2018 Rochester Conference

15th INTERNATIONAL DOMITOR CONFERENCE, Rochester, New York, 13-16 June 2018

Provenance and Early Cinema

Mark your calendars! Further information on the 2018 conference at the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York, USA will be coming soon!


The very founding of Domitor thirty years ago, as an international society for the study of early cinema, stems from an important return to the archive. The reassessment of specific film prints and collections that drives Domitor has led to profound historical insights into the chosen modes, styles, intermedial practices, and cultural investments of the early pioneers of the medium. This has led to a bottom-up approach to history based on archival research and implicitly rooted in the provenance of early cinema. An approach central to art history, provenance has been essential for determining the origins, history, and legacy of artifacts.

Early films as material artifacts often have a story to tell. Yet, the question of their provenance has rarely been discussed: the migration of specific films and collections, and who has developed, owned, accessed, and repurposed them. The movements of film—across formats and from producers and distributors to collectors and archival institutions—have shaped the histories that have been written. Given the growing dissemination of film in digital media as well as its recycling in experimental practice, the need for greater attention to provenance is vital.

Studying provenance can provide us with a powerful heuristic to assess the circulation of films through history. How might we connect the material provenance of a print to cultural and aesthetic history? For instance, how can provenance be deployed for thinking about the cultural circulation and influence of ideas, images, styles, technologies, and patents? What does the provenance of collections tell us about film heritage and the privileging of certain works over others? And how does the provenance of the non-extant, of lost prints and forgotten films, also speak to the antipathies of history? On the 30th anniversary of Domitor, this conference will turn to these foundational issues around provenance and early cinema.

Possible topics include:

  • Theories and methodologies of provenance as applicable to cinema historiography
  • The histories of specific collections and/or artifacts
  • How particular prints and/or collections shape film history
  • The nonextant: histories of the missing and lost
  • Media history told through the materiality of artifacts
  • Multiple versions of films and the uniqueness and circulation of prints
  • Print circulation and the migration of film style across mediums, genres, and national cinemas
  • Material history in relation to remediation and/or intermediality
  • The avant-garde: the negotiation between specific prints and their recycling in artistic practices
  • The provenance of film stocks, technologies, and patents
  • The circulation of export and second-hand prints
  • Cinematheque and festival exhibitions of archival materials
  • Formats and gauges: reduction prints, home viewing and non-theatrical histories
  • The legibility of provenance in digital form

We are particularly interested in papers that examine the history and legacy of early cinema’s place beyond the temporal frame of 1890 through 1915. As cinema developed unevenly across the globe, we welcome papers that take an expansive view of early cinema in relation to provenance.

Proposal Submission Process

Send proposals no later than 1 October 2017 to domitor2018@gmail.com. Questions about the process should also be sent to that address. Proposals for individual presentations should be no longer than 300 words, plus a bibliography of three to five sources and a brief biographical statement. Proposals may be written in either English or French. Only papers written in one of those two languages can be presented at the conference. Conference papers should be no longer than 3,300 words and must fit within a 25-minute presentation time (including audiovisual materials). Submit final drafts by 30 April 2018 to allow for simultaneous translation.

Proposals for pre-constituted panels of three participants will also be considered; such proposals should be submitted by the panel chair and consist of the collected individual paper proposals in addition to a brief rationale for the panel.

While membership in Domitor is not required to submit a proposal, anyone presenting a paper at the conference must be a member: domitor.org/membership/.
For more information on Domitor, the International Society for the Study of Early Cinema, visit domitor.org.