November 21–23, 2013  

A Collection of Misfits: Time-Based Media and the Museum took place at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, PA in 2013. The aim of the symposium was to encourage a discourse about the practical and philosophical considerations involved in building, maintaining, exhibiting, and preserving time-based media art collections.    

Bringing together professionals from all points along the media continuum—artists and archivists, curators and conservators, academics and media archaeologiststhe symposium addressed the opportunities and challenges that working with time-based media presents.     

From well-established museums to independent projects, from physical galleries to digital spaces, the symposium sought out the sites where time-based media resides, with an eye toward innovative approaches in traditional and non-traditional venues alike.  

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About the Symposium

As “time-based media”—a term that encompasses film, video, audio, and computer-based work—have grown in prominence and scope within the art world, they have presented a variety of challenges to the established procedures at cultural institutions for the collection, preservation, and exhibition of art. These media exist on a cutting edge that cuts both ways: the same characteristics that place time-based media at the vanguard of art practice also risk relegating those works to a liminal position in our museums and archives. We categorize these works as “misfits” (not derogatorily, but proudly) to express their incompatibility with the fine art tradition that still prevails in museums, and to suggest the potential in these works to force art institutions to evolve and grow. 

The changes in the field are already becoming apparent. Museums have been forced to adapt to the new spatiotemporal dimensions of time-based media work, and the technological infrastructure that comes with it. Archives have turned their attention to developing best practices for preserving increasingly ephemeral artworks, as they become further and further abstracted from the concept of objecthood. Curators and museumgoers have grappled with new forms of user experience based around duration, interactivity, and new modes of looking at (or listening to) art. The conversation surrounding time-based media in museums is growing ever louder, and MISFITS hopes to push the discussion further, by celebrating innovative approaches to time-based media, probing the most pressing issues facing museums, and speculating on how the field will change in the future.  

The Misfits Symposium is made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.