Randall Packer | Course Information

Intermedia Studio

Syllabus - Spring, 2002

Friday, 1:00 - 6:00 PM
First class: January 25, 2002, B170 - Bunting Center (MICA)
Other class locations:
Peabody Conservatory of Music, #314, 3rd floor
JHU Donovan Room, 110 Gilman Hall
JHU Digital Media Center, Mattin Center for the Arts


Randall Packer (Coordinator): Professor of Electronic Art, Maryland Institute, College of Art, http://www.zakros.com/

Greg Boyle: Professor of Computer Music, Peabody Conservatory of Music,


Joan Freedman: Director, Digital Media Center, Johns Hopkins University

Linda Delibero: Director, Film and Media Studies Program, Johns Hopkins University

Speical Workshops

Thursdays, February 21, 28, 7:00 - 8:30 pm
Digital Media Center Presentation Room, JHU
Jerr Welter


InterMedia Studio is an experimental course offered jointly by the Maryland Institute College of Art, the Digital Media Center and the Film Program of Johns Hopkins University, and the Computer Music Department of the Peabody Conservatory of Music. The Studio is intended to encourage collaboration among student composers, performers, filmmakers, engineers, and artists at MICA, Johns Hopkins, and Peabody in a team environment, and to engage students in the investigation of a range of interdisciplinary multimedia projects, including networked, live performance, electronic theater, installation, video, and animation. As a long-range goal, the Studio is envisioned as an ongoing structure to bring music, visual arts and students of scientific disciplines together from MICA, Johns Hopkins and Peabody to promote and facilitate the creation of intermedia art and to further explore shared resources, joint research, and exhibition/performance opportunities.


Course Description

The Intermedia Studio is a laboratory for the research, creation and presentation of interdisciplinary electronic works. The Studio brings together students, faculty and technical personnel to provide a structure for the development of advanced projects and to give students experience in all facets of team-based production in the electronic, digital and media arts. Studio projects will be primarily student produced with additional input from faculty, visiting artists, and technical staff. The Studio will seek to integrate the artistic and technological resources of MICA, Peabody Conservatory of Music, and Johns Hopkins University.

The course will support collaborative projects among students in the music, visual, and media arts, as well as those working in various scientific and technological disciplines including biomedical, scientific imaging, computer science, mechanical and industrial engineering, etc. Together, students working in a diverse range of disciplines and artistic genres will explore the theoretical and practical problems inherent in the process of interdisciplinary collaboration. Students will focus on developing and implementing conceptual constructs and skills vital to cross-disciplinary work. Recognized media and sound artists, scientists and engineers engaged in contemporary art and technology will share new technological trends and explore issues critical to the exploration of emerging interdisciplinary forms.

The Intermedia Studio will meet weekly to discuss student projects, relevant topics in Intermedia art, performance and technology, and to coordinate productions. Projects will take the form of installation and performative work, with an emphasis on strategies for integrating sound and media in an interactive context.



The Intermedia Studio makes extensive use of the MAX/MSP software environment (Cycling 74), and NATO.0+55+3d modular, a graphical set of programming tools that has a broad range of artistic application from electronic music to media installations. Originally developed at IRCAM (the computer music institute at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris) in the late 1980s, MAX became the basis for a surging interest in interactive computer music, and more recently used by visual artists, with the introduction of NATO, interested in its capacity to engage viewer interaction within installation and performance environments.


Consent of the instructors.

Week 1 - 1.25.02: Introduction (MICA)

Review of course objectives, readings, assignments, and projects. Overview of Intermedia Studio including projects from last year.

  Reading: Intermedia, Richard Higgins

Week 2- 2.01.02: (Hopkins / 110 Gilman, the Donovan Room) Overture
Directions to Gilman Hall


A history of intermedia forms through the 20th century. These works include: Karlheinz Stockhausen's Originale (1961), Variations V by John Cage (1964); and the Pepsi Pavilion(1970), a collaboration of over 75 artists and engineers organized by Billy Klüver and E.A.T.

Formation of collaboration teams.


Reading: Great Northeastern Power Failure, Billy Klüver

Project 1: We will develop a prototypical intermedia project to develop hands-on experience in collaboration, project coordination, technical diagramming, information design, and of course, exploring themes and strategies relevant to the integration of the arts and other technological and scientific disciplines. The concept of the project is open for your team to determine, but you need to be able to create a working prototype over the next four weeks of the semester.

