Reviews

Sow’s Ear One
R. Brody, editor
1983
North Staffordshire Polytechnic
Department of Humanities
Stafford, U.K.

Intermedia. 1974 +. Irregular. P.O. Box 27677, Los Angeles, CA 90027. Ed.: Harley W. Lond. ISSN 0147-5754.

Intermedia has assumed many guises: a 17″ x ll” tabloid (1/4, Winter/Spring 1976; 2/1 [5] 1978), a series of loose papers designed to be enclosed in a box, with a contents list as checklist (2/2 [6] n.d.) Most usually, however, the magazine adopted a stapled 11″ x 8 1/2″ format — the size in which the first three issues were produced.
One reason for these format variations has undoubtedly been to enable the magazine to feature examination of many different medias (separately and interacting – hence Intermedia as a title). The sub- title, “Arts    Communications Resources,” which issues of the magazine usually carry also suggests this role. The words “Communications     Resources”, however, also carry another connotation: “One of the goals of INTERMEDIA is to link the new art movement with … other alternative movements – to create a unified alternative force or artists, writers, workers and radicals that will somehow change or alter the path of the current entropic system” writes Harley Lond in issue l’s editorial (1974).

This is plainly a committedly radical perspective favoring experimental approaches, It has something in common with the analyses of Richard Kostelanetz – a commonality becoming more explicit when Lond writes, in this first issue, “We want INTERMEDIA to be … a platform to answer ‘ignorant’ critics, reviewers … we want INTERMEDIA … to print things otherwise unpublishable.” Thus it is no surprise to find that Kostelanetz is a regular Intermedia contributor. Issue 1 carries his essay “Why Fifth Assembling;?”, issue 3 (Dec, 1975) his “Why Sixth Assembling?” and issue 4 his “Modulations” – this paired with Henry Korrn’s “Pontoon Manifesto” on an enormous 22 1/2″ x 17 1/2″ piece of folded yellow card. Kostelanetz’s “line”, though, is not followed slavishly: Lond is a perceptive editor, and expresses his reservations about Kostelanetz’s angle in issue 2+3 (Spring 1979), when reprinting the latter’s “N.Y.S.C.A. Again” – an essay examining the funding practices of the eponymous grant agency. Land writes “Although we don’t agree with Kostelanetz’s tone or his language we do support his investigation of the process of the funding of art and literary organisations and publications, and the machinations therein.” It is thus, therefore, more a question of a conjunction of interests. Kostelanetz describes alleged literary panel “rigging” and systemic neglect of whole areas in his investigation of the funding processes operating for New York art and literary organisations and individuals. Intermedia sought to take this a stage further, for Lond offered “equal space” to Richard A. Mayer, Executive Director of New York State Council on the Arts, but Mayer’s reply was that “The Council sees no reason to respond”, so the initiative came to naught.

“Initiative” is a good word to apply to Lond’s approach to editing: Intermedia’s
varied approach is not unique but continuously stimulating. Apart from Kostelanetz, a number of radical American artist-writers have been attracted: Anna Banana (editor of Vile, 1974+), Guy Beining, Opal Nations, Geoffrey Cook, A.D. Winans, Karl Kempton, Bruce Andrews, Blain H. Allen, Robert Rehfeldt and Dick Higgins. Besides these, a wide variety of inputs exist: an article on “Bay Area New Music etc.” (by Beth Anderson), a column on “Black Dance L,A.” (by R’Wanda Lewis) and a “Proposal” for a “Total Environment” of “Light Sculptures” (by Lilya Pavlovic) – all in issue 1/1; photographs by Anna Banana in issue 1/2 (June 1975); some abstract “musical  scores” by Anthony J. Gnazzo in issue 1/3 (Dec. 1975). Each of these issues also featured a centre-page pull-out section listing Bay Area and general U.S. “Resources”, printed on bright “yellow pages” and listing “art groups, communication groups, alternatives and publications” (1/1, p.l5). Issue l/4 (1976) was a “Special Literary Issue – its prime focus being post-modernist writing employing language possessing a highly-textured linguistic surface or spatial arrangements granting the work a visual dimension: Henry Korn, Kirk Robertson, Dick Higgins, David James, Paul Vangelesti, Bruce Andrews and Karl Kempton were among the contributors.

