are therefore interesting in connection to mediation and more specifically Intermediality.


As we will soon see difference theory, the supplement, opening up worlds and ultimately Intermediality revolve round absence or the unknown within the world (as experienced by the subject). The one thing artistic Intermediality does is sensibilize subjects shock-wise to this notion of absence, the unknown and the new experience. The ‘shocking’ element as opposed to gradual Intermediality generally evokes reflection among the people experiencing the art work.


Even though to some extent I follow Henk Oosterling, a philosopher who has extensively written on this subject, on the sensibilizing and reflective element I want to nuance his views with my ideas on the opening of worlds and the artistic shock element.



4.1 Analyzing relations


As I have shown in chapter three, deliberating about Intermediality in relation ‘to becoming’ makes sense as this is its main function. What should we keep in mind when delving deeper into the notion of Intermediality? I want to emphasize the subject again because the medium (or media) never stands on its own; it is always part of a mediated experience between subject and world. Usually this relation is taken for granted and an almost forgotten element in studying any form of culture. Most disciplines are studied as if they act autonomously. Literary scholars, for instance, analyze the mutual influence of different genres or narrative constructions. This kind of analysis is very interesting, except that in this way, literary scholars often ignore the relation and influence of the perceiving and producing subject. If the relation between art/media and subject is studied at all this usually takes the form of an empirical analysis of a small part of the whole range of possible processes.

When for example empirical literary and media scholars study the reading habits of young and old people or the influence of television on children and scholars of literary theory study the influence of television on narrative constructions, the results of these studies will always have a fragmentary character. Studying or analyzing all the changes in society which are a result of new technological developments has hardly been done except for maybe Michael Bull who with his book Sounding Out the City (2000) tries to give an auditory understanding of human behaviour through an ethnographic analysis of walkman use.


What are the effects of the mobile phone, sms, msn, internet chat groups on communication and is the way we experience time and space affected? Does one experience distance differently because of the immediate presence of one’s friends and family, because of mobile telephony or the constant information being ‘thrown’ at one through various media channels? One has global access to everyone from a very local (individual) position, which means one literally can be a hub with global spokes. Communication and interaction happens more and more through devices, interfaces. Mediation is taking a flight.


As we have seen in the previous chapter Intermediality usually was regarded as multiple media integrating and developing ‘between’ established media. Whether one medium is dominant or not, as soon as frames of a medium start to shift or become porous its position becomes uncertain because there is no distinctive form. Higgins tried to give this process of becoming a name: Intermedia. His naming this process is typical for people. We seem to need structure and abstraction in order to communicate and structure our world. Without any forms and frames we would not be able to communicate or act in this world. What if we would have no abstraction? Think of the confusion of simply asking someone to bring a couple of chairs. Chair is an abstraction for a construction on which we sit. This construction can take many forms, a wooden chair, a metal one, different colors, models etc. If there would be no abstraction and every chair would have its own name one would have to remember all the different names, recognize them and on top of that everyone else would have to know all the names in order to communicate about them. Of course this would make communication impossible even if one had a memory like “Funes, the Memorius” from the Luis Borges’ tale. (Borges 1988) Placing things in some sort of spatiotemporal coherence is vital to the subject’s sense of identity and continuity. Most mediation falls into ‘known’ categories. One knows, for example, what to expect if one turns on the light. One would have a new experience if the walls in ones house would be light emitting and serve as a means to write ‘light-messages’ upon.[20] Mediation through known canals creates a sense of identity and continuity. This, however, is an on-going process and therefore this sense of identity and continuity are constantly under construction


This is the reason that so far I have been talking about the subject and I think that everyone will have an inkling of its meaning. It is another word for person or individual. There is however a specific reason why I use the word subject. With respect to structuring one’s position and oneself in the world, the word subject represents the procedural existence of the individual. Even though the word has been in use for some time, most notably by Kant, now the word is often used in contemporary human sciences and philosophy as influenced by psycho-analysist Jacques Lacan and Marxist Louis Althusser. “For most theories on the subject, the individual is a product rather than a source of meaning. The concept of subject is thus frequently invoked to undermine the notion that an innate sense of ‘self’ can provide a stable personal identity or be the focus of experience. [...] It is at once active (‘subject of’) and passive (‘subject’ or ‘subjected to’)”(Macey 2001, p 368) The subject is connected to discourse in which language or in this case symbolic systems in general are not expressions of subjectivity but discourses are the agencies which produce subjectivity by positioning human beings as subjects. According to the Dictionary of Critical Theory “discourse in this sense should be seen as something which is used to describe any organized body or corpus of statements and utterances governed by rules and conventions of which the user is largely unconscious.”(Ibidem, p 100) So one may speak of a medical discourse of which practitioners of medicine make use or a law discourse of which lawyers and judges make use. Every person functions within a multitude of discourses. I for one function within a female discourse combined with white, higher educated, Dutch, artistic and family discourses to name just a few. My point is that every person identifies him- or herself within a multitude of specific discourses and that the number or structure of these discourse are subject to change in relation to other discourses. These discourses specifically emphasize the communicational aspect but this is of course not the only way to relate to the world. The term discourse can be connected with the concept of experiental domain. I experience my surroundings and world in a certain way because of several continuous and familiar mediations making up different experiental domains. I experience my house differently from the university and I experience a conversation differently depending on whether I talk to a professor or a plumber. Different discourses or different experiental domains are at play.


How can we relate to the world and how can we make sense of it especially in times of rapid technological or digital change? In the age of globalization and digital revolution many of the changes around us happen in ways and at a pace man has never seen before. How do we cope with or relate to these changes? Is it us facing these changes or are we part of it? In short; can we still define or position ourselves in the world in relation to rapidly changing discourses? When we ask ourselves what our place is then we should, apart from looking at discourse changes, take a look at the notion of space. Space or the way we perceive/experience our surroundings is influenced by our mediated experience of it. When these mediations (rapidly) change our perception of space or our experiental domain will also change. Therefore I want to take a look at Intermediality (and the subject) in the context of space.



4.2 Space/place


What we have seen so far is that intermedia is placed between what seem to be clearly defined media, or has integrative qualities with respect to other media or similar processes. The element of inter in this concept always seems to be connected to a process of becoming. This in-between quality, this process of becoming is difficult to place: what is its specific space? We as humans relate to our surroundings in a certain way and we are simultaneously affected by these surroundings. It is a supplementary [21]relation: a notion on which I will come back to later in this chapter. Analyzing how we as subjects relate to our surroundings and what the role or the working of the inter is, might be illuminating as to what function Intermediality has in our lives.


