Intermedial Poetics thus stands for a research focus necessarily broad in scope but whose coherence is assured through the overarching aim to uncover the specificities of art works and aesthetic experiences in relation to their cultural embedment and adjacent creative practices.
When the term ‘intermediality’ entered artistic and critical discourse from the 1960s onwards, it was initially coined as a common denominator for the then expanding and experimental art practices that took some of their inspiration from the historical avant-garde and deliberately combined elements of different genres (such as theatre, poetry, dance, video art, and music).
At that time, several seminal works were produced that radically demolished previously established categorical boundaries and alternatively inaugurated the upsurge of vibrant, interdisciplinary art forms that came to be known as happenings, performance art, and expanded cinema.
While intermedial art also, although not exclusively, included work that incorporated technological media, the advent of the internet and the concomitant rapid developments in digital and cyber technologies shifted focus from generic interdisciplinarity towards artistic experiments that explored the potentialities of mixing predominantly electronic media and led, starting from the 1980s, to a diverse set of terms, such as ‘multimedia’, ‘transmedia’, or ‘mixed media’. Amidst this terminological plurality, both media and mediality in general became increasingly if not entirely associated with the realm of technology, a somehow reductive understanding which in recent years has been substituted by a more encompassing view in which the notion of ‘intermediality’ gained new prominence. Partly reconnecting to its earlier use, ‘intermediality’ nowadays chiefly functions not only as an analytical tool that facilitates historicizing studies on how the arts have always been maintaining interactions with other disciplines and evolutions (artistic, technological, scientific, or otherwise), but also as a conceptual approach that relates intermediality to processes of representation and meaning-making, to medial self-reflexivity, and to the relation between the artwork and the beholder.
The research group Visual Poetics affiliates with this broadened, double-sided perspective on intermediality by investigating how distinct artistic media or disciplines are never entirely pure but instead contaminated by surrounding practices and technological progress, as well as by scrutinizing the mechanisms constitutive of the artwork and the aesthetic experience it provokes.
Visual Poetics carries out research on intermediality in two complementary directions, which are broadly speaking historical and contemporary in orientation. The first line of inquiry aims to uncover the intricate exchanges of stylistic principles and theatrical procedures between nineteenth century theatre practices (including genres such as melodrama, revue, and naturalism), early European and Hollywood cinema, and the visual arts (most notably representational painting and (neo-)classicism).
Analyses of specific generic crossovers occurring during this particular art historical period are backed by research on the broader cultural context of modernity and the emerging notion of the spectacle that manifested itself at that time in several ways, most notably in phenomena such as the wax museum, panoramic displays, and planetarium performances.
These spectacular instances are studied as intermedial combinations of art and science in which sensational entertainment could hardly if at all be distinguished from scientific demonstration.
The second strand of research probes into the intermedial aesthetics and technological conditions of contemporary art practices by investigating the implementation of new media in theatre and performance; the use of technology to involve the spectator into the work and to create a sense of immersion; and the expansion of possibilities that recent technologies entail for the spatial, visual and sensorial organization of theatrical narratives, from the perspective of both art production and perception.
Particular focus additionally goes to staged interactions of performing bodies with technological media in theatre and dance, and the consequent theoretical implications for current ideas on the representation of the body and the ontologically constitutive principles of live performing arts.
Lastly, the research group’s interest in Intermedial Poetics is also reflected on a methodological level since discursive analyses are conducted through the development of interdisciplinary theoretical frameworks derived from diverging fields (including art history, critical theory, film studies, cognitive science, philosophy, etcetera), and also aimed at generating the conceptual vocabulary that mediates between theory and artistic praxis.
How to quote: De Laet, Timmy. "Intermedial Poetics." Research Centre for Visual Poetics. Universiteit Antwerpen, May 2012. Web. (Date of access)