DIY Art

“Instruction art” is a way for exhibitions to continue ad infinitum:

Art created from instructions—or the idea that instructions can be a part of the process—has fascinated Hans Ulrich Obrist, a curator, for decades. Instruction art offers the possibility that art can live on through instructions the way that music lives on through compositions. This is the idea behind “Do It”, a concept Mr Obrist came up with, which calls on artists to create instructions for making art. Twelve artists participated in his inaugural “Do It” exhibition at the Kunsthalle Ritter in Austria in 1994. Since then shows of “Do It” art have taken place in cities around the world. More than 250 artists have contributed instructions to the project, including Louise Bourgeois, Mike Kelley, Damien Hirst, Anna Halprin, Marina Abramovic and others.

To mark the 20th anniversary of “Do It”, Independent Curators International and D.A.P. have released “Do It: The Compendium”, a thick, orange, 448-page manual, like an art recipe book, filled with artists’ instructions and essays. …

Meant to be executed at a gallery, museum, at home—anywhere really—some of the instructions are direct and easy to realise. Ugo Rondinone tells the reader to sit down, “light a cigarette” or not, and look out the window or at a wall until something happens. Ai Weiwei offers directions on how to construct a device that can be used to spray paint on CCTV surveillance cameras. Tracey Emin instructs readers to place 27 bottles of different sizes and colours on a table and then wrap them in a reel of red cotton, “like a strange web that joins them all together”.

Other instructions are more bizarre and conceptual. Maurizio Cattelan, a practical joker in the art world, instructs curators to wear only underwear and shoes to a show’s opening. Ms Abramovic offers a recipe for mixing breast milk with “milk of the sperm” to drink during earthquake nights. Nicholas Hlobo tells an ambitious curator to “install a work of mine on the moon”.  “Most of [the instructions] can in theory be realised,” says Mr Obrist, though he concedes that “some are unlikely to be realised.”