Whereas most mediations are familiar, have a conventional structure, in short have a place in our experience of them, Intermediality does not have this yet. What I am asking is: what is the ontological quality of the inter? Is the inter? Placing things is directly connected to being, to presenting things. The event of becoming however is not yet a being; becoming is between absence and presence, it does not have a specific place. It is in the words of Oosterling a dispositive. (Oosterling 2002, p 128) It does not have a position within our experienced coherence of space and time or within the discourses we reside in.


Philosopher Jos de Mul analyses the way in which certain conceptual spaces or planes develop and function. (De Mul 2004, p 24) In my opinion his analysis shows the extent of how radical the changes of the last 20 or so years have been and how our way of looking at them has changed. He starts by explaining how space is traditionally viewed as empty volume between things. For example the empty place you are searching to park your car or to store a book on a shelf. This is a geometrical conception of space which took a flight in modern science when Newton theorized about space. He considered it absolute, meaning that objects and bodies not only move in respect of each other but also move in respect of space it self, space which would also exist without those bodies. (Ibidem) Leibniz however thought space to be relational, which on an abstract level designates the mutual relation between things. To Leibniz space is nothing more than the totality of all mutual relationships. Kant goes a bit further by saying that space does not belong to the order of things but is a form of human sensibility. Space is subjective and an ideal scheme which originates from the nature of the human senses and which serves to categorize the world. Anyone who is ‘condemned’ to perceive the world with the sensibility of a human sees the world in a spacious way. (Ibidem, p 25)


Heidegger’s theory on space still has some of Kant’s ideas in it but he poses that space is opened up by the human Dasein (being there) in his ‘careful’ dealing with things. By using all kinds of ‘tools’, (or if we take McLuhan’s point of view, media) which mutually refer to one another, spaces are discovered, like geographical space, and constituted like for example the space of law. Dasein makes things and acts spacious: it brings them together and situates them with respect to each other. In this way not only nearness but also distance is discovered. Heidegger however, apart from Kant, does not see this space as just a subjective form of space: the discovery of space is only possible in the meeting of Dasein and objects. Space is neither subjective nor objective but is opened up by our being-in-the-world. The ships with which man sails around the world open up a geographical space, like space travel and astronomy open up cosmic space and the electronic microscope opens up the subatomic space. Societal acts open up social space and magic and ritual acts open up a sacral space. Once opened up these spaces in relation to the subject regulate in their turn the acts within the discovered or situated spaces. (Ibidem 25-26)


It is the zuhanden sein (literally being before your hands) (Heidegger 1998, p 99) of Zeug (tools) (Ibidem, p 98) which gives the subject (or Dasein) its ‘natural’ experience of the world. When one enters a room, the room functions as a ‘room-tool’ meaning that instead of all the objects being just objects the objects all have a function to do something. This quality of ‘to-do’ causes the relation between the objects to be coherent and it makes up the room-realm as something to ‘do’ living in. It becomes a meaningful room to you. (Ibidem p 99 & van Sluis 1998, p 31)Just like a hammer you use to hammer a nail in the wall. The hammer to do the nailing means you have the ability to hammer the nail without realizing that the hammer represents a realm of which initial conception of the tool, delving the iron, acquiring the skills to work the metal, actually working the metal, cutting the wood and working the wood into a handle are all part. Also with this tool other realms can be opened and can acquire coherence in relation with this tool. The room I was talking about earlier in fact is made possible by the fact that hammers exist. The moment the tool fails you, for example if the handle breaks, the self-evidential quality of the realm in which it used comes to a screeching halt. It is at this moment when you realize what the hammer partakes of and what it usually does. Its to-do quality is lost but your realization of its coherential (its bringing together of things) qualities persists. It even makes you more aware of it. (Van Sluis 1998, p 32)


When we think through Heidegger’s idea about our being in the world it becomes evident that McLuhan’s vision of ‘every extension of man is a medium’ in fact is very similar to Heidegger’s ideas. Both the media of McLuhan and the tools of Heidegger have a ‘to do’ quality, a mediating quality. And both media and tools do not function autonomously but are tightly linked to the subject. McLuhan’s vision of “the medium is the message” was to draw attention to the fact that media can change the life of people. Just remember his railway example in which he stated that the medium of train-transportation changed the way people worked and lived. I think we can equate this with Heidegger’s idea of opening up of worlds.


Most of the time we are not aware of the specific experiental realm in which we find ourselves. Because we are familiar to it we do not need to think about its specific qualities, it is coherent to us. It is an opened up space. But what if it is not yet coherent to us, what if it is in the process of becoming coherent. Its potential is unexplored, it is difficult to predicts its effects on society and not all disciplinary combinations seem to make sense and some new devices do not seem necessary[22]. Who would have thought for example 20 years ago that in the future there would be a device available to nearly everyone through which everyone would be instantaneously reachable regardless of time or space? I am talking about the mobile phone. The fact that my parents can call me from their sailing trip when they are four hours off the coast of Denmark is something which would not have been possible a couple of years ago. The mobile phone opens a new realm of contact between people. The device has been the result of interaction between different realms or disciplines. The mobile phone probably was developed by the army and then with further (general) technological development it became available to (important) business people. With the development of computers the technique for mobile telephoning also improved and the technique became available on a larger scale. Of course there are many more elements to the development of mobile telephony but my point is that through the cooperation and integration of different disciplines new developments can come to the fore.


Spaces or discourses create a whole repertoire of possible acts and in this way possible interactions with the world. Thus, the hard- and software of the computer opens up a virtual action space beyond and through everyday life. The latter is the case when dissimilar spaces interact in multiple ways. Heterogeneous mediated spaces can become entangled in many ways: they engage in hybrid connections and can make each other stronger, suppress or destroy each other. They can cooperate (nebeneinander, opened up, Multimediality) or integrate (miteinander, opening up, Intermediality). In short, spaces are not just there, they grow and shrink, disappear or are transformed as they are affected by other spaces (de Mul 2004, p 26)


People do, however, operate from certain familiar domains (discourses). These domains or spaces already have gone through the intermedial process of becoming. They have been opened up, which does not mean that they are static and thoroughly known. It just means that these spaces are more familiar which in turn often causes people to think of them as authentic or ‘real’. New developments are often based on these familiar domains because it allows people to incorporate changes on the merit of their anticipatory abilities. For not only do spaces have a relational dimension with the subject or with Dasein, there also is a temporal dimension, they function within time. In contrast to space which in everyday language (incorrectly) has a static ring to it, time has a dynamic connotation. Time is change, movement, process, development and happening. However, time is also dependent on Dasein if we go along with Heidegger’s conception of time and space, for in its acts it opens up the three elements of time (Ibidem, p 27). Future means the anticipation of the Dasein of its possibilities. Past is not a now-moment which has gone by but is a gone which is still there, as that which made the Dasein to what it is now. The present, finally, is presenting things in their temporal and spatial coherence. But these elements of space and time are always relative to the subject in order to function. Any one of these modes can not exist separately, they supplement each other.



