Denise Araouzou and Exercises in Openness
Organised and founded by young Cypriot curator Denise Araouzou, Open Form is a new contemporary art platform that seeks to examine artistic practices and methodologies in Athens today through research, discussion and the participation of the public. For its first series of events, Open Form hosts seven artist talks in various venues in Athens, where the artists will present their practice but without any of their finished works being on display. In the following interview, Denise Araouzou elaborates on the project and its upcoming programme of events.
Interview by Kiriakos Spirou
Tell us a bit about Open Form, what is its structure, who is involved?
Open Form is an eight-day open studio platform that invites seven artists to present their practice by discussing their methodologies, research practices, production processes and inspirations without having a finished work on display. One artist per day will host Open form presentations/talks and performances, all beginning at 7pm and lasting up to 3 hours. In between the 8 days there is a pause (01/07) that acts as a breather. Open Form was conceived from the beginning as a trimonthly happening. Since the idea behind Open Form is not an exhibition rather a conversation about contemporary artistic practice in Athens, there is a need for continuity. The artists involved have one thing in common: they live and work in Athens. Beyond that, their practices are very different. Open Form will aim for every iteration to invite a selection of artists of different practices, so as to offer the public the opportunity to get involved with different perspectives and approaches to artistic practice. For the first iteration the artists who are invited are: Athens Subsumption, Nana Sachini, Georges Jacotey, Anna Lascari, Clare Breen, Vasilis Papageorgiou and Adrian Melis.
Where in Athens will Open Form be taking place?
There is no one definite location of Open Form, it is spread within the city and that was my intention to begin with. Artists have the choice to either present in their existing studio, or use a "neutral space", meaning a space void of any significance for them or alternatively, a public space. The studio is a shape shifter, an organism and it is always adapting to the needs of the artists and their practice. It was therefore important for me that the artists could choose a space that could best support their intentions within Open Form. It is also the overall intention of Open Form to place itself all over Athens and invite the public to retrace the steps that the artists make on a daily basis to their studios.
Was there something in Athens as a city that triggered your idea to do this project?
I would say many things about the character of the city triggered my idea but it was also a personal curiosity of mine to meet artists in Athens and to get to know their practices through conversation. I came here a year ago and found that despite the harsh financial circumstances, lack of public funding, (and the list goes on), the number of artist-run spaces, project spaces and initiatives only continued to grow. I found this genuine drive and stubbornness alluring, refreshing. I also found that since there is no art market in Athens, the art scene allows room for experimentation both for the artists and the curators involved and to some extent this is liberating.
For you as a curator, what kind of questions or topics does Open Form address?
In general I think reexamining our practices, regardless of whether they are art-related or not, is interesting and perhaps necessary. One way or another, we all learn to talk about our jobs and we do it more often than we realise, so what if we actually have to think about why we make certain decisions in the framework of our work? In any discipline, whether it’s art, architecture, music, chemistry, literature, engineering, design, etc. I am fascinated by the process and development of ideas, their structure and overall the cognitive labour involved in creating something. My question with Open Form is how do artists communicate ideas before they become conclusions (the final artwork). That’s why Open Form focuses on the process behind making the work rather than the work itself, the raw data before it has been fine-tuned, the process through which the immaterial becomes material and how then, the artists identify themselves (or not) with the result and then how they together with others can revisit this result through conversation. Reading Oskar Hansen’s theory on Open Form was very important for the formation of this idea –hence the name. Of course Umberto Eco’s ‘The Open Work’ also served as an important reference when thinking about how integral to contemporary art and literary theory, the interactive process between interpreter and object is. I also have to mention here that the selection came about very naturally. I met these artists either by chance or on purpose and had conversations with them about their work, I was interested in their work and they in turn, were interested in Open Form. So the intention of Open Form is not to be exclusive but to include artists who would like to speak about, or even deconstruct their practice.
What are the "four conditions" for an artist to take part in Open Form, and why did you choose them?
The four conditions are: the artist is present, focus is on process and not the artwork, priority is assigned to communication rather than exhibition and finally there is no completed work on display. These acted as the curatorial parameters for Open Form and as I mentioned above they all stem from shifting focus to conversation, process, and approachability.
Is openness equivalent to freedom?
Freedom is a strong word. Freedom to produce what you want—as an artist, as a curator, as a writer etc. and to do it without considering the market, potential exposure, aesthetic and cultural hypes and so one and so forth—is rare and commendable. I find anyone who is creating, again whether that is an artist, a curator, a musician, an actor, a writer, etc. can very rarely produce work uninhibited by both their own expectations and all other aforementioned considerations. Openness for me is immediately noticeable in someone's body language, someone open to the idea of meeting new people and having a conversation, open to others’ views, open to experiment outside their comfort zone, which in turn can also be understood as being hospitable, inviting people into your world and yes, Open Form wants to encourage that. I guess the only link between the two words in regards to Open Form is that I imagine it as a flexible and adaptable structure and I feel freer changing it as it develops.
Open Form is organised by Denise Araouzou and is taking place from 28 June-5 July 2017 in Athens. For the complete programme of events, venues and other information please visit the Open Form Facebook page and official website.