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Open Air – a collaboration with Artangel

Friday 22 March 2013, 17:38

Russell Finch Russell Finch Producer

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Editor's note: Open Air is a series of audio artworks by five artists, and their broadcast marks the launch of Open – a collaboration between Artangel and BBC Radio 4. Russell Finch, co-producer, explains more about these unique commissions. Hear them at 9.02 each morning this week

Christian Marclay Christian Marclay “The pictures are better on radio.” In my line of work, I hear that phrase a lot. Strangely though it always seems to come from a radio person. For some reason you don’t get many artists or film makers saying it.

Which is where the new series Open Air comes in. Beginning on Monday, Open Air consists of five playful and surprising audio interventions, stripped across the week at 9.02am after the Today programme. The idea behind the project was to select five leading artists – Christian Marclay, Ruth Ewan, Mark Wallinger, Susan Hiller and Peter Strickland – and to give them a blank canvas of three minutes of Radio 4 airtime. Their challenge was to decide what to do with it.

Ruth Ewan Ruth Ewan

We hear a lot about arts and culture on Radio 4 – programmes like Front Row, The Film Programme and Open Book, as well as the rich output of drama, readings and poetry – but what we want to do with Open Air is to showcase contemporary art on the network by bringing it to listeners at this key point in the morning schedule. It’s clear contemporary art is one of the most creative energies in our culture. We just need to look to art colleges or independent cinema to see how art has cross-fertilised with other disciplines like music, fashion or film. Open Air goes some way to getting that rich creativity onto radio.

It’s all part of Radio 4’s wider collaboration with the arts commissioning body Artangel. Open Air is just the first part of Open, an ambitious joint initiative to commission ground-breaking art projects that will transform the UK's cultural landscape. The transmission of Open Air marks one month until the deadline for artists to submit ideas for Open – 29th April.

For me and my co-producer Joby Waldman, it has been almost surreal to see how this idea has evolved into five pieces of art, which will, we hope, provide a unique and inspiring experience for Radio 4 listeners. An omnibus programme on Saturday 30th will give listeners a glimpse into the creative process behind each of the pieces, with specially recorded interviews with the artists.

What do the pieces sound like? Well, I’m afraid everyone will have to wait until next week to find out – after all, in the art world, a premiere is a premiere. It will be a first for us all – the unveiling of five new works of art, made especially for Radio 4, each morning at 0902. 

Russell Finch is co-producer and head of features at production company Somethin' Else.

Listen to the Open Air programmes

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More about Open Air 

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    Comment number 7.

    An dire, and horrendous flop on all levels. It really should not be repeated, but of-course it will. And it will be celebrated by hard-pressed execs as a success because it "generated controversy", which is, in the cosy, disconnnected bubble of BBC meeting rooms and moodboards, a signifier of great success, especially if you're scrabbling at the bottom of the barrel of a very capacious barrel.

    First, if you're so proud of it, why was it not announced? Why was it not put in context. Why did it need the element of surprise to work? Was it not good enough to stand on its own feet? How or why would it have been diminished by simply telling people what it was? Good art should be able to withstand contextualisation. It's the cheapest trick in the book simply to dump it on people unannounced.
    Second, the quality: It was so obviously a mashup that anyone could have knocked together on a rainy Sunday afternoon, with a second-hand laptop, access to the radio archive, and any old freeware audio software. It lacked imagination, flair, insight, timing, rhythm, all those things which make stuff worth listening too, and which Radio producers and "artists" are meant to have built in to their DNA,

    This was easily the worst thing I've ever heard on Radio 4, and probably on Radio full stop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    I discovered this morning that this garbled gibberish was 'art'. Bother! and there was me switching off after a minute because I thought it was a technical hitch and a very irritating one. But seemingly the job of the artist these days is not do display particular skill, talent or aesthetic sense but simply to be a human flea - so much easier than having any worthwhile ability, I suppose. Still, that's art according to the BBC and I feel somehow inadequate for thinking it pretentious and pointless garbage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    I'm all for experiments and takings risks. This, however, was not that. I'm afraid it was just dull and boring. It certainly didn't `shake me'. I would also question its scheduling. Why put it in such a high profile slot without warning? The audience then couldn't choose to find it if they wanted to .It was at least half way through before I realised it was supposed to be the way it was and not a mistake. ??? Why????

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    What a way to start the week. It hurt my ears, it made me feel I had vertigo. I shall avoid this time slot for the rest of the week

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Utterly awful. I changed radio stations.


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Find out about this year's panel and theme