Although the Open Platform presentations are now over, you can read an edited transcript of the opening speech below
The following is an edited transcript of an introductory speech given at twelve Open Platform events around the UK, providing artists with the opportunity to hear more about the Open inititiative.
What do we mean when we use the word open? Think of some of the words open is often teamed up with: open air, open arms, open mind, open book, open road, open question, open secret, open marriage etc, etc.
When open is teamed up with Artangel, it signals a desire for us to open up to artists of any kind, working in any media, living and working anywhere in the UK.
Together with our partners BBC Radio 4 and with the generous backing of Arts Council England and some 250 private patrons, our Company of Angels, we’ve brought together a £1m Open fund, which we’ll commit to a small number of extraordinary projects over the next few years.
So what Open offers to artists is an opportunity to share with us different, difficult, imaginative, almost unimaginable, proposals for site-specific projects.
What do we mean by site-specific?
From the outset, Artangel has always been driven by the encounter with a great idea given shape by a particular place at a particular time.
By ‘place’ we don’t mean an open-air plinth or a corporate forecourt or the part of a town where a statue gets stuck. Place is much more than that, it’s a material of equal importance as steel or celluloid or concrete – an active, often volatile element within the complex chemistry of a new work of art. Place can be seen as a fantasy of embedded histories, present realities and future possibilities; it can involve patterns of use and the participation of distinct and diverse communities of interest. It can provoke a situation as much as provide a site – a location where something specific can materialise, occur once or happen many times. And then vanish, leaving only the convergence of memory and imagination in its wake. Place. Somewhere else. Somewhere other - epic or intimate, extraordinary or prosaic, for audiences in their thousands or for one at a time. The sited work can be sculptural or virtual, cinematic or performative, singular or collaborative. And the experience encountered can last for a few moments or for many years.
By the time such a project has been completed, what the work brings to the place and the place to the work can no longer be disentangled. They become a necessary part of each other, long after the work is over. The Reichstag will always be wrapped. Rachel Whiteread’s House has never disappeared. Christian Boltanski’s Lost Property remains missing. For Francis Alys and 500 Peruvian volunteers near Lima, faith still moves mountains.
Particular places, with their historical , psychological and emotional associations allow the work to subtly – and sometimes not so subtly - seep into the world ….. with the capacity to make us change the way we think and feel about the environment that surrounds us.
The last time Artangel launched an Open was in 2006, the one before that was initiated in 1999. So this is the third manifestation of Artangel’s seven-year itch – our need to turn the way we work inside out – or perhaps more accurately outside in.
Over the past few years, we’ve enjoyed many productive relationships with artists whose work we have followed, admired and know quite well. A quiet, even covert, process of development and production is the way we mostly work. The process begins with an invitation, and a series of exploratory conversations, and a project moves from conception to materialisation in whatever ways seems right.
But how can we invite someone who don’t know, how can we be open to what we have no idea about? However effective our networks, however alert our antennae, we’re not ignorant of the reality that what and whom we know, what we have seen or read or heard or heard about will always by its very nature be restricted. The deluge of information we deal with every day can sometimes feel incapacitating rather than enabling.
But occasional experience and eternal optimism persuade us that there must be many extraordinary ideas bubbling away in the minds and studios of artists, or maybe they’ve been tucked away in the bottom drawer of the plan chest or filed the projects folder on the laptop, lying latent because they seem too far-fetched, too complicated, too unwieldy or too expensive, or because they need a catalyst, a collaborator and some funds.
In any individual art form, there’s no shortage of opportunities and openings of a certain kind – a first play to the Royal Court, a first novel to the Whitbread Prize, a new screenplay to the Film Fund at the BFI or some Jpegs to New Contemporaries or various Open exhibitions
We want this to be an opening of a very different kind.
We want to be inspired by an idea that develops in the kind of place where you’d never normally expect to encounter a cultural experience. So, however compelling or original your proposal might be, we’re not looking for it to be realised in a museum, a gallery or a sculpture park. Nor on the stages of the concert hall, the opera house or the theatre. There’s already plenty of great art at those addresses. Otherwise we’re genuinely open to anything – anyway, anyhow, anywhere – whether conceived in relation to a physical location somewhere in the UK or for the online environment where we seem to spend increasing amounts of time… or indeed in the merging of a variety of different platforms and places. And we’re particularly delighted at this new partnership with Radio 4 which opens up the landscape even wider.
