Proximity, Art Openings and Potentiality

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Hörsaal 14 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Julie REN, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Germany, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Martin FULLER, Technische Universität Berlin, Germany
There are a lot of events in contemporary visual art. From the spectacle of the biennial opening, to the everyday gallery exhibition opening, events are everywhere. While the duration of events such as biennials, art fairs, gallery and museum exhibitions are variable - some lasting for months, others for days - what is shared by most art events is the apex of the opening.

To better understand these openings as what has been called field-configuring events (FCEs), we introduce the idea of proximity. The literature on FCEs fails to offer a sufficiently nuanced conceptualization of what happens at the events, in particular in the characterization of “pooling diverse actors” or the event’s constituent symbolic parts. We take the concept of proximity and the empirical site of the art opening as a means to enrich the analytical rigour of this debate.

Opening events summon art world participants to come together in specific locales at specific times. The periodicity of art openings provides the temporally and spatially bounded events in which proximities flourish and fade, whether the time and place is every second May in Venice, or every June in Basel, or Thursday nights in Chelsea.

Proximity with other social actors at these events entails the potentiality for encounter and intimacy. The potentiality of encounter and intimacy of proximity is a defining characteristic of art openings and helps us understand the everyday experience and significance of these events beyond function and artifice, beyond the marketplace and stage.