4.3 Supplementary relations


Jos de Mul uses the concept of space in order to explore the possibilities of cyberspace, the space opened up by computers and the internet. Although he does not explicitly mention media and the workings of intermedial processes I think we can connect his conception of space in connection to cyberspace as a source of inspiration for our analysis of Intermediality. In my opinion the constant implementation of new devices or media in everyday life has the result of constantly opening up new spaces. It is exactly the opening-up part, the becoming of new space, the exploring of new possibilities which is of relevance here. Such a particular space does not yet have a place, it is still evolving, developing or to use the word again it is dispositive. (Oosterling 2002, p 128)


As de Mul already pointed out, these spaces interact or are part of each other, societal space, for example, will be part of most other spaces. One could have a ship to explore new worlds with but it would be absolutely useless if the crew and captain had no cultural codes through which they would be able to interact and communicate and make the ship do its thing. The interacting of spaces and the new devices developed in these spaces are picking up speed. The opening up of spaces allows for more inventions, more knowledge and more connections to other spaces. The pace in which this happens is speeding up exponentially.


Within the arts the combining of different spaces, and to a lesser extent, the development of new devices has always been a main part of the creation of art. The search for new experiental spaces lies at the heart of the avant garde. Through mediation new realms are opened up and the only difference with real life is that artists (often on purpose) try to deviate from what people are familiar with. They try to break spatiotemporal coherence of the audience. The tension and reflection which subsequently come into being are meant to make people aware of the hitherto unknown. Not gradually, as usually is the case when different experiental realms are mixed, but with a shock.


Part of technological developments is that people acquire more and more knowledge which in turn enables them to develop even more instruments to ‘ease’ their lives or to anticipate changes. In the near future for example everyone will be familiar with the concept or notion of Ambient Intelligence. This is smart technology or software which will be everywhere around us, has a ubiquitous quality, but will go almost unnoticed easing our lives and anticipating our needs. One of the better known examples is the ‘thinking fridge’ which will keep track of stock and will place the best orders for you at supermarkets [23]


The result of this quickening of pace is that more and more potential spaces are opened up and that more and more future possibilities need to be explored. But because so many spaces are opened up simultaneously one of the results may be a sense of chaos and confusion. There is no time to leisurely explore new possibilities coming at you for in the blink of an eye the next set of possibilities is available. Gradual adaptation to new experiental domains is giving way to shock. This flood of information or possibilities might invoke a sense of residing in a constant state of becoming, a state of being between known and unknown positions. Some people however seem to be able to deal quite well with the changes and quickly adapt to their new surroundings. In my opinion this is because most changes evolve from familiar realms and in that case we deal with gradual Intermediality. The pace of change is slow enough for some subjects (not all) to adapt to the changes presented to him or her.


As has been made clear in the above mentioned analysis of Dasein the subject explores the world with the help of tools or media. In this regard tools or media not only mediate the intentions of subjects towards others and the world but the media also constitute new worlds. Media and subject relate to each other in a supplementary way. In my view the notion of supplement is a key issue in our (heterogeneous) conception of the world and it is this notion we should explore more extensively in order to come to a better understanding of the process of opening up worlds.


These mediations and the supplementary relation to the subject who will perceive his or her world through the help of tools or media will be of importance to the understanding of Intermediality. The notion of supplement[24] has extensively been explored by Jacques Derrida who laid out his ideas in a language-oriented theory, based on semiotics. The supplement obeys a strange logic. To be an addition means to be added to something already complete, yet how can it be complete if it needs an addition? To make something present it needs to take a form which can be recognized. Thought for example needs words, either spoken or written in order to be communicated, to be made present. These written or spoken words then act as a supplement to the thought. The word supplement primarily means addition and this is what comes to mind when thinking through the thoughts-words example. It implies however that there is an origin and Derrida proves to us that this is not the case (Moyaert 1986, 38). He re-examines the concept of the supplement and comes to rather interesting conclusions. When one would think in terms of origin, thought, in this example, would function as an origin, as a whole, as that which is perfect. Derrida however says that if this origin is a perfect whole, why then does it need an addition in order to be made present? If it needs an addition it cannot be whole. If the supplement is something and not nothing, then it must expose the defect of the whole, since something that can accommodate the addition of a supplement must be lacking something within itself. (Ibidem, p 51) This is what one can call "the logic of the supplement." Mediation has a supplementary character and therefore one can conclude that in any mediation there is something missing. There is always something not present in every presentation/mediation.


Similarly presence is only present on the condition that refers to the absence from which it distinguishes itself. (Moyaert 1986, p 48-49)Derrida argues that metaphysics tries to hide this trace of absence by giving all-explaining answers. (Derrida 1995 (a), p.27) Every present, in order to know itself as present, bears the trace of absence which defines it. If there is something like an absolute origin there must also be the trace of absence within this presence. (Ibidem, pp34-35) But if this is an absolute origin then there can be no absence. It follows that in our example of thoughts put into words, the supposed originality of the thoughts is only afterwards produced with and within the supplement (Moyaert 1986, p 49). The words are a prerequisite for the thoughts to appear, or to be made present. At the same time, however, the words postpone a direct contact with thought and with that which is represented, both temporarily and spatially. According to Marcel Cobussen, a theorist who wrote on deconstruction in music, “the supplement is, on the one hand, an exteriority, outside of that which is signified (thoughts) and outside of itself (words) because in its quality of being a sign it represents something different than itself. On the other hand, however, a supplement enables an interiority and produces the inside. Every supplement postpones that which it installs. And every signified is, in fact, an effect, a trace of a signifier.”[25]


Therefore, supplement does not only mean an addition but also a substitution. And when analyzing the workings of the supplement the conclusion must be that there will always be tension between the presence (achieved through mediation) and absence (which is always present in every mediation)


Something remains hidden in every representation or mediation; something is forgotten, suppressed, or excluded. Thiscould be called 'the other' or ‘the informe’ (Oosterling 2002, p 44) and I would like to remind the reader that because the subject stands in supplementary contact to any form of mediation the subject therefore also is part of this process. The ‘other’ or the ‘informe’ is part of everything one is aware of including oneself. And this of course can be a confusing thought because it means that the ‘informe’ is also part of the conception one has of oneself. The subject is pervaded with absence. (Ibidem, pp 135-136) In effect spatiotemporal coherence is an illusion, one which could be shattered by a non avoidable introduction of absence such as is the case in the shock form of Intermediality.


