Brewing Ideas: do it

Written by Cerene Shepard

Cafes are breeding grounds for creativity. Your spring semester college assessment most likely started in a cafe, or maybe your summer art gallery submission began over a cup of coffee. How many of us can say that we initiated what would become the largest collection of DIY, instructional works in a local cafe? It was at a Paris cafe in 1993 where curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and co-conspirators Christian Boltanski and Bertrand Lavier started brainstorming what would become the project known as do it.  Obrist shared his interest in an open-ended exhibition format that was flexible enough to transform with each location and depiction. The trio shared historic examples of artist instructions, literary references, and experiences that have accomplished such a feat but a firm inspiration was Jerry Rubin’s 1968 battle cry “Do It!”

As an exhibition began to take shape, the artists communicated the importance of including contributors from differing generations, cultural backgrounds, and disciplines. do it was conceived as a new approach to create art exhibitions that would help defy the rules generally governing the circulation of contemporary art.  The parameters would leave all contributors perfectly equal through the use of instructions. These instructions range from absurd to philosophical, performance to sculptural forms of artistic production. At each location, do it transforms based on its surroundings, becoming less concerned with reproduction or materiality of the artworks. Rather, the exhibition reveals the importance of audience participation and the nuances of interpretation.

With over 50 stops worldwide, do it has become a global experience and dialogue, connecting artists and writers all over the world through interactive processes.  do it: the compendium is the first publication, edited by Obrist and ICI, that brings together a selection of instructions by contributing artists, newly commissioned pieces by contemporary artists, and essays by international writers.