Curator Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Pioneering ‘Do It’ Show Goes Digital with New Google Art Platform by ALEX GREENBERGER
An illustration made by Precious Okoyomon based on instructions from her word score.
Over the past couple months, with much of the art world in isolation, curator Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Instagram account—which boasts more than 304,000 followers—has undergone a bizarre change. Gone are the signature handwritten notes from artists that Obrist has been known to post over the years, and in their place are instructional text-based art pieces that can be enacted by users reading them anywhere.
These pieces (known as “word scores”) are part of do it, an ongoing 27-year-old project by Obrist that has taken on a new form as a wealth of works from various iterations over the years have been made available via a Google Arts & Culture platform. Under the title “do it (around the world),” the platform features well-known works of years past as well as a few new ones. (Other groups that worked with worked with Google to realize the project include Independent Curators International, Kaldor Public Art Projects, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and London’s Serpentine Galleries, where Obrist serves as artistic director.)
The do it project was first conceived in Paris after a conversation with artists Christian Boltanski and Bertrand Lavier, and then was shown as an exhibition Klagenfurt, Austria, in 1994. The instructions on offer made it so that the show was always in flux—the artworks could change, depending on how the texts were executed. Obrist, who has described his exhibitions as having the “quality of unfinishedness and incompleteness,” has since developed “do it” into books and different kinds of exhibitions, and it’s become one of the defining projects of his career.
The works in “do it (around the world)” range vastly. A number of them involve food—Marina Abramović’s controversial 1996 Spirit Cooking piece, which became unexpectedly popular after the artist was hit with Satanism allegations last month, is there, as is a Rirkrit Tiravanija recipe that involves quite a few dried jalapeños. Some of the offerings are decidedly more banal, however—the late filmmaker Jonas Mekas’s involves moving a finger for a minute each morning, and one by Felix Gonzalez-Torres instructs its reader to buy 180 pounds of candy and leave it in a corner.
A new offering by dancer Simone Forti calls for the creation of what she calls a “masque-culotte” (perhaps consider wearing it as a face mask when leaving quarantine). Another, by Meriem Bennani, walks viewers through the creation of a TikTok.