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Horizons (1984)
Dick Higgins

149 Pages

In 1984, Southern Illinois University Press published two books as part of its "Poetics of the New" series: The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book, ed. Charles Bernstein and Bruce Andrews and Dick Higgins' Horizons: The Poetics and Theory of the Intermedia. It should be noted that this title has been charged with "false advertising"—the essays composing this collection better understood as aesthetic manifestoes or reports from the front rather than a cohesive poetics or theory of the intermedia (Poetics Today, 1984). This indispensable collection includes writing on a wide swath of innovative work: from free metaphorical application of Gadamer's "fusion of horizons" to exacting taxonomic configurations of experimental art across media up to and including Higgins' serious reconfiguration of his monumental essay "Intermedia" (1965) from the vantage of 1981. Of particular note are inspiring chapters on visual poetry, music without catharsis, postmodern performance, and a charming "Child's History of Fluxus." Interestingly, the unifying strain of argumentation among these fragments, letters, and essays culled from small magazine publication in the late 70s and early 80s is a polemic against an increasingly capitalized Theory; throughout the work this rhetoric testifies to the unique alienation of Higgins' milieu to the dominant currents of academic criticism. The principle value of Horizons, however (perhaps in spite of this polemic), is Higgins' characteristic candor, taxonomic rigor, and prescient perceptions of cutting-edge, genre-blurring work.