Week 3 - 2.08.02: (Peabody) Introduction to MAX Part I (Greg Boyle)

MAX, and its audio component, MSP (Max Signal Processing), is one of the most important tools used by both computer musicians and installation artists to incorporate interactivity and viewer-participation. Greg Boyle will give an overview of Max, showing some of his recent work.

For additional information on Max, and other Max-related objects, see the Cycling 74 site.


Reading: TBA

Project 1.

Week 4 - 2.15.02: (MICA) Introduction to NATO
Presentation On-line

There will be an overview of NATO.0+55+3d modular, the set of objects that support Quicktime functionality in the Max environment. NATO facilitates real-time control of live video, video processing and effects, and output to the desktop and projection systems. I will demonstrate a recent project "Media Deconstruction Kit," in which Max and NATO is being used to manipulate live broadcast material from CNN.

Sites for additional NATO information and resources:

Jeremy Bernstein's Bootsquad
Luke Dubois's Percolate
Kurt Ralske's Miau-miau
Jeff Morey's Projects
Johnny Dekam's Projects
fiftyfifty (they host listserv)

  Project 1.

Week 5 - 2.22.02: (Hopkins / 110 Gilman) Introduction to Film (John Mann?)

John Mann, Professor of Film at Johns Hopkins University, will give an overview of basic film technique and resources available at the Film Program of JHU.

  Project 1

Week 6 - 3.01.02: (tba) Critique of Project 1.
  Critique and discussion of Project 1.

Project 1 is due.

Discussion of final project and the Intermedia Festival at the end of the semester.

Discussion of Eduardo Kac and his work in telepresence and transgenic art:

Transgenic Art : A new art form based on the use of genetic engineering to transfer natural or synthetic genes to an organism, to create unique living beings. This must be done with great care, with acknowledgment of the complex issues thus raised and, above all, with a commitment to respect, nurture, and love the life thus created.
As a transgenic artist, Kac is not interested in the creation of genetic objects, but on the invention of transgenic social subjects

GFP Bunny - "Alba", the green fluorescent bunny, is an albino rabbit. This means that, since she has no skin pigment, under ordinary environmental conditions she is completely white with pink eyes. Alba is not green all the time. She only glows when illuminated with the correct light. When (and only when) illuminated with blue light (maximum excitation at 488 nm), she glows with a bright green light (maximum emission at 509 nm). She was created with EGFP, an enhanced version (i.e., a synthetic mutation) of the original wild-type green fluorescent gene found in the jellyfish Aequorea Victoria. EGFP gives about two orders of magnitude greater fluorescence in mammalian cells (including human cells) than the original jellyfish gene.

Genesis is a transgenic artwork that explores the intricate relationship between biology, belief systems, information technology, dialogical interaction, ethics, and the Internet. The key element of the work is an "artist's gene", a synthetic gene that was created by Kac by translating a sentence from the biblical book of Genesis into Morse Code, and converting the Morse Code into DNA base pairs according to a conversion principle specially developed by the artist for this work. The sentence reads: "Let man have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." It was chosen for what it implies about the dubious notion of divinely sanctioned humanity's supremacy over nature. The Genesis gene was incorporated into bacteria, which were shown in the gallery. Participants on the Web could turn on an ultraviolet light in the gallery, causing real, biological mutations in the bacteria. This changed the biblical sentence in the bacteria. The ability to change the sentence is a symbolic gesture: it means that we do not accept its meaning in the form we inherited it, and that new meanings emerge as we seek to change it.

The strain of bacteria employed in Genesis is JM101. Normal mutation in this strain occurs 1 in 10^6 base pairs. Along the mutation process, the precise information originally encoded in the ECFP bacteria is altered. The mutation of the synthetic gene will occur as a result of three factors: 1) the natural bacterial multiplication process; 2) bacterial dialogical interaction; 3) human-activated UV radiation. The selected bacteria are safe to use in public and are displayed in the gallery with the UV source in a protective transparent enclosure.

Teleporting an Unknown State is a biotelematic interactive installation. In other words: it is a computer-based telecommunications piece in which a biological process is an integral part of the work. The installation creates the experience of the Internet as a life-supporting system. In a very dark room a pedestal with earth serves as a nursery for a single seed. Through a video projector suspended above and facing the pedestal, remote individuals send light via the Internet to enable this seed to photosynthesize and grow in total darkness.

