Do It: The Compendium by Hans Ulrich Obrist
One of the boldest names in contemporary art, Swiss born curator and polyglot intellectual Hans Ulrich Obrist is something of a living legend. Launching his career with a DIY kitchen show at 23, Obrist has since gone on to work with some of the largest galleries and exhibit spaces in the world. Through all the twists and turns his career has taken, one constant has been his position at the vanguard of the cutting edge. Through decades of prolific essay writing, public lectures, finely assembled shows, and an expertly honed ability to see fine art and pop culture from a highly refined and holistic perspective, Obrist has won over legions of fans. This has been due in no small part to his innovative take on visual presentation, and the role of performance in curation. One of his most famous (and popular) projects has been do it, an ambitious set of imagined guides modeled on the call and response techniques of the FLUXUS art movement: created by artists and collaborators to be replicated regardless of scale, funding, or even the presence of the artist.
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Deconstructing the hierarchy and traditional barriers that have existed between artist/ audience, curator/ gallerist and performance space and performer, in its 20 years this exciting project has captured the imagination of hundreds of creatives, thinkers, and design lovers internationally. Now for the first time in this illuminating compendium, Obrist attempts to catalogue the vast array of submissions he’s received over the years: from Ai Wei Wei’s instructions on how to block a surveillance camera, to feminist artist Nancy Spero seeking to educate women "who wish to invigorate the feminine demi-urge in the home and expel male presences." In addition to a must have for any art history library, do it also just might make an excellent post-break-up guide.
With a genesis story that could have come right out of a Truffaut or Goddard film, do it was conceptualized over a 1993 round of drinks, shared in a Parisian café between artists Christian Boltanski and Betrand Lavier. According to DAP (Distributed Art Press):" the discussion led to the question of whether a show could take "scores: or written instructions by artists as a point of departure, which could be interpreted anew each time they were enacted." The idea caught on like wildfire, and within two years of the project being conceptualized exhibits popped-up all over the world in homage.
Originally inviting 13 core participants to contribute, in the intervening years hundreds of artists from Sweden to Uruguay have heading the call to do it