The Open Form Societies

In 1787, eleven friends founded the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in England, with the aim of informing the public about the treatment of enslaved Africans within England, in the colonies, and on plantations, campaigning in favor of a new law to abolish slave trade locally and oversees, and establishing areas in West Africa where Africans could live free of the risk of capture and sale into slavery. The members of the Society pursued these proposals vigorously by writing and publishing antislavery books, abolitionist prints, posters, and pamphlets and by organizing public lecture tours and theatrical displays in English towns and cities. A year later, following the same model of action, La Société des Amis des Noirs was founded in France. Organized as “societies of friends,” both groups promoted the creation of social and friendly bonds between those who were considered legally and politically unequal. Two years later, in 1791, the revolt of slaves on the Caribbean island of Saint-Domingue developed into the first major antislavery revolution. Serving as a backdrop to the revolts of slaves within the colonial empires, the societies functioned as a countercultural public program to develop an epistemological, discursive, political, and poetic imagination alternative to the colonial regime.

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Revolution starts with reading and writing. Revolution starts with theater and public talks. With debating and sharing. Revolution starts with friendship.

Within the context of the “world integrated capitalism” of the twenty-first century, the documenta 14 Public Programs, in collaboration with the Athens School of Fine Art, supports the development of a series of Societies for the transformation of the political imagination.

Inspired both by the “Open Form” methodology of artist and architect Oskar Hansen, and by the potential of spontaneous meetings to generate social and political change, the Open Form Societies work like self-learning, self-organized micropublics that generate their own activities.

Athens Municipality Arts Center at Parko Eleftherias is the main home of the Societies in Athens, although they can move freely within the city and contaminate other spaces, ranging from Prevelakis Hall at the Polytechnion to different archives, cafés, and cinemas, or uncharted areas of the city. The Societies develop their activities from October 2016 until the opening of the exhibition in Athens in April 2017, transforming themselves progressively into the public infrastructure of the exhibition.

The Societies meet at least once a month around a series of activities: seminars, screenings, workshops, walks, reading sessions, and artists’ interventions. All the activities of the Societies are free and open to the public. Anyone can be member of any of the given Societies. The members share knowledge and practices (bibliographies, references, and archives) and decide on the future events of the Society. It is not necessary to be a member of a Society to participate in any of its events.

Each Society may determine its own temporality and forms of action. There is no fixed ontology for a Society. A Society is the result of its own performative practice. Therefore, a Society can mutate in accordance with its participants, its actions, or its alliances with other collectives or Societies. More Societies can emerge over time, or several Societies can merge and create another hybrid institution.

Mutating and performative, together the Societies constitute the affective soul of the Parliament of Bodies to come.


Six Societies are hosted at Athens Municipality Arts Center at Parko Eleftherias.

Starting in October 2016:
The Apatride Society for the Political Others, coordinated by Max Jorge Hinderer Cruz, Nelli Kambouri, and Margarita Tsomou;
The Society for the End of Necropolitics, coordinated by Paul B. Preciado;
The Noospheric Society, coordinated by Angelo Plessas

Starting in December 2016:
The Society of Friends of Sotiria Bellou, coordinated by Paul B. Preciado, in collaboration with AMOQA, Athens Museum of Queer Arts;
The Society of Friends of Ulises Carrión, coordinated by Arnisa Zeqo in collaboration with Pierre Bal-Blanc and Hendrik Folkerts

Starting in January 2017:
The Society for Collective Hallucination, coordinated by Hila Peleg and Ben Russell

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