OpenEndedGroup comprises two digital artists, Marc Downie and Paul Kaiser, whose collaboration dates back to 2001. (Shelley Eshkar was part of the group until 2014.) The collective spent time in the archives looking at Isabella Stewart Gardner’s guest books, her travel albums through Japan and Asia, photographs of her Beacon Street and Brookline homes, the blueprints of the Museum, and inventories. They read correspondence between Gardner and Olga Monks, Ralph Curtis, and Thomas Wittemore; and viewed several books from her personal library including a copy of Dante Alighieri’s La Divina Commedia given to her by Clayton Johns, and an Italian and English dictionary.
Over the course of five weeks in 2012, the artists immersed themselves not only in the archives and the collection but in the intricately arranged spaces of the Museum. Using advanced photo techniques they spent hours in the galleries and took over 24,000 photographs. These images were uploaded into a special rendering algorithm that enables them to create 3D objects and spaces in a variety of styles more akin to painting and drawing. Their pioneering approach to digital art frequently combines non-photorealistic 3D rendering; body movement by motion-capture and other means; and the autonomy of artworks directed or assisted by artificial intelligence.
The group began three projects during their residency at the Gardner, Knight’s Rest, Saccades, and Maenads and Satyrs. The duo returned multiple times between their initial residency and 2017 to work on all three films in the on-site Artist-in-Residence apartments. Knight’s Rest premiered at the Gardner on October 3, 2013 and Saccades premiered in the spring of 2014 in Calderwood Hall.
Knight's Rest is a meditative encounter with the Museum's Spanish Chapel, a five-minute 3D film that derives from a single camera pass through the space. The accompanying piano score is a contemporary revisiting of sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti by their collaborator Jaroslaw Kapuscinski, who composed the work on a piano in the Tapestry Room.
Saccades, draws on captured spaces and objects throughout the Museum, with the aim of suggesting the intricate web of connections not only between the paintings and sculptures, but also the chairs, windows, doorways, and room spaces. The 3D film navigates the Museum not the way a physical visitor does but rather the way a mind might as it follows its path of associations.
The third work, Maenads and Satyrs, explores the Roman Sarcophagus situated in the Museum's Courtyard. The sarcophagus and the film are features in the exhibition, Life, Death, and Revelry on view in the Hostetter Gallery June 14, 2018 – September 9, 2018. This 13-minute 3D film conceived for three screens, allows the viewer up-close and impossible perspectives of the extraordinary figures frozen in motion in the stone. The imagery not only brings the sarcophagus to a new kind of life, but it also evokes the history of Western painting, which this kind of artifact influenced so deeply, from the Renaissance to Cezanne. The accompanying score, Petals for Solo Cello and Electronics by Kaija Saariaho, is performed by Yeesun Kim.
OpenEndedGroup’s (b.1977 Scotland, b.1956 USA) work spans a wide range of forms and disciplines, including dance, music, installation, film, and public art. In the field of dance, they have worked most closely with Merce Cunningham (Hand-drawn Spaces, 1998; BIPED, 1999; and Loops, 2001-2008), but also with Bill T. Jones (Ghostcatching, 1999 and 2005), Trisha Brown (how long does the subject linger on the edge of the volume, 2005), and Wayne McGregor (Choreographic Language Agent, 2007-present, and Stairwell, 2010).
Their public artworks include Pedestrian (multiple sites, 2002); Enlightenment and Breath (Lincoln Center, 2006 and 2007), Recovered Light (York Minster, 2007), and Crossings (Nuit Blanche/Royal Ontario Museum, 2010).
In recent years OpenEndedGroup has created new approaches to 3D projection, which has resulted in works of digital cinema such as Upending (2010) and All sides of the road (2012); the shorter installations After Ghostcatching (with Bill T. Jones, 2010), Stairwell (with Wayne McGregor, 2010), and plant (2011); the interactive installations Into the Forest (2011) and Drawn Together (2012); and the chamber opera Twice through the heart (with Mark Anthony Turnage and Wayne McGregor, 2011).
Among the prizes they have won individually or collectively are a Guggenheim Fellowship, the John Cage Award from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, a Media Arts Fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation, and a Bessie award for the BIPED decor.
They have presented their work at Lincoln Center, the New York Film Festival, the Barbican Center, the Hayward Gallery, ICA Boston, Sadler’s Wells, the Festival d’Automne, the Sundance Film Festival, the Detroit Institute of Art, the Rome Film Festival, the Museum of the Moving Image, SITE Santa Fe, EMPAC, MASS MoCA, the MIT Media Lab, ICA London, Jacobs Pillow Dance Festival, the Centre for Contemporary Art (Glasgow), the Kiasma museum, and other venues.
Other residencies include the University of Michigan, EMPAC, Le Fresnoy: studio national des arts contemporains, Georgia Tech, Arizona State University, Harvard University, Columbia University, the MIT Media Lab, the Brooklyn Academy of Music/Bell Labs, and UC: Irvine.