Issue 2/1 is much more diFficult to describe~ Intermedia 1/4 advertised it as “a Krazy Art/Anti-Art/Dada/Neo-Dada/ Correspondence Art/Coneretism/Happiness Events/Surrealism/Anarchism/Situationalism/Crazism/Confusionalism/Futurism/ Structuralism/Minimalism/Language Art/Art-Fart issue.” So what is the use of labels? Each page of the issue was a 22 1/2″ x 17 1/2″ piece of folded paper – each sheet of paper a separate element to be lifted out of the tabloid-sized issue. The first “removable” page contained the editorial, “Entropy – - Definition”: “my initial concept of ENTROPY “was as a Journal of cultural material that dealt with contradictions inherent in our social system.” In fact, as the editor goes on to say, “I found myself accepting work that would somehow broadly fit into the description of entropy and the problems of communication.” Thus the issue finally “falls short of openly dealing with cultural contradictions”. From this self-initiated debate we can see how radical are Lond’s evolving objectives. An example of what resulted in this “Entropy” issue is Laura Kipnis’s “Two Weeks of Obscene Phone calls” – a witty but protracted semiological analysis of the phone message “I’m going to stick my cock up your ass”, seen in terms of its “Code”, its “Context”, its “Message” and its “Contact” – each related to the speech acts’ denotative and connotative levels. Other contributions included pieces by Geoffrey Cook, H. Fischer and Meyer Hirsch, and an article attacking “Senate Bill S-1 437″ as a threat to artists’ (and society’s) rights and as a revival of Nixon’s “Senate Bill S-1″ (- an abridging re-write of the U.S. Constitution).

Issue 2/2 ([6],n.d.) retained this radical bias, enshrined in its loose-leaf- for-boxing presentation, and in its focus on the work of two imprisoned Uruguayan artists – Clemente Padim and Jorge Caraballo. A visual emphasis informs the contributions, which vary enormously in format, ranging from 48″ x 36″ down to a 3″ x 5 1/2″ photograph by Caraballo.

Issue 2/3 returns to the first issue’s format, but the magazine’s innovatory approach remains clear: Intermedia keeps itself thus in the forefront of magazines that, like visual artists (and writers), are seeking to cope with the impact of the micro-processor on artistic modes of production.

Perhaps Lond deserves the final words: “Magazine was founded as a vehicle for the new artist movement, to help coalesce the new vision of the artist as worker, with links to workers in all other media … to provide the artist with useful information, to help foster – community of media workers … Magazine evolved to include much more political material.” He continues, in a separate letter, “Although the magazine has not been published for almost three years, I have again become interested in the idea … goaded on by friends and enemies alike” (Oct. 25, 1982). It’s reincarnated commitment will be welcomed.

 

Serials Review April/June 1980

Yet the generation of the 1960′s did have a practical side, epitomized by the back-to-the-basics message of the Whole Earth Catalogue, that the cerebral beats, who preferred to work with their brains and not with their backs, lacked. Both this technical and visual emphasis are on full display in another California little magazine, Intermedia.

One cannot help being attracted by a publication that devotes the cover of an issue to the six steps involved in “Changing Your Air Filter” (number 7), describes an- other (number 6) as “a playful potpourri of posters, postcards, manifestoes, documentations, photographs and artifacts … all housed in a cardboard storage box complete with ‘packing slip’ table of contents,” and prints still another as twenty-four tabloid poster pages on the theme of “Entropy” (number 5). The focus here is clearly on the medium and not on the message, even in the two special literary issues (numbers 4 and 7).

Partly funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Intermedia can afford to be adventurous in designing its forms to suit its content and in achieving its goal of “linking verbal, visual and audio art communications, publishing multi-media explorations; performance pieces; found visual poetry; imaged words; photocopy art; plays; conceptual photography; Dada; new music.” The problem of packaging sound on printed pages was solved at least once by enclosing a music score; issue number 4 contained a fold-out ladder poem and a manipulative short story in the form of playing cards; and Box Issue number 6 experimented further in three dimensions. But some of the editor’s enthusiasm is necessarily restrained by the exigencies of planar paper and black ink. There is a gap here between concept and execution that little magazines dealing only in the “flat” modes of prose and poetry do not have to worry about.

Fortunately, Harley Lond is not afraid to admit when an experiment has not fulfilled his expectations. When “Entropy” fell short of making “any major innovation” in creating works that had both “artistic merit” and “useful social value,” in good Maoist style several para- graphs of “Self-Criticism” were appended to Lond’s idealistic explanation of the issue’s dual aesthetic/political purposes. For example, Meyer Hirsch’s poster of an X-ray of two hands superimposed on a repeated quotation by Friedrich Engels (“Thus the hand … is not only the organ of labor, it is also the product of labor. But the hand did not develop in isolation. It was only one member of an entire, highly complex organism. And what benefited the hand, benefited also the whole body …. “) is both aesthetically interesting and politically meaningful, while Laura Kipnis’s “Two Weeks of Obscene Phone Calls” is belabored, and Geoffrey Cook’s list of fifty-one “Political Writers, Artists, Poets, Composers, Etc.” (A.D. Winans is number 49, appearing for alphabetical reasons only between Richard Wagner and Wendy Yoshimura) is capricious.

But success and failure are built into the whole idea of experimentation, and on the whole Intermedia has succeeded impressively. It has attracted North and South
American as well as European contributors and distributors. In addition to presenting innovative and experimental art works, Intermedia also prints reviews surveying new art developments, “manifestoes” regarding the state of various arts and artists, and a resource section listing relevant publications and organizations. Hopefully, though, this journal’s willingness to take aesthetic risks will not be hampered by its fascination with communications theory, which, ironically, sometimes gets in the way of its ability to communicate. Simply being avant-garde has always been the avant-garde’s own best justification for existence.

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