Furthermore what should be merely a means of expression affects or infects the meaning it is supposed to represent. What began as a supplement to help thought, or something similar, to present itself becomes a replacement that threatens the integrity of what it intends to replace. Thought cannot exist without words. Or to use semiotics again: a signified cannot appear without a signifier. This means that a supplement cannot simply represent the absent signified. Because the signified can only be(come) present through a signifier, each signifier can only be substituted for another signifier that maintains another relation with the deficient presence. 'The supplement is always the supplement of a supplement. One can not go back from the supplement to the source and one should realize that there is a supplement at the source', (Moyaert 1986, pp 49-50) A process of substitution of supplements is thus started to which there is no beginning and no end[26]


So to recapitalize; every mediation is the result of a supplementary relation between subject and medium. Because of the nature of the supplement every presence or every mediation is pervaded by absence. And in the case of intermedia which specifically deals with the opening up, the mediation of new and unknown worlds, this means that apart from what has yet to be uncovered, the unknown or absence is already present in whatever form this mediation eventually presents itself in. Absence or the unknown is twice ‘present’ in any intermedial mediation.



4.4 Difference


What we need to do after this exploration of the supplement is to realize to what extent this notion is part of our lives. How do we experience the supplement, what do we think of or how do we think/experience the tension between constituting forces? What is the effect of absence, or that which can not be thought, on reason? Can it be dealt with through reason or does it consist solely of an experiental effect, an affect on the body? Will understanding the mechanisms of supplementation help us become more sensitive to the opening of new worlds? Can it help us dealing with our fast changing world? I am not sure, but what I do know is that the number of different domains is growing and integrating at a higher speed. Difference theory may be a key to a different perspective on the world, something which could be elucidating to many.


After Heidegger tried to change the way we view origin and identity[27] several other, mainly French, philosophers dealt with the question of what ultimately became to be referred to as difference. Jacques Derrida, Jean-Francois Lyotard and Deleuze & Guattari all theorized about the difference lying at the heart of our conception of the world. The example of the supplement constituting and changing identities has been explored in several different settings, deconstruction being one of the more ‘famous’ ones.


Derrida described the supplement in terms of différance in connection to texts (Derrida 1995 (a)). Again Derrida recognizes a between which precedes both entities between which it is thought. This is a relentless temporal movement of postponement without ever arriving at the ideal signified, which coincides solely with itself, and it simultaneously is a force which articulates an interval of the difference between signifiers (Moyaert 1986, pp 50 & Brillenburg-Würth 2004, p 28). This spatial-temporal interval Derrida calls différance, a deferral and difference at the same time. This différance is not something the subject executes nor is it a process which works through everything and which can be objectified through empirical analysis. It is neither an active act nor a passive endurance. Différance cannot be objectified or represented. As a difference it cannot be reduced to opposed positions like either presence or absence, active or passive, subject or object. (Oosterling 2005 (b), p 324) Neither does Différance precede these positions – if it would différance would achieve some kind of divine status. Différance does generate with its differences positions; these positions are indebted to différance. They exist simultaneously; it is a supplementary relation, part of mediation. (Oosterling 1999, p 47) There is however always something which can not be shown or made present. We come a bit closer to our question of the position of the subject with respect to difference or change. Différance is part of our ability to create a spatiotemporal coherential world. Realizing that positions, structures, identity are all the result of difference is however, something we hardly reflect upon. Lyotard will give us even more insight in to this matter.


Jean Francois Lyotard chooses to call this inability to present the unpresentable the Differend[28]. Lyotard became very famous for his denunciation of the Grand Narratives[29], or the Logos oriented metaphysical thinking. He was not the first to do this but his focus on injustice to small narratives, or one could say minor discourses, was a different approach to thinking through the relation between (wo)man and the world. Lyotard put his ideas forward in a phrase-theory which he then later expanded to other areas. According to Lyotard nothing in this world is certain except for the fact that there will always be a phrase connecting to a former phrase. (Lyotard 1988, p11) Lyotard says that the ability to speak is identified with a subject’s existence, with which he means that there will always be another phrase whether this is an actual phrase or a silence. Phrasing or silence can both be an expression of the subject. Subjectivity and language cannot be separated (Ibidem). Again we see the emphasis on making something present, mediating something and positioning oneself within certain discourses which, in Lyotards case, can be challenged by interaction with other discourses. Oosterling thinks that by using oxymorons, paradoxes, double binds, dilemma’s, antimonies and performative contradictions, Lyotards sensitizes his readers to the ‘experience’ of thinking and the acknowledgment of an all pervading absence. According to Oosterling affectivity is integrated in phraseology in this manner. Matter and mind interact in this ‘phrase-affect’, wherein ontology and epistemology are entwined (Oosterling 2003 (b) § 5). One could say that Lyotards theory of the Differend focuses more on the becoming aspect of mediation. The stress on absence or the unknown in Lyotards theory lies more on the becoming of a new phrase (or mediation). In my opinion this theory matches the logic of Intermediality in which normal mediation (Derrida’s différance) en becoming mediation (Lyotard’s Differend) are both combined.


While according to Lyotard there is certainty that the next phrase will come there is always a moment of suspense between the two phrases. What if the unthinkable happens and there will be no next phrase? (vd Vall 1994, pp 348-349) This moment of agony will eventually be resolved with the happening of the next phrase. What one has to take into account is that a great number of possible phrases are available for the connection to the former phrase but that only one of these possibilities is chosen. Usually this one phrase is picked because of the discourse the conversation is taking place in (Ibidem, p 354)


There are a couple of things to be concluded from the above: phrases exist in relation to absence (the non chosen phrases) and the moment of becoming is always connected to suspense, an interval, a moment of non-being. Since this is a process which is happening continually the moment of resolve of this suspense in theory can take the form of a sublime experience (Brons & Kunneman 1995, p 75). But since most phrases take place within a particular discourse the subject anticipates its becoming and the moment of tension or sublimity disappears under the guise of habituation. In this case we are presented with normal mediality but if the becoming of a new phrase deviates from the discourse it takes place in and as a result opens up a new experiental domain then Intermediality occurs.


