Process (open-ended)

2021 Type: Glossary

It is often said that the imagination knows no limits. I disagree. Imagination has limits indeed: there are boundaries to what we can imagine, since our fantasies are always connected to our experiences (whether psychologically or professionally). If we investigate the greatest discoveries, inventions, or works of art and science, and the contexts they derived from, we soon understand that most so-called ‘new’ ideas appear very closely related to something that was right next to them. It is only when inventions and innovations travel outside of their immediate contexts and discourses that these ideas might suddenly seem so different and so radically new. However, most artists and scientists will tell you the same: when we try to push our imagination, what we mostly do is to mix and re-combine already known concepts, questions, and circumstances to arrive at new relationships and figures: We repeat, re-make and re-model. We use what is around us and what we already know, and we push and twist, investigate, experiment, mix, challenge, shift, and use our intuition and experience until we reach a slightly different place. From there, perhaps something else can be known and articulated than before. Or perhaps something similar can be known again, anew, in a different form, allowing this knowledge to operate in a new way.

As artists, we mostly set out in this activity without knowing exactly where we are going to end – since the very point is that we cannot ourselves imagine it clearly from the beginning either. In other words, we begin our work without a clear goal or result in view. We may have a direction, but no destination or even destiny. Let us call this an open-ended process : entering into an explorative process with tactics and strategies for working, with the experience and knowledge of materials, drawing upon previous experiments, but without an explicit end in view. One of the core competences of artists is the ability to work with open processes – being able to enter into, uphold and navigate a working-process without knowing beforehand precisely what the results might be.

However, it is clear that the open process should not belong exclusively to artists and those working in the so-called creative industries. Rather, today – in light of the current political, economic, and especially climate-related crisis – the necessity for being able to push the boundaries for what we can imagine, for what it is even possible to imagine, is overwhelming and a matter of utmost urgency. Only through insisting on the reality and necessity of radically open processes in order to explore what we cannot yet imagine, can we perhaps begin to meet these needs.

Katya Sander