Voyage on the North Sea 4 – Intermedia

In Voyage on the North Sea intermedia is positioned as a kind of (negative) unstructured area in which much contemporary art (installation, video art) has drifted (Krauss writing in the mid 90’s).

Intermedia is something I am interested in but trying to understand how I can deploy it and what it might mean for my practice.

In 4-the-politics-of-intermediality  (2010) Jens Schroeter outlines some of the historical context for this debate, including the historical opposition between Greenbergian medium purity and the explosion of intermedial experimentation in the 60’s.

This kind of oppositional discussion may miss the complexity of media themselves, not to mention the infinite variations by which they can interact.   The different commentators within the Intermedia debate, for example cinema, theatre and literature also have their own perspectives and these often differ considerably.

My approach takes as a cue a paper by Jill Bennett, the first part of which


puts forward the idea of the intermedial gesture following Agamben’s Notes on Gesture. The intermedial gesture is a kind of ‘making means apparent’ which for Agamben is an ethical act. Bennett positions this more as an aesthetic gesture on the other hand so the extent to which Agamben can be called upon is up for debate.   I probably need to understand more about gesture in Agamben and this reading is currently in process. It links to contemporary biopolitics and may have a range of interesting links.

For the moment what seems clear is that the intermedial gesture is integral to Broodthaers’ Voyage on the North Sea although Krauss herself does not employ that term directly.   The film is structured as a book with page numbers and consists of a series of static shots of both photographs and paintings.  At one point a closeup shot reveals the weave of the canvas of the painting.  It seems to want to distance itself from the idea of being a film – hence the gesture of the book format – and directs its attention to paintings and photographs.  The promise of a voyage on the sea is delivered at some level but not directly and only via another medium.  The pitching and rolling of the camera on board ship is traded in for static shots made in the studio.

Some of the strategies of Voyage on the North Sea are employed by Paul Sietsema who extends the approach to the filming or photographing of models in the studio.

To be continued..