Apart from the inherent absence or the unknown in any mediated presence which can be explored by opening up new worlds Lyotard recognizes a third absence in mediation. He refers to this absence as an injustice taking place and calls this a Différend. This injustice happens when a phrase is chosen and the other possibilities are neglected (Lyotard 1988, p29). All the usually used phrases discard the unpresentable happening in order to forget the other possibilities.


In the happening of a sentence a Différend comes into being. It is this happening or experience which cannot be transformed into a recognizable or objectifiable experience. The Différend acts like an interruption in the regular discourses through which people usually order their world. When the happening of a phrase diverts too much of the discourse in which it takes place then the other possibilities arise whereas they normally would be forgotten. It then becomes an interplay of the subject being affected and the mind thinking it over.


How should philosophy deal with these kinds of interruptions, Lyotard asks himself? It is clear that these kind of happenings work on the border of ratio and sensibility, for one is not able to categorize the experience but one is affected by its ambiguity. Lyotard proposes a new kind of sensibility for the happening of the non-classifiable or the unpresentable in the happening of a phrase which he calls passibilité or passibility. Passibilité takes as an unguided, unbiased and almost empty susceptibility every interruption as it comes and the happening of the phrase can take place (Oosterling 1995, p 117)..


Heidegger calls this moment of happening Ereignis. Ereignis is the happening of the happening or the becoming of the becoming, the appropriation of that which is in relation to being. Ereignis is the happening of the Being (Sein) of beings (Seiendes) in the heart of the ontological differentiation, of the open, in the Lichtung (Silverman 1995, p 84) Ereignis in fact is the happening of the now although this happening of the now can only be reflected upon afterwards. The intentional subject is always too late for the event. As with ‘subject’, indications like ‘before’ and ‘between’ are no longer adequate. The retrospective act of splitting, one can say, constituted both. (Oosterling 2003 (a) §5) However, being susceptible to change and absence will help one bend shock-intermediality into gradual intermediality thus maintaining a spatiotemporal coherence while simultaneously accepting absence to be present in ones world


Why do I bring up this phrasing theory and the happening of the now? Firstly there are some connections to the becoming of worlds as I described earlier. The coming into being, the status nascendi is a very important element to difference theory and Intermediality. While Lyotard does not explicitly mention the interdependency of phrasing and the subject, he implicitly does so by pointing to injustice. The injustice of forgetting the other phrases and the injustice of being overruled by a dominant discourse amounts to the conclusion that a subject is intrinsically bound by his ability to communicate, to let things come into being, to make things present. The second instance in which the phraseology is important is that Lyotard recognizes the fact that we are placed by what we know and disrupted by the unknown which in fact is everywhere but which is usually forgotten. It is my opinion that even though everything is pervaded by the unknown most of these ‘unknowns’ are connected to the discourses we place ourselves in and which we are familiar with. True ‘disruption’ comes into being when the subject enters an experiental realm which is not immediately related to the familiar realms of his hitherto coherential existence. This is the function of shock Intermediality.



4.5 Passibility


Although at times uncomfortable, disruption is necessary in order to let other things come into being as it is an important innovative force. We should be susceptible to new things, other possibilities etc. It is how many new medial combinations come about: through the susceptibility of a subject to change. Lyotard calls this susceptibility passibilité.


Passibility is not about a subject consciously looking for innovation but about trying to be susceptible to new ideas, new combinations or new devices. For example according to Lyotard glancing at something is always surrounded by a vague area in which visible objects ‘hide’ themselves without being really absent. Furthermore it usually is the last glance or look at something which simultaneously anticipates the next glance. The eye is always looking for familiar things just like the mind is searching for things which it already understands. (Lyotard 1992, p 28) Outside that which is seen or that which is thought an innumerable amount of other views or thoughts exist. That which eventually has been made present through mediation is always different from that which was the intention of the artist or author. Lyotard continues by saying that true thinking should not be seen as selecting data, choosing a form of mediation. No, according to Lyotard, thinking is nothing else than letting come in to being of that which can be given. (Ibidem, p 30) Even though this might sound a bit cryptic what he means is that one should keep initial and habitual (bodily) intentions at bay in favor of emptiness. This emptying or clearing of expectations and anticipations enables the subject to initiate the ‘necessary’ mediation. The right words in a paper or the right stroke of a brush on a painting. This process of emptying oneself of expectations is a cause of suffering. It takes effort to ward of one’s usual course of action. Lyotard connects this suffering aspect to the bodily experience. The mind is taught to open itself up in favor of truly new things. The pain of thinking is thinking itself in relation to the extent to which the subject decides to be indecisive, to be patient, to be waiting for what might come. (Ibidem, p 31-32)


Even though Lyotard describes ‘true thinking’, a notion I would not readily use, his ideas about passibility bring us to the question of how new combinations or devices can come into being. So far I have talked continually about the fact that these new combinations of media, discourses, spaces or worlds come into being in order to initiate new experiental domains, but I never questioned why this happened. Things, thinking, come into being but in order for something special to happen one must make an effort, just like one has to make an effort in order to relate to a newly opened up world, an intermedial experience. To go outside known realms, passibility is required. Of course deliberately combining odd disciplines or discourses might also have the required effect but according to Lyotard susceptibility to the unknown or passibility is more effective.


Passibility should however not be confused with passivity, passivity is opposed to activity but not to passibility. In passibility the differend's and interactions between the faculties like understanding/ reason and imagination /knowing and acting/ feeling which formerly seemed quite evident and seperate are taking (a) place. Henk Oosterling points to the fact that the tension between being affected and knowing one becomes self-reflective: “In being affected one knows and feels: ‘for thought, to be informed of its state is to feel this state – to be affected’ and ‘pure reflection is first and foremost the ability of thought to be immediately informed of its state by this state and without other means of measure than feeling itself (Oosterling 2005 (c) § 7)


Passibility, when explained, is often a familiar concept to artists. Very often this is exactly the process they use in creating art, in combining different media or implementing new devices. It is also something many writers know, because often when they try too hard their writing is not working and when they do something else they are suddenly inspired....



