Introduction by Dr. Owen Smith

owen-portrait_squareAs the Without Borders Contemporary Art Festival /exhibition presents its twelfth iteration, In the Door, Out the Window (August 7 – September 25), it is a good time to think about the role and place of creativity and the arts. The series of eleven preceding presentations that have taken place under this name Without Borders are connected to themselves and this current exhibition by a simple but significant thread, to present interesting and diverse work by a range of contemporary artists. Especially work that seeks to reconsider what we do as creative producers and how the works can exist in forms that are in one way or another intermedial. In this context I am using intermedia more loosely than the original way Dick Higgins did when he coined the term in the 1960s. Instead I am using it more in line with the focus of the Intermedia MFA Program at the University of Maine, that is to refer to work that both can exist in the spaces between media or materials, as well as work that explores the variable possibilities of perception, cognition, reception and/or interaction. In short to be “without borders” is to be intermedial.

From its inception in 2004 Without Borders has been closely linked to the development of the MFA Program in Intermedia at the University of Maine.  As the graduate program has grown and evolved so has Without Borders. Graduate students have played a variety of roles from exhibiting work, to organizing events, working on the installations, designing publications and web sites, to co-curating the exhibitions. Over the last eight years the Without Borders Contemporary Art Festival has been an important part of shaping the the Intermedia MFA. In the first several iterations of the show, 2004 through 2009, the festival brought together graduate students with professional artists from across the U.S and the world to explore and present the evolving nature of creative expression. From 2010 to the present the show has been the primary vehicle for the MFA thesis work of the Intermedia Program. Not only is Without Borders connected to our graduate program, and it has developed as the program has, but it could not have happened without the students’ creativity, insights, and most of all, hard work.

If, as we launch Without Borders XII: In the Door, Out the Window, we use the range of work produced as a measure of things to come, I am very excited by what I see, and what is to come. The seven artists in the exhibition, Özgür Akgün, Yadina Clark, Alexander Gross, Sally Levi, Mary Mailler, Rachel Nelson, and John Sullivan, are evidence of a broad range of creative practices and methods. This lack of singularity, including work connected to performance, writing, theater, video, coding, technology, audio, installation, and environment engaging with aspects of interactivity, narrative, documentation, collaboration, chance, prototyping, and social practice, create a blend of results that clearly underscore the possibilities of what can come from intermedial practices. As with most intermedial works, the works in this exhibition are grounded in a process of research and investigation that is in opposition to traditional beliefs of the nature of creative praxis as non-research based. These artists have all investigated a range of traditional methodologies and methods, drawn key elements from them, and then reshaped them to create their own hybrid methodologies.

This group of artists is both drawing from a range of traditions as well as creating new foundations that hold much in the way of future possibilities. This show and this catalog demonstrate the potential of creative work when given the venue and support such as the Without Borders series and the Intermedia MFA Program at the University of Maine. As demonstrated by the artists and the works in this exhibition, intermedia can be applied to almost anything, for it is neither a new form of art making nor a singular method, but a way of being curious in the world, a way of acting, working, and living that is both purposeful and purposeless. To rephrase John Cage’s comment I give you permission, but not to do anything, intermedia allows one to be creatively free, but to take that freedom with a full measure of responsibility and thoughtfulness. This exhibition proves that this is not only possible, but can exist in full measure.


Dr. Owen F. Smith
Professor of Art
Director, Intermedia MFA Program