Artangel, BBC Radio 4 and an Open opportunity for artists

If you've been listening to BBC Radio 4 this week, any day at around 9:02am, you may have noticed a surprising disruption to the usual schedule. It would have lasted for three minutes and it would have sounded completely different to anything else on daytime radio.

The series in question – if series is not too conventional a word – is Open Air, and it came about when Artangel invited five artists (Christian Marclay, Ruth Ewan, Peter Strickland, Susan Hiller and Mark Wallinger) to produce short new pieces, each occupying a short space within the flow of morning radio.

Listen to the first in a series of audio interventions for BBC Radio 4:

Open Air’s purpose is not only to re-interpret how broadcast space might be thought about, but to mark a month until the submission deadline for Open, our £1 million initiative with BBC Radio 4, calling for ambitious ideas for site-specific UK projects.

It also serves to remind artists that when we say ‘site-specific’ it can of course mean a physical location – whether epic or intimate, extraordinary or prosaic – but it can also mean something that manifests itself in any medium or media, including broadcast or online environments.

Of course, this is not the first time we’ve had an Open.

The original call was in 1999. We put the word out to artists of all kinds: we’re interested in your ideas for site-specific projects, the ones you thought could never be made. We want to try and make some of them.

Two were selected. One was The Battle of Orgreave, Jeremy Deller’s re-enactment of a pivotal battle from the 1980s miners’ strikes. The other was Break Down, Michael Landy’s systematic, public destruction of every last thing he owned.

When we asked the question for a second time in 2005, the results were very different but no less remarkable. They included a council flat utterly colonised – by way of 75,000 litres of copper sulphate – with a startling blue crystal growth (Roger Hiorns’ Seizure), and a documentary film that pushed the form to places it had never been before to tell the story of the Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar (Clio Barnard’s The Arbor).

This Open sees us asking the same question for a third time and we fully expect to be met with more unstoppable propositions, ones that surprise us and, as Jeremy Deller said recently, “make us sweat a little”.

All we ask is that each idea submitted to Open develops in the kind of place where you’d never normally expect to encounter a cultural experience. Not in a museum, a gallery, a sculpture park, nor on the stages of the concert hall, the opera house or the theatre. There is enough great art at those addresses already.

Otherwise we’re genuinely open to anything.

If you wish to apply you’ll need to do so through our website, summarising your idea succinctly and accompanying it with a persuasive narrative, and if you like, some images clips or sounds, to help us imagine what you have in mind. Try not to generalise or be too wordy. You don’t need to convince us of your water-tight budget (we may not believe you) or try to suggest solutions to any of the problems that make your idea seem impossible (we’re there to help with this).

There will then be a phase of intensive work until we arrive at a selection of ideas that we’d like to explore further. Probably between ten and twenty artists (or collaborative groups) will be invited to share their ideas in person with the Open Panel, which comprises of two artists whose ideas were taken forward from the last Open, Clio Barnard and Roger Hiorns, Artangel Co-Directors James Lingwood and Michael Morris and Tony Phillips, Commissioning Editor for the Arts on BBC Radio 4.

At the end of this process, the first commissions will be announced in June. Our guess is that we will move forward with between three and five proposals.

What follows will be a period of collaboration, a dialogue between the artist and ourselves, and whichever teams and organisations are needed in order to turn ideas into real projects. Eventually this will lead to finished works that we hope will transform the UK’s cultural landscape in the same way as their predecessors in previous Opens.

Whether you are a visual artist, a filmmaker, a writer, a composer, a theatre maker, a choreographer or an artist who works in the digital space, this is an extraordinary opportunity to realise one of your most unlikely ideas.

For more information, guidelines and to apply for Open, please visit the Artangel website.

Open Air broadcasts on BBC Radio 4 from 25 – 29 March, just after the 9am news. At 11am on Easter Saturday there will also be a broadcast featuring all five pieces and interviews with the artists. Visit the Artangel website for info and to listen again.

This post was written by Seb Emina, Producer, Artangel Digital.

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