Case study: Hundertwasser – Painting, Architecture and Ecology


Someone who must have experienced passibility during his life time of creation is the painter and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. I mentioned him briefly before but his architecture is a good example of Intermediality. Hundertwasser was originally called Fritz Stowasser and his mother was Jewish. He experienced the effects of the WOII as a young boy and this might have been of effect on his later career motives. Twenty of his mother’s relatives were deported to the German death camps and were gassed. He came to abhor war and everything which even remotely seemed to be related to oppression or containment. This proved to be of influence on his artistic work. Hundertwasser started his career with painting. His paintings were colorful and had an abstract realistic style. In using colors and abstaining from using straight lines he tried to express the natural life; life free from oppression and restraint. In several of his first painting (of the 50ies) he painted houses with many windows. He associated these windows with eyes. It personalized the windows and this may have led to his conviction that every person should have a ‘window-right’, with which he meant that every person should be able to bend out of his or her window in order to personalize its frame. “Every passers-by should be able to see: here lives a person. Here lives someone who distinguishes himself from all others and the hasty passers- by acknowledges the fact that someone actually lives there”. (Doelman, 2003, p 7 translation JvdP)  His ideas on the window-right may have been the incentive to develop his ideas into actual architecture. He developed many plans and began building (with the help of a professional architect) in the eighties. In several manifestos, of which his “Mould-Manifesto Against Rationalism in Architecture(1958/1959/1964)” is the most famous, he set forth his ideas on architecture. Initially he wanted to develop a more natural way of building incorporating the ideas and creational aspirations of the tenants in the building process. "Everyone should be able to build, and as long as this freedom to build does not exist, the present-day planned architecture cannot be considered art at all." (Doelman, 2003 p 46). Planned architecture, straight lines, Hundertwasser thought it to be more terrible than living in a slum (Ibidem).  While he initially wanted to develop architecture according to natural principles, no straight lines, weathering of buildings, natural dark colors (no mint-colors!) (ibid, 62), creation by architect and tenant he did not yet incorporate actual nature into his building plans. This came about somewhat later when he was given the chance to actually execute his ideas. The basis of free architecture and natural development of the building process led the way to actually incorporate trees, bushes and grass into his buildings. In the manifesto Concrete Utopias for a Green City (1983) he concretizes his ideas about nature in buildings; grass roofs, vegetation on roofs, climbing plants, tree-tenants, window-right, de-straightening the skyline, windows out of order and the creation of towers and bay-windows. In other manifestos he tries to explain his somewhat primitive ecological ideas regarding architecture with amusing illustrations, exhibiting a house in which human waist serves as humus for the ‘wild forest’ on the roof and filtered rainwater ready for use in the room in which a tree lives (tree-tenant) (Ibid, p 85).

Eventually Hundertwasser got to realize his ideas for real which culminated into a number of buildings in Austria with the Hundertwasser Haus in Vienna as his most famous building. As one can observe on the picture on the title page the building is a mixture of unconventional architecture, colors and nature. The terraces, the trees and other vegetation, the colors and the style make it a remarkable building. The building houses 50 apartments and people still live in it today. They even have their own website:


I visited the place a couple of years ago and I must say that it is quite an experience. Of course now the building is famous and its style has had its reflection on modern architecture so we have become more used to unorthodox buildings. Also ecology has a more important role in our society in which everyone separates waist and ‘green’ energy does not sound very strange. Grass on roof tops still is not a very common sight but one can find such buildings in the Netherlands (e.g an apartment complex in Alkmaar) In short many of the things Hundertwasser introduced in his architecture are now quite common. Architects try to incorporate the whishes of people into their buildings; more light and also more green in buildings (nobody looks strange at seeing actual trees in the lobby or relaxation area of a large company building) is now quite common. I remember hearing about the development of a new hospital (sadly I forgot which hospital it was) in which there was much more vegetation and light than in an average hospital and in which people actually recovered faster than normal (according to research). These kind of developments show that there has been a change in how we experience our environment. Simple block-flats still exist but are not favored and the municipality tries to discourage such building plans since it has proven to attract more crime, problems and negligence (e.g. the Bijlmer in Amsterdam).


I choose to take the work of Hundertwasser as an example of Intermediality because it neatly illustrates what effects the combination of different disciplines can have. Hundertwasser started out as a ‘normal’ painter but through the observations of his environment (his experiental domain) he slowly became an architect with revolutionary ideas about building. Of course it is impossible to say whether he experienced passibility in developing his ideas but it is very probable that he has had such moments. I described his transition from painting to architecture and from ‘natural’ architecture to incorporating actual ecological systems and in my view these transitions may have come about by being susceptible to new ideas. When one deviates so much from trodden paths one has to be open to different ideas; otherwise one would never come to something truly new, for one would be bound to the already existing experiental realms.  So I think passibility might have played a role in Hundertwasser’s creative progression.

As for the spectators at the time (and maybe still now) it must have been a very new experience. The house looked in nothing like a normal house and might have caused some confusion – trees which grow out of windows, gardens on the roof, bright colors and last but not least; no straight lines. I can imagine that many people doubted that the house would be suitable to do living in. The combination of ecological principles, painting (all those colors) and architecture was very unusual at the time. Environmental care was only beginning to take form in people’s minds and eighties functionalism roared, also in architecture.

On the one hand one could say that this sort of architecture might have been experienced as gradual form of Intermediality since the changes depart from familiar terrain (they are still living apartments) but on the other hand I can imagine that for many people at the time it might have been a shock to experience such a complex, natural building and therefore one can consider it to be shock-intermediality. It is always difficult to tell for eventually everyone experiences his or her surroundings in one’s own way. I say, however, that the basis for such an experience is there. Painting, architecture and ecology have been combined in an integrative way. The usual structures and conventions have been abandoned and a new form of architecture and living has been developed. A form which has had influence on present day architecture in which ecological standards are integrated with building guidelines (better isolation, possibilities for alternative energy uses and enough green in the neighborhood). Twenty-five years later Hundertwasser’s architecture still attracts a lot of attention which may be an indication of his style still being part of an opening up space, a space of which the potential (the integration of ecology, painting and architecture) still is not fully explored and still is not considered as familiar.





