This essay is divided in two parts, the first a short diatribe written in 1965 and the second an addendum from 1981. In the first section, Higgins identifies intermedia as the status of an art object that is practiced in a form that does not exist as a “pure medium”. This intermedial form is identified as a space, “a location in the field between the general area of art media and those of life media” (20). Higgins identifies happenings “an intermedium... between collage, music, and the theater” (22). The possibilities of intermedia is the result of a vaguely suggested social transformation, from a the rigidly structured “...feudal conception of the Great Chain of Being” into “a classless society, to which separation into rigid categories is absolutely irrelevant” (20). The value of the intermedia is to introduce “portability and flexibility” into art, and to free the construction of art objects from formal rules: “each work determines its own medium and form according to its needs” (22). In other words, each work of art is an exploration/reconfiguration/communication of experience that is limited by the formal properties of the work; intermedia is the space between reified forms (media) in which the content of a work of art, its affect, can determine what form it takes on.
In the latter half of the essay, Higgins reworks intermedium as a term for art criticism: “...[I]t allows for an ingress to a work which otherwise seems opaque and impenetrable” (27). A work that may not fit the critical apparatus of any given, reified medium, can be “opened up” by its consideration as intermedial, at play in the space between known media. Higgins further claims that “...to proceed further in the understanding of any given work, one must look elsewhere... at the horizons which the work implies” (28). The upshot of the essentially ephemeral intermediality that Higgins defines is that the “creation of new media is done by the fusion of old ones” or, revising his strident and unsupported claims of a populist revolution, “there is a tendency for intermedia to become media with familiarity” (26).
Higgins contrasts his definition of intermedia, in its conceptual and formal freedom or fusion, with “mixed media”, “...a venerable term from art criticism, which covers works executed in more than one medium... such as opera” (24). The distinction is a formal concept, and a conceptual stage in the historical development of individual media. For instance, it would be interesting to apply Higgin's formulation to, for instance, early television dramas that combined the conventions of film, theater, and radio; the World Wide Web is certainly another fruitful area of intermedial investigation. However, Higgin's conception of intermedium depends heavily on the “artistic” intentions of the creator of the intermedium object, and it is unclear how well his definition would hold up when extended into the domain of the production of consumer media commodities. It is also unclear exactly why “mixed media” as a category is less “avant-garde” and less of a historical stage than intermedia.