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Forum 3: The State of the Art

~ Prescriptions for the Present ~


For this final forum, I invited short contributions from practitioners of audiovisual art working outside of the realm of cinema proper to offer some thoughts on the current state of the art, and what the future might hold for artists interested in achieving higher levels of integration between sound and image.

Fred Collopy begins by taking us back to the golden age of instrument invention that gave birth to the emerging form that has come to be known as Visual Music. He suggests that with the dawn of modern computer technologies in the 1970s, we have returned to an age where the invention of new audiovisual instruments is on people’s minds. He hopes that with many of the difficulties of centuries past now overcome by contemporary technology, we may yet find a new form of audiovisual art that can stand the test of time.

We then move to two essays which offer prescriptions for getting beyond the conventional trappings of audiovisual art, and perhaps move us towards the new form suggested by Collopy. Michael Betancourt begins by identifying conventions of sound-image relationships in Visual Music that have tended to be the reverse of what has arisen within the cinema: image is subservient to sound rather than sound being subservient to the image. In both extremes, conventions of tight synchronization on certain aspects of sound/image relationships have become the dominant formal strategy. He suggests alternatives that fall somewhere between these two poles. Then, Barry Spinello ventures into the realm of cognitive perception. He draws on the idea that our minds do NOT separate sensory information according to the five senses in order to suggest ways in which the practice of audiovisual creation might best resemble the lack of sensory boundaries that exist on the level of mental processing.

What these three essays ultimately have in common is a desire to see the increasingly artificial distinctions between “sound” and “image” broken down so that we might strive towards a level of integration that would finally yield an art form in which the treatment of the heard and the seen is inherently equal. There are glimpses of such an art form throughout the history of cinema and its parallel media, yet many would argue that the ultimate goal of perfect equilibrium is still a long way off. Finally, these essays point to what might best be called “designing art for audiovisual integration.” For those interested in such a goal, this forum offers suitable closing thoughts for this special issue of Offscreen.

Thanks for reading.

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