I started my thesis by describing the work of Pippilotti Rist as an example of Intermedial art. Is her work Intermedial? I would say yes, but ultimately this is a subjective judgment. To me the way she combined and integrated the different media was new. It was difficult to define her work; was it about images, sounds or scent? There was no medial dominant and although I talked earlier about an installation; can one still call such a (literal) realm an installation?


In the title of this thesis I talk about opening up a world: Rist really created a new sensorial world, and I at first was overwhelmed but I later started to reflect on this new realm. I especially was made aware of the olfactoraly dimension of my perception and realized this sense almost never partakes in experiencing art or any other form of entertainment (only on a side note). Of course this is not very troublesome but it made me think about its absence and its potential: I was sensibilized to this ‘unknown’ dimension.


Because I experienced this installation as overwhelming I was not able to attribute any kind of meaning to the combinatory medial elements. Now this of course happens often when watching or experiencing modern art but one is usually able to define whether one likes it or not. I still am not sure, but I do know I was fascinated and still am by this experience. Another element of course was the shock-element, when I stepped into the chapel I suddenly was subjected to this experience. It would have been different if one had been able to hear the sounds and smell the peppermint already outside the chapel.


I had this experience in a museum but artists nowadays often try evoke the shock effect by going out of this particular (and traditional) realm into the public domain.[30] And through interaction with the artworks many artists try to let the viewer reflect on their participation to and relation with the media, think about for example the Dutch Electronic Art Festival in Rotterdam. Many of artworks exhibited there only come into full function through the participation of the participants. Interactivity in relation to Intermediality would be an interesting follow up to the research of Intermediality in the context of opening up worlds.


However in order to recapitalize what I have discussed in this thesis I need to go back to medium. As I have shown in itself this is a complicated concept. With the help of the theories of Higgins, Lehtonen, Wolf and Müller we have come to the conclusion that the medium is not a static object but an on-going process. It comprises elements of earlier media and is therefore multimodal and remedial. It is used to transfer or mediate something. I have chosen to see the medium as mediating almost anything, from information to power. Every tool or Zeug is part of mediatization (the dependency of humans on devices). Tools, or media are influenced by their content and vice versa but simultaneously have influence on the way we perceive and experience our environment, our experimental domain. Tools or media are identified through the same mechanisms of normal identification. Under ‘normal’ identification I understand Heidegger’s Identity Principle which states that Identity is the result of difference and that therefore every mediation is pervaded by an inherent ambiguity because of substitution, deferral and difference; one would never be able to let a signifier and signified coincide. The medium is carrier of information (in the broadest possible sense) but is it self also part of the semiotic system. In fact most media have had more influence on society than their content. In present day society one can observe a rapid growth in interdisciplinary research and implementations of new devices. People are combining media at a larger scale and at a greater speed. Depending on how the combinations are executed one can observe people either to immerse into the experiental realm presented to them or to be confused over the experiental realm presented to them. It is the difference between Multimediality and Intermediality.


In my chapter on Multimediality I discussed how Richard Wagner developed his Gesamtkunstwerk inspired by Schopenhauer’s freedom from the Will and the ideals of the Athenian theater. Through the combination of different media forms Wagner sought to elevate his audience. In his view the totality of his combinations would amount to more than the sum of the parts. Inadvertently, one could say, Wagner developed mechanisms to enhance immersion instead of reaching a ‘true’ world. Because this was the weak point in his ideas; trying to reach an ultimate goal (utopia), is praiseworthy but has proven to generally fail (communism, Nazism) for it does not allow for ambiguity or confusion. It is no surprise that most multimedia have given up on this idea. Combination of multiple media, however, still happens very often and can be distinguished through its co-operative rather than integrative character. The media involved remain distinguishable and intelligible, and often immersion can come into being.


Multimediality is quite different from Intermediality, which originally is seen as media integrating and creating a new medium. In the third chapter I discuss several views on Intermediality. For example Higgins who (re)coined the term trying to make an ingress for art which did not fit with existing art categories but who does not question himself why it is we have art categories at all. He briefly mentions the fact that influence on media also can come from outside the arts but he does not deliberate on the relationship of the subject and the medium.


Werner Wolf introduces medial dominants. In itself not a bad idea but his explanation of the term is confusing with regard to Multimediality and he also does not consider the option of there being no dominants.


Lehtonen tries to read Intermediality as a different form of Intertextuality: Intermediality is Intertextuality transgressing media borders. I find this solution a bit too simplistic since the character of intertextuality is that it remains within a single domain: the domain of texts.


Jürgen Müller introduces the miteinander and nebeneinander variant of respectively Multimediality and Intermediality a, to my mind, clarifying distinction. In this way one emphasizes the cooperative and integrative qualities of both. However also Müller stays within the arts and does not really consider the role of the subject.


In the last chapter it is exactly the role of the subject which I want to elaborate upon. In order to understand the relevance of mediation one should see this notion in relation to the subject. Subject and mediation are intrinsically linked. In mediation, experiental domains or ‘worlds’ are opened up. Most worlds are opened and can thus be considered to be familiar domains or discourses, but through the combinations of odd disciplines or through the implementation of new devices new worlds are opening up. This opening up of new experiental domains causes confusion on the part of the spectators or people experiencing these new worlds, because these worlds do not yet have a place among familiar domains. In other words, the new space which is opening up is unfamiliar and alien and it will take a while to get used to. It is also difficult to place one self in these changes; what is ones position with regard to these changes?


In order to understand the relation between subject and its mediated environment I discussed the Dasein relation of the subject and his or her world. In the meeting of the subject and object a world can come into being. Most of the time this coming into being happens within familiar domains; one can also speak of an opened up space, a familiar space. When through the Dasein relation of the subject and its surroundings a totally new world opens up, this might cause confusion. This new world can be the result of new media combinations or new devices and is caused by an intermedial process.


I also discern two variants within this intermedial process taking place; a gradual variant and a shock variant. The gradual variant is slowly introduced and builds upon familiar domains. Through the anticipatory abilities of the participants the opportunity of slowly exploring the possibilities and potential of a new domain stays intact (mobile telephony, computer). The shock variant is more difficult to deal with because of its sudden nature. Suddenly one is confronted with a new experiental domain and with one’s own disability to deal with the situation (e.g. the work of Rist and Hundertwasser). The uncertainty and ambiguity make one reflect on the notion of absence or the unknown in everyday life, more so than with the gradual variant.