The installation takes the idea of teleportation of particles (and not of matter) out of its scientific context and transposes it to the domain of social interaction enabled by the Internet. Following my previous work with telematic interactive installation and my exploration of non-semiological forms of communication with electronic media, this installation uses the remote transmission of video images not for their representational content but for their optical phenomenon as wavefronts of light. Internet videoconferencing is used to teleport light particles from several countries with the sole purpose of enabling biological (and not artificial) life and growth in the installation site. A new sense of community and collective responsibility emerges out of this context without the exchange of a single verbal message.
Through the collaborative action of anonymous individuals around the world, photons from distant countries and cities are teleported into
the gallery and are used to give birth to a fragile and small plant. It is the participants' shared responsibility that ensures that the plant
grows as long as the show is open.

Essay Concerning Human Understanding, a live, bi-directional, interactive, telematic, inter species sonic installation created by Kac with Ikuo Nakamura between Lexington (KY), and New York. This piece, promotes dialogue between a bird and plant. In the gallery, a yellow canary was given a very large and comfortable cylindrical white cage, on top of which circuit-boards, a speaker, and a microphone were located. A clear Plexiglas disc separated the canary from this equipment, which was wired to the phone system. In New York, an electrode was placed on the plant's leaf to sense its response to the singing of the bird. The voltage fluctuation of the plant was monitored through a Macintosh running a software called Interactive Brain-Wave Analyzer (IBVA). This information was fed into another Macintosh running MAX, which controlled a MIDI sequencer. The electronic sounds themselves were pre-recorded, but the order and the duration were determined in real time by the plant's response to the singing of the bird.

Scientists sighted with a mixture of curiosity and appreciation once we explained that we were not concerned with any kind of measurement, and that the work was meant in fact to be regarded as a metaphor for human communication. By enabling an isolated and caged animal to have a telematic conversation with a member of another species, this installation dramatized the role of telecommunications in our own lives. The inter-species communicative experience observed in the gallery reflects our own longing for interaction, our desire to reach out and stay in touch. This interactive installation is ultimately about human isolation and loneliness, and about the very possibility of communication. As this piece projects the complexities of electronically mediated human communication over nature, it surprisingly reveals aspects of our own communicative experience. This interaction is as dynamic and unpredictable as a human dialogue.

Week 7 - 3.08.02: (Hopkins / Digital Media Center) Eduardo Kac Presentation/Master Class


At 7:00 PM, Mount Royal Station Auditorium, Eduardo will give a public lecture.

  Final project.

Week 8 - 3.15.02: (Peabody) Advanced NATO (Luke Dubois)
  Lecture on advanced use of NATO.
  Project narrative and technical specifications for final project is due.

Week 9 - 3.22.02: (MICA)
  Discussion of project poposals with MICA students. Hopkins and Peabody students on break.

Final project.

Week 10 - 3.29.02: (Hopkins) (Guest speaker)
  Guest speaker. MICA students on break.
  Final project

Week 11 - 4.05.02: (Hopkins / 110 Gilman ) Project review and guest speaker (Kevin Kaliher)


Discussion of final projects.

Allocation of workspace and final determination of where projects will be presented on the Intermedia Festival.

Go over Festival schedule.

Kevin Kaliher - Cartoon animator will speak at the Digital Media Center.


Final Project


Week 12 - 4.12.02: (MICA) Project review
  Continuation of critique and project discussion.

Final versions of project narrative and all diagrams/technical specifications are due. We will critique and discuss projects.

Week 13 - 4.19.02: (on-site)
  Work on final projects in the various spaces available. Faculty will make site visits.
  Work on final projects.

Week 14 - 4.26.02: (on-site)
  Work on final projects in the various spaces available. Faculty will make site visits.
  Work on final projects.

Week 15 - 5.03.02: (on-site)
  Critique of final projects.

Intermedia Festival
A four-day showcase of collaborative media art

The Intermedia Festival, May 7 - 10, showcases collaborative multimedia projects at the intersection of art, music and science by students of the Maryland Institute College of Art, Peabody Conservatory of Music, and Johns Hopkins University. The works explore a range of interactive, interdisciplinary and other uncategorizable forms that include installation, live performance, electronic theater, film, and video.

The Intermedia Festival is a joint presentation of the Maryland Institute College of Art Center for New Media, the Johns Hopkins University Digital Media Center, the Johns Hopkins University Film and Media Studies Program, and the Peabody Conservatory Department of Computer Music. The Festival is an outgrowth of Intermedia Studio, a joint experimental course that encourages collaboration among student artists, composers, performers, filmmakers, engineers, and scientists at MICA, Johns Hopkins, and Peabody.