Above all else, we want to be surprised by an unstoppable proposition, as Jeremy Deller said recently, “ that makes us sweat a little,” and makes our hearts beat faster.
Now for a reality check after the rhetoric. Though we really want to be as unproscriptive as possible, there have to be some guidelines and even a few rules.
The first stage of the Open process involves you sharing an idea with us through an on-line submission. You’ll need to summarise the idea succinctly and follow it up with a persuasive and specific narrative, and if you wish a few images, clips or sounds which help us imagine what you have in mind. Please don’t be general, too wordy or obtuse. You don’t need to convince us of your brilliance at budgeting, because we may not believe you.
The closing date for Artangel to receive proposals this year is April 29.
Then there will be a period of intensive work until we come up with a cluster of ideas we’d like to explore further. Probably anything between ten and twenty artists (or collaborative groups) will be invited to share their ideas in person with the Open Panel – comprising two artists whose ideas were taken forward from the last Open, Clio Barnard and Roger Hiorns, Tony Phillips, Commissioning Editor for the Arts on BBC Radio 4, and James Lingwood and Michael Morris.
Before meeting the Open Panel, there will then be an opportunity to share a bit of quality time in May with someone whose work or ideas you find inspiring, and whom you think could be a helpful sounding board for you. We’re asking you to think about this when you make you proposal, to nominate someone you want to talk with.
At the end of this process, the first commissions will be announced in June.
Our best guess is that we will move forward with between three and five proposals, and you should be aware that, so long as we don’t commit our full £1m fund this year, there should be another Open opportunity in 2014. This marks the end of one phase and the beginning of another.
The next phase is one of collaboration
Collaboration has long been a byword at Artangel. Not just the dialogue between artist and place and producer and public, but also the communication and trust that we try to develop within the different teams that support and help make each artist’s singular vision find form in the right place at the right time.
Open is in many ways simply a means to an end – a different and more democratic way of identifying artists with whom we can collaborate. And once selected, those artists will be encouraged to work with us in the usual fluid, open-ended way on the development, production and realisation of their ideas.
Artangel’s team-building operation differs every time we set out on a new journey with a different artist. No two requirements are ever the same because one undertaking rarely has anything in common with another. The seam that runs through all of our work is the collaborative process. And one of the most important qualities we look for in an artist is her or his capacity to embrace the opportunity that dedicated teamwork can offer to ensure that everyone involved is working beyond their own expectations of what is possible.
The twelve Open Platforms:
With: James Lingwood, Michael Morris, Jeremy Deller and Roger Hiorns
Discussion moderated by Will Gompertz
Date: 28 January 2013
Venue: Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
With: James Lingwood and Seb Emina
Date: 29 January 2013
Host: Whitworth Art Gallery
Venue address: Whitworth Art Gallery
With: James Lingwood, Michael Landy and Seb Emina
Date: 30 January 2013
Host: Liverpool Biennial
Venue: Camp and Furnace
With: James Lingwood, Roger Hiorns and Rob Bowman
Date: 31 January 2013
Host: Leeds City Art Gallery
Venue: Henry Moore Auditorium at Leeds City Art Gallery
With: Michael Morris, Clio Barnard and Rob Bowman
Date: 2 February 2013
Host: Aldeburgh Music
Venue: Snape Maltings Concert Hall
With: Michael Morris, Jem Finer and Seb Emina
Date: 4 February 2013
Host: National Theatre Wales
Venue: National Theatre Wales Warehouse
With: Michael Morris, Alan Kane and Seb Emina
Date: 5 February 2013
Host: Bristol Old Vic
Venue: Bristol Old Vic
With: James Lingwood, Rachel Anderson and Richard Wentworth
Date: 11 February 2013
Host: Nottingham Contemporary
Venue: Weekday Cross
With: James Lingwood, Roger Hiorns and Rob Bowman
Date: 12 February 2013
Host: Ikon Gallery
Venue: 1 Oozells Street Brindleyplace
With: James Lingwood, Alan Kane and Rob Bowman
Date: 13 February 2013
Host: Baltic, NewcastleGateshead
Venue address: Riverside Terrace at Baltic
With: Michael Morris, Rachel Anderson and Mark Storor
Date: 19 February 2013
Host: The Mac
Venue: 10 Exchange Street West
With: Michael Morris, Ruth Ewan and Rachel Anderson
Date: 26 February 2013
Host: The Common Guild
Venue: The Goethe Institute