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By Russ Cooper
When a class's output is as intriguing as COMS 274 Intermedia I, it's not a tough decision to check back and see what's been created.
Last year, the Journal profiled the introductory intermedia class (see Journal, May 8, 2008) and their flair for pushing creativity. This year, Communication Studies Professor Matt Soar's bunch has ventured into all sorts of undiscovered corners.
"It's the class that really sets the students up to ask themselves if intermedia is something for them," he says. "Following completion of the first year, students will choose a particular stream best suited for them; video, sound or film. So, the opportunities to get wildly creative exist in a unique way in this class."
One of the noteworthy products of this winter semester's session was their third assignment. Students were given the task to reflect their world through editorial and design principals. They were to write the content, design the pages and combine them under the guise of the online magazine, 514.
"What I wanted students to think about was how to work with the relationship between type and images, and a very obvious way to do that with 51 students was to create an e-zine," says Soar, who has taught the class 12 times over six years.
Broken down into five sections – art, eat, break, life and unwind – the class chose to muse on their city, digging deep to discover something new. A casual guide to Montreal's slightly lesser-known nooks, each chapter demonstrates the course's inherent mandate to find cultural gaps and investigate.
Which is quite fitting as, "…intermedia is all about working the spaces between existing media." He states the term has been around since the '60s, coined in relation to the fluxus art movement (the Dada-ish concept of anti-art). Key figures in the discipline include Marcel Duchamp, John Cage and Yoko Ono.
"We're not turning out people like that, but what we are doing is allowing students the space to reflect on the media around them and how we can intervene," he says. (See 514 at intermediated.org/collaborative-zines.)
Further rooting about in the rifts between intervention and collaborative creation, the class is building upon the success of last year's class' rotoscoped Girl Talk video, which was prominently featured in the acclaimed documentary RiP: A Remix Manifesto. This semester's final project, The Poem of the Transparent Girl, used a video shot by RiP director and Concordia alum Brett Gaylor filmed while in Rio recently of a little Brazilian girl reciting the Elisa Lucinda poem A Menina Transparente (a few moments of the original footage can be seen in RiP).
After stripping the film of everything but traced outlines (aka. rotoscoping), each student invented personalized backgrounds for two- or three-second segments, having to link the beginning and end of their contribution with their preceding and proceeding classmates' work. All segments are pieced together into a three minute-plus amalgam.
Seeing how the Girl Talk video went viral, gathering 600 000 hits on YouTube and mentions on the BBC and Gawker.com, Soar was enthusiastic about the possibilities of the yet-to-be-released movie.
"I have high hopes it'll catch fire and get back into the open-source cinema project. Brett is currently on the RiP festival circuit and he's keen on taking it on the road with him and showing it as an another example of remix media."
After six years of "good behaviour," Soar is about to go on his first sabbatical. In July, Soar will be replaced by his new colleague Tagny Duff. Duff holds an MFA from Concordia and is currently finishing her PhD in interdisciplinary studies here as well. A gifted bio-artist, her recent projects also include a amalgamation of her work building robotic insects and bookbinding. "To me, that's really intermedia," Soar laughs.
He'll be venturing to rural Ontario to take a 16mm film course called the Film Farm with experimental filmmaker Philip Hoffman at his farm north of Guelph. "Formally, it's a chance to reshape my own profile, to reinvent myself and retool," he says.