Festival works are being presented in programs at all the participating institutions, as well as Maryland Art Place (MAP) in Baltimore (see the schedule below). For additional Festival information, call the MICA Center for New Media at 410.962.1244 or visit the Website at: http://cnm.mica.edu/intermedia.

Festival Program

Tuesday, May 7, 8:00 pm
Peabody Conservatory Computer Music Concert, Griswold Hall
One East Mount Vernon Place, Baltimore (410.659.8100)
(part of a concert of computer music by Peabody composers)

    Group Jazz Band - Taylor Kuehn, Charles Beall, Tim Kang, Seth Schinfeld

    Group Jazz Band is an interactive aural and visual experience. It incorporates a live jazz ensemble, synchronized video imagery, and visualizations based on sound dynamics to engage the audience, which participates by influencing the direction of the performance.

Wednesday, May 8, 5:00 - 7:00 PM
MAP (Maryland Art Place) - Mapping the Unseen, Opening Reception
34 Market Place, Powerplant Plaza, Baltimore (410.962.8565)
(part of an exhibition of Internet art by students of MICA)

    Art & Entertainment Network - Randy Devost, Ilya Mayzus

    Patrons of the Powerplant Plaza in Baltimore, where MAP is located, respond to questions concerning the role of art in society. Their videotaped responses are relocated in the entrance to the gallery, as well as the entrance to the on-line exhibition, Mapping the Unseen, focusing attention on varying subjective relationships to art.

Thursday, May 9, 5:00 - 7:00 PM
Maryland Institute College of Art, Joseph A. Bank Building, Festival Reception
113-131 W. North Avenue (at N. Howard), Baltimore (410.962.1244)
(visitors must pass through security entrance)

    Untitled Interactive Envitroment - Angel Lam, Jon Bevers, Tara St. George, Wesley Smith, Steve Condouris

    In this interactive installation, the viewer-participant wields a Lightening MIDI controller to manipulate sound and imagery in a changing, digital landscape. Additionally, a device measures galvanic skin response, monitoring the viewer's flow of sensory information generated by audio and visual output.

    Insects - Lesser Gonzales, Ben Walker, Shamik Chaudhuri, Kenneth Roman

    The installation consists of a plexiglass case holding crickets and moths, with microphones placed in the interior to capture the stereophonic sound of the insects moving in response to the waving of light sources. The resulting sound is amplified and modified through pitch shifting and other real-time effects.

Friday, May 10, 3:00 PM
JHU Film and Media Studies Screening, Donovan Room
110 Gilman Hall, Johns Hopkins University (410.516.5048)
(part of a program of film and video by JHU students)

    Lazarus - Jason Allen, Asha Sirnivassen, Kajsa Brown, Emily Mayer

    Lazarus (Act II, Scene 1) is a performance piece for 4-channel tape, projections, image capture, 4 instruments and 2 actors. The text, a 70 page sentence that never starts nor ends, is from Richard Grossman's "The Book of Lazarus." Multi-image projections invite the audience to experience the impact of media as a distortion of the sense/reality relationship.

Friday, May 10, 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Swirnow Theater, Mattin Center for the Arts, Festival Closing Event
Digital Media Center Johns Hopkins University (410.516.3817)
(part of a visual arts festival by JHU students)

    Perceptions - Javier Lopez, Jenny Kendler, Paul Nelson, Evelyn Serrano

    Perceptions is a walk-through labyrinth of suspended fabrics that change transparency in conjunction with light sources and projections. The illuminated screens function as one-way windows as they are rendered opaque or translucent according to the perspective of the viewer. Dividing the audience into "watchers" and "watched," the installation explores changing feelings of empowerment, fascination, exhibitionism, fear and shame.

Course Resources

MICA Bank Building: 2 studio spaces, Max/MSP/NATO workstation, 3 installation spaces for the end of the semester exhibition. B320 - computer lab for media production.

Peabody: computer music studio with ProTools for editing and recording, computer music lab with audio/MIDI workstions, Max/MSP/NATO is available in both facilities.

JHU Digital Media Center: labs for video, multimedia and sound production. Black Box Theater for live performance.

JHU Film Program: film and video production.

Assignments and Grading

Class Discussion and Presentation (25%)

Each student is required to participate in class discussion and critiques.

Projects (25%)

Students will work on a small prototypical intermedia project.

Final Project (50%)

A final project will consist of a full developed team project that draws from concepts and techniques explored in the course. Students will select an area to work in including: animation, video, installation, network, etc.

Recommended Reading

Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality (W.W. Norton 2001)
Edited by Randall Packer and Ken Jordan

Website: Artmuseum.net