SNF Exhbiting Film: Challenges of Format

SNF project
Duration of project: October 2017 to September 2021

Project leader

Project staff

Project summary

The research project proposes the reconsideration of the theories and practices of film exhibition according to the distribution of moving images across different media and institutions such as the cinema, the festival, television, or the museum. Based on the premise that films persist to exceed the boundaries of their determination and definition, the research project calls for a recognition of the interconnections and dependencies that have shaped the long history of film exhibition within a field of complex and dynamic processes of exchange. While its focus lies mainly on contemporary institutional and artistic practices, the research project will also provide a theoretical perspective from which the history of film exhibition may be reconsidered.

The reasons for the increasing presence of films in museums and galleries, as well as at festivals and biennales, are multilayered and in no way primarily of a generic nature, i.e. because they belong to the genres of experimental and avant-garde film or video art. This can neither be exhaustively explained by the history of the institutions and their structure, nor by the history of curatorial and artistic practice. The research project is based on the assumption that – in addition to generic and institutional factors – it is format that is especially decisive as a category for programming and distributing films. Whether a film can be seen in a theater, on television, in a museum, or at a festival depends especially on whether its format is compatible with the given prerequisites. Films that, due to their format, are only rarely found in standardized distribution venues and channels as part of the release window system basically depend on alternative platforms and infrastructures in which they can be shown and seen. Formats, however, not only determine the technical requirements under which the media operate. Within a broader cultural understanding, as it will be profiled as part of this research project, the format provides the conditions under which films circulate within a variety of institutional and discursive, social and political contexts.

Embracing the concept of format as a key to accessing the field of film exhibition, the project follows three main objectives: (1) to investigate the institutional and artistic practices of film exhibition, as well as their reflection and display in the films themselves; (2) to explore the material and discursive conditions and constraints of the circulation of films in different exhibition environments through notions of format; (3) to conceptualize the epistemological potential and cultural impact of film’s exhibition practices within the larger social and political sphere.

Cooperation partners

  • Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur, John Canciani, Artistic Director
  • Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Alena Nawrotzki, Head of Education and Public Programs