Holding OPEN

Karen Christopher & Rajni Shah

Holding OPEN is a private collaboration, from which it is possible to share something publicly. Karen and Rajni have met regularly across four years, at home or in a public space; they sit quietly together for a timed period (usually 50 minutes) and then write. The time spent still and silent is thought of as unproductive. It is a conscious attempt to remain unproductive, to not follow or develop a train of thought, to not breathe carefully or focus on clearing the mind, but simply to be. The writing afterwards is equally considered unproductive in that it is not meant to serve a purpose other than to process in the moment the silent part of the session and the state of mind it has rendered.

Holding OPEN was practiced regularly by Rajni and Karen between 2011 and 2015. It began as a meeting of two people to sit quietly together and then to write whatever came to mind. During the first two weeks of the project we met often to test various locations and combinations of time and other parameters. After we settled on just under an hour for the stillness and silence and about 20 minutes for the writing, each session was scheduled for 2 hours so that we’d have a little time to chat before and after the silence. Usually there was tea and a treat after the stillness, silence and writing.

Rajni Shah’s work as an artist leans gently but clearly across disciplines, countries and thought structures. She is a quiet voice of change, creating and curating visually engaging performances, interventions and writings that open up spaces for conversation and meeting. www.rajnishah.com

Holding OPEN forms part of The Difference Between Home and Poem: a duet series. Each project in the series is jointly made, directed and performed by Karen Christopher and another artist.

Public manifestations of this project:

21 December 2012
Cake Party at Karen’s house
Rajni and Karen read two entries from their Holding OPEN notebooks to two guests.

3 October 2014
In Dialogue: An International Symposium for Artists and Researchers hosted by three organisations in Nottingham: Nottingham Contemporary, Backlit, and Primary.
In conjunction with this event and as part of Rajni Shah’s PhD work, Karen and Rajni undertook a week-long conversation (We are Capable of So Much More: Experiments in Listening) at Backlit Gallery in advance of the symposium which culminated in a public presentation for attendees of the symposium. This week-long conversation contained a number of Holding OPEN sessions which was reflected in the public presentation.

16 January 2016
Holding OPEN, with Karen Christopher & Rajni Shah: writing, and a series of silences
A public event in the form of a workshop. A writing workshop based on emptying out. A communal gathering based on stillness and silence. 
At Chisenhale Dance Space, London.

11 & 18 March 2017
Holding OPEN parts 1 & 2 (respectively) as part of TWOFOLD at Chisenhale Dance Space
Presentation of elements of Holding OPEN by Karen and special guest (with remote participation from Rajni, now in Australia)