Watch This: Denver Video-Art Series Collective Misnomer Goes Online

A still from Subtle Appearances: Joshua Tree.
A still from Subtle Appearances: Joshua Tree. Jenna Maurice
Collective Misnomer is used to wandering. The experimental microcinema has screened movies at the Dikeou Pop-Up, DIY space Glob, the Sie FilmCenter and, most recently, Alamo Drafthouse Sloan's Lake. Now, artist and curator Adán de La Garza is figuring out what to do since the theaters have gone dark.

For starters, he outfitted Collective Misnomer's website with links to works by the various media makers he has exhibited at screenings over the past few years. With that accomplished, he's focusing on more programming, all online.

He's posted an open call for submissions through the Collective Misnomer website for Locals Only; any Denver-area artist who works primarily in motion media is invited to submit work by March 31, some of which De La Garza will screen online — probably on April 10.

We reached out to De La Garza to find out how the pandemic has impacted Collective Misnomer's programming and to learn more about the Locals Only screening series.

How is Collective Misnomer handling the closures? How does it affect your programming?

Adán De La Garza: Well, it effectively ends it for the time being. We were doing screenings at the Alamo, and they shut their doors, so until they reopen, it's really not even an option.

But I also have zero interest in contributing to getting people sick by scheduling gatherings. I don't blame Alamo for closing. I actually am really glad they did. Other than that, it's given me some time to catch up on things that I've been lagging on. I went online into each program and hyperlinked each artist — as best as I could — to the main space where they show their work, so people could go back and look at each screening, and if they liked an artist's work, they could investigate further with ease.

I had been kind of looking at the fall as a time to slow down with monthly programs, to be honest. I've been getting really burnt-out with a lot of different things and haven't really been able to allocate time to my own art practice as much, which has been getting me down. So when we emerge from this, hopefully we'll be well rested, and I can pick up and run with new programs.

What are you hoping to do with this call for entries and screening series?

Really, I was hoping to put a little cash in people's pockets and try and celebrate the people in the area who often don't have a space to show their work consistently. At the moment, there are even less options to show their work, with dwindling opportunities for employment in any capacity. If someone gets to eat a little better — I think that's the goal.

There is still something nice about feeling like we are all going to participate in something together even though we can't share the same physical space. In some ways, it's just familiar — and that hopefully feels a little comforting for everyone involved. It also gives me a sense of normalcy (not that I'm trying to normalize the moment), but serves as a little bit of a distraction and keeps me from being an anxious nightmare, washing my hands and sterilizing the doorknobs every thirty seconds. I need it, too.

How can the community support Collective Misnomer right now?

When this screening happens, it will give us a good idea and blueprint for how an online-screening system would work, and if that's a viable thing to keep doing into the future.

I really take pride in having a system that pays artists who participate, but I also know that this is a different time, and people may not be able to financially support the arts because of legitimate priorities. Which I totally understand.

Hopefully, being online will also broaden the audience a little bit, so people can tune in from anywhere and not just be limited to access from the Denver area. I guess the short answer is: If you can pay for the screening, please do. But don't feel guilty — and still engage — if you can't afford it.

The goal, really, is to see works that are made by your neighbors and homies. Support each other in any way you feel capable. If the online screenings feel good and flow well, I may switch over to that format until we can all see each other again. I have to see what my work situation ends up being, too. If I suddenly become unemployed, this has to go on the back burner.

What is Collective Misnomer doing to support the community?

In this moment, I've seen some really amazing moments of humanity, and honestly, it has been revolving around arts and culture. The Internet has, at least for me, felt like a return to the late ’90s and early ’00s as a full-on sharing resource.

I've seen so much new work and so many resources pop up. I haven't been this excited to be on the ’net in a very long time.

I also love this trend among video/time-based artists opening up videos that they previously had password- locked and posting all their stuff to view, so this idea of exclusivity is dissolving. It's pretty awesome. We're Post-Exclusivity! 

So I guess my role in this is to add to that mentality and try and utilize the platform I have to show new works, and hopefully generate a little bit of income for my peers/friends/colleagues/people I've never met.

It's kind of one of the only things I know I can do, and people seem to appreciate it, so it feels good to continue with it. It felt really weird to not do anything — like I was being neglectful. I hope it feels good for everyone involved, too.

Anything else you want to speak to?

There has been a really good resource of experimental film and video that L.A. artist Kate Lain started that I would encourage people to check out. It's broken down into a lot of digestible categories, and has some fantastic work on there. Here's the link.

My collaborator and longtime friend Ryan Wade Ruehlen and some of his collaborators just started this online-streaming experimental-sound performance called DECENTRALIZED SONIC QUARANTINE NETWORK, and it has at least one performer live-streaming each day, it seems, for the next few weeks. I'll actually be performing on this Sunday, March 29. You can check the schedule here. Artists are from all over. 

There is a small part on the Locals Only application inquiring if students had their BFA/MFA shows canceled. If so, or if the school isn't showing their video in a way they like (say, a still on a website or catalogue), they are invited to be part of a Colorado Graduating Class of 2020 screening. It's an experiment that I just want to offer students.

Even though I'm not teaching right now, a lot of my former students are graduating. In the conversations I've had with them, it felt like they worked so hard, and now they don't even get to celebrate alongside the community they worked with. It's just a small gesture, but if they want it, I would really like to help.
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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris