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.