Misfits Symposium

Graphic: Misfits Branding

October 22–24, 2015 

Misfits 2015 will build on the success and momentum of CMOA’s 2013 symposium A Collection of Misfits: Time-Based Media and the Museum. The aim of the symposium is to encourage discourse around 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 archaeologists—the symposium addresses the opportunities and challenges of working with time-based media.

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Misfits Symposium Program 2015

About the Symposium

As "time-based media"—encompassing 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 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 2013 iteration of Misfits presented a broad survey of the current state of the field. It sought out the sites where time-based media resides—from well-established museums to independent projects, from physical galleries to digital spaces—with an eye toward innovative approaches. Misfits 2015 will focus more specifically on time-based media’s institutional support networks of the past, present, and future: the ways in which the creators, curators, and conservators of "misfit" works have historically intersected and how they might now band together to ensure ongoing access. Drawing on CMOA’s own history as a significant catalyst in the institutionalization of time-based media during the 1970s—as a nexus of avant-garde film practice and presentation, and as pioneering publisher of The Film and Video Makers Travel SheetMisfits 2015 will focus on the contexts in which time-based collections were formed and explore the potential of a coordinated and sustainable preservation model for time-based works.

Panels will focus on various facets of the historical moment in which time-based media entered the museum, including the emergence of major media centers in the 1970s; the significance of in-person presentation of films at that time and in the present, i.e. "liveness" in and with cinema; the ways in which the filmmakers' tours (facilitated by the Travel Sheet) and major media centers contributed to local film ecologies in cities around the country; the art-world/film-world dynamic and shifting models of spectatorship and distribution for time-based work; the interrelationship of canonization and preservation; and the interpretation of time-based media through the lens of "supporting" archival collections, artist’s notes, sketches, and artifacts. The symposium will also provide an opportunity to survey past and current efforts at coordinating time-based media conservation efforts, and allow CMOA’s Field-Wide Video Art Preservation Initiative working group members to present case studies, workshop ideas, and gain feedback from panelists and attendees.