The unknown or absence is inherent to becoming, for becoming is between absence and presence. It is not really there yet but its potential already shows itself. It has a difficult ontological position and comes back to the notion of difference. The difference in identity by Heidegger but also the difference of Différance by Derrida, who explains Différance’s positioning abilities inherent to normal mediation. It can be an aid to the creation of spatio temporal coherence; although at first sight it may not look that way. However by acknowledging the unknown in ones existence one should be better able to deal with intermedial worlds. Lyotard elaborates on the notion of becoming and through his theory we come to realize that in the intermedial we have to deal with a double portion of the unknown; not only the unknown in normal mediation but also the unknown of the becoming, the bringing to presence of that which is not yet present. A third absence occurs in the happening of the happening, the becoming of a becoming, only one option is chosen and others are neglected. These triple presences of absence make it difficult to deal with the opening up of new experiental worlds. The only solace is that many opening is being done from familiar bases (gradual variant), easing the adaptation process somewhat. Also when the full potential of the new world has been explored the experience of this world will change into an opened up world; a familiar world.


In the last paragraph I deal with the notion of how these combinations are made. According to Lyotard one of the options is passibility, a heightened susceptibility to change. Opening one self for that which can happen, a passive endurance of new opportunities is what causes true innovation. Of course deliberate combination might also have some effect but Lyotard is convinced of the qualities of passibilité, and I must say I find some truth in this for it has been effective in my writing process and the creation of a new theory.


I hope I have been able to clarify that the subject has a mediated and supplementary existence in a mediated and supplementary world and that this existence is pervaded by absence because this is the nature of mediation and supplementation. This process and absence is theorized by French difference philosophers like Jacques Derrida and Jean François Lyotard and their analyses help us to, now and then, break spatio-temporal coherence in favor of, through passibility initiated, new ideas. Other, very enjoyable media cooperations come in the form of Multimediality, an immersive, intelligible and coherent process.


I for one, will try to let passibility have more influence on my life since I am by nature a very curious person and hope many new worlds will be opened up to me either gradually or shock-wise.





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[1] I will use this term quite often throughout my thesis because it reflects the fact that one can experience a domain (e.g a room, institute, group of people or virtual space like internet. etc.) in a particular way. There are many different ‘domains’ and many different ways to experience such a domain. The character of this experience however is always subjective.

[2] Difference Theory argues that at the origin of all things is not a unitary form (such as god or an all explaining/empowering substance) but difference, thus creating ambiguity for there can be no absolute conclusion. As there is always something lacking, our world according to difference theory is pervaded by absence, something which we generally try to ignore. But I will elaborate on this notion in the 4th chapter.

[3] By these authors commonly seen as media integrating into a new media form.

[4] Last visit 03-07-2005

[5] last visit 03-07-2005

[6] Semiology is the science of signs or the study of the life of signs in social life. It studies the way we communicate to each other, through language or other means.

[7] last visit 03-07-2005

[8] last visit 03-07-2005

[9] I asked him once in class why he used reflectivity whereas the normal word would be reflexivity. This is the answer he gave me.

[10] For an explanation on discourse see p 54

[11] A term which is extensively analyzed in Peter Wagner’s book Icons - Texts - Iconotexts. Essays on Ekphrasis and Intermediality, ed. Peter Wagner. Berlin and New York: deGruyter, 1996: 281-309

[12] Read more about Schopenhauer and the world of the Will in: Schopenhauer, Arthur. The World as Will and Idea, §38-42 p 119-135 Everyman Library, London 1997. And in: the dissertation by K. Brillenburg Wurth, last visit 03-07-2005 pp 142-145

[13] An insoluble paradox or contradiction in a text argument or theory.

[14] Last vist 03-07-2005


[16] Term coined by Julia Kristeva in her study of Bahktin’s work on dialogue and carnival. The basic premise of the theory of intertextuality is that any text is essentially a mosaic of references to or quotations from other texts; a text is not a closed system and does not exist in isolation. It is always involved in a dialogue with other texts. […] Intertextuality is not simply a matter of influences which pass from one author to another, but of the multiple and complex relations that exist between texts in both synchronic and diachronic terms. (Macey 2000, p 203,204)

[17] For example the architect Hundertwasser who combined architecture and environmental ideas in his buildings, literally creating a new environment or world for people to live in. Read more on Hundertwasser in Hundertwasser, Architectuur, Naar een mensevriendelijke manier van Bouwen by Taschen/Librero, 2003.

[18] Such as the computer, the internet or the mobile phone.

[19] A notion I will extensively deal with in paragraph 4.1 and 4.2

[20] something which is currently developed by Philips under the name of Aurora and is being described in Emile Aarts’ the New Everyday p 296, 2003

[21] Supplement is described as an interdependent relation between subject and object. Both are needed to make the other present, significant (meaningful). Read more on the supplement in Derrida, Jacques. ‘Signatuur, evenement, context’ in: J. Derrida, Marges van de Filosofie, p. 167-195,Kok Agora, Kampen, 1995 and in: Collins, Jeff & Mayblin, Bill. Introducing Derrida pp 34-35, Icon Books Uk & Totem Books USA, Camebridge 2001 and on

[22] It isnot always clear what new possibilities new devices or new combinations of media can lead to. Something that has been clearly demonstrated by Thomas Watson president of IBM in 1943 who believed that in the future there would be a world market for five computers. See: last visit 03-07-2005

[23] Read more about ambient intelligence in the book The New Everyday by Emile Aarts (2003)

[24] Read more on the supplement in Derrida, Jacques. ‘Signatuur, evenement, context’ in: J. Derrida, Marges van de Filosofie, p. 167-195,Kok Agora, Kampen, 1995 and in: Collins, Jeff & Mayblin, Bill. Introducing Derrida pp 34-35, Icon Books Uk & Totem Books USA, Camebridge 2001 and on

See also Moyaert, Paul. ‘Jacques Derrida en de filosofie van de differentie’. In Samuel IJsseling (red.), Jacques Derrida. Een inleiding in zijn denken. pp. 30, 36-41 Ambo, Baarn 1986

[25] last visit 03-07-2005


[27] As has been discussed in Chapter 1 paragraph 1.5

[28] Read more on the Differend in: Lyotard, Jean François. The Differend, Phrases in Dispute, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis 2002. Another excellent source is : Brons, Richard & Kunneman, H red. Lyotard lezen. Ethiek, onmenselijkheid en sensibiliteit, Boom, Amsterdam 1995

[29] All explaining religions or histories.

[30] Interesting examples of this kind of art can be found here: and Henk Oosterling has also written some articles on this phenomenon.