OSS as 3rd space

Tel-e-tea by Peiyi Wong: theater designer, telematic installation uniting the Center for Integrated Media and the Tatum Lounge

Now that the Open Source Studio (OSS) project has been completed at CalArts, it becomes clearer where this experiment in peer-to-peer, online education is headed. Though the concept has hardly been tapped, what proves most interesting is the idea of creating a richly networked space for interactive communications: a 3rd place for dialogue, production, and presentation that unites the physical and virtual. The OSS exhibition last night was a glimpse into the future of the artist’s studio. It seems clear that the studio model for producing a finished “work” or “object” or “performance” is not nearly so relevant in our time of global communications, and pertinent to its understanding and critique, as providing a space for interaction where things simply happen: dynamically and socially.

Sonic Ornithology by Andrew Jordan, music technology: sound installation capturing audio via Skype

The creation of the 3rd space sets up opportunities for social interaction that puncture the constraints of location: geographically, socially, and culturally. If art can be conceived as a sculptural phenomenon that facilitates the indeterminate possibilities of social interaction (ie. Joseph Beuys), then the OSS 3rd space creates a platform for bringing people together within the familiar environment of the exhibition model. However, this model is transformed and opened up, no longer a setting for fixed experiences, but a place to explore new relations, connections, and ideas. This is Beuys’ notion of the social sculpture – “how we mould and shape the world in which we live: Sculpture as an evolutionary process” – brought into 21st century tele-communications.

Cross-town Reflections by Abraham Osuma, documentary film: Skype installation with two frame-mounted iPads

Within the 3rd space, the viewer is not just an observer, but an active participant engaging in peer-to-peer interaction with a network of participants extending well beyond the exhibition’s physical boundaries. As an open studio, the viewer is invited to creatively engage with others. If in fact we live in a world of constant communications that threaten to disrupt or undermine our perception and experience of reality, the OSS space provides a setting for learning, understanding, and analyzing the conditions of an increasingly mediated society: a research lab for engaging the network and dissecting its effects within the context of artistic activity.

The Resuscitation Machine by Diego Robles, documentary film: live cinema performance via Adobe Connect video-conference and mobile phones

In Steven Johnson’s recent book, Future Perfect: The case for progress in a networked age, he sets the stage for near-utopian social aspirations by demonstrating how peer-to-peer concepts, technologies, and methodologies can improve education, government, health, etc., through ground-up community interaction, rather than top-down hierarchical systems. The possibilities are staggering and studio art practice is no exception. In OSS, we have demonstrated how artists can engage these ideas to bring both artist and viewer into the sphere of creative studio activity. What Beuys meant by “everyone an artist” is that the impulse behind the artistic act is universal, and applied to our everyday lives, can reshape the world we live in.

I see no end to the potential of Johnson’s “future perfect.” And in our current climate of political paralysis, there is an opening here for the Open Source Studio to reposition the artist as an agent of change who can help direct us towards a more cooperative society. Why not? Maybe the artist really can change the world.

Second Life First by Daniel Charon, dancer/choregrapher: installation/performance/happening in Second Life