open form is an open studio and conversation platform founded in Athens that invites a group of artists to open their studio and their practice to the public and engage in conversation about their processes and methodologies. open form is an experiment in understanding contemporary artistic practices backwards. Rather than looking at the final work as presented in an exhibition setting, it considers instead the steps and decisions before it came into being. Artists are free to decide their mode of interaction with the public yet four conditions need to be met. First, that the artist is present. Second, focus is on process and not on an object. Third, priority is assigned to communication rather than exhibition. Fourth, there is no completed work on display.
open form is directly inspired by the work of Polish architect Oskar Hansen who established and developed the philosophy of Open Form. At the International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM) held in Otterlo in 1959 Hansen proposed the idea of open architecture; friendly, inclusive and adaptable to its users, as opposed to the closed form architecture of Le Corbusier. Open Form was devised as a series of apparatuses to be applied to architecture, but also extend to urban development, design, society and art. Oskar Hansen explains, “The Open Form is not exclusively a speculative discovery of our times. It is above all the post-observational conclusion of the existing configurations.”(1) Open Form’s objective was to create links between existing human activities, their flux and their setting, while simultaneously responding and adapting to and for them. For example, Hansen envisioned the museum as a flexible and adjustable structure that evolves together with the unpredictable organism that art is. Hansen was also a professor at the Sculpture Department of the Art Academy in Warsaw and conducted workshops, set exercises, and organised events that centred on the concept of Open Form. His aim was to encourage his students to reconsider their subjectivity, their practices and the invisible limits exercised on architecture, society and art.
"In many works from this period, there is no clear separation between documentation and work of art; instead the works open a tense field in which the visual space and the space of the physical environment are questioned in relationship to each other.”(2) For example, Przemyslaw Kwiek documented successive formal and material transformations of his sculptural work. At the centre of the projects was his recognition of the documentation of the process as the work itself.
The studio could be perceived as an extension of the artist’s ideas, visions, illusions and hallucinations into the physical realm. In contemporary artistic practice, it is a transitory space which is manifested in numerous forms, constantly in flux between the virtual, the cerebral and the physical variants of itself. open form defines the studio in loose terms and welcomes the individual artists’ interpretation of it. However open form chooses to be manifested outside the institutions usually allocated for the discourse and exhibition of contemporary art. Instead, it merges the artists’ private space with open space, bringing the public to locations that serve as inspiration or as places of research and preparation for the invited artists, with the intention of creating an in-between third space where social interaction and exchange can take place about the transitory stage between ideas and outcomes. Axel Wieder writes in Works-for-Film and Open Form, "Speaking about space means traditionally addressing our physical environment, the arena of architecture, urban planning, and design. Yet, most importantly, space is also the medium in which people interact with the world and with each other. In this sense, space is not necessarily material – rather it’s a medium that allows relations, material or immaterial, that connects, activates, enable, reproduces, and records.” (3)
Considering Hansen’s rejection of the hierarchical, authoritarian model of relation between artist and recipient, open form asks the artists, instead of relying on their work to speak on their behalf, to communicate directly with their audience. Our interaction with art is usually limited to visiting exhibitions, the artist’s webpage and perhaps learning about them through articles and interviews written by third parties. On the other hand, open form hopes to offer a more intimate way of understanding a practice by meeting and speaking with the artist in person. open form has taken Hansen’s theory as frame of reference in order to construct this nomadic platform. Nevertheless, open form always considers the context wherein it takes place and the hospitality that is demonstrated by the artist to welcome strangers into their practice but also into a space of discussion where the artist is open to questions, criticism, doubts and feedback regarding their work.
(1) Osckar Hansen, “Open Form Manifesto,” Poland, 1959, as cited in: Pelin Tan, “Open Form as a Possibility of Radical Experience,” in Axel Wieder and Florian Zeyfang (eds.), Open Form, Space, Interaction, and the Tradition of Oskar Hansen, Sternberg Press: Berlin, 2014, p. 150.
(2) Axel Wieder, Florian Zeyfang, “Introduction,” Axel Wieder and Florian Zeyfang (eds.), Open Form, Space, Interaction, and the Tradition of Oskar Hansen, Sternberg Press: Berlin, 2014, p. 12.
(3) Axel Wieder, “Works-for-Film and Open Form,” in Axel Wieder and Florian Zeyfang (eds.), Open Form, Space, Interaction, and the Tradition of Oskar Hansen, Sternberg Press: Berlin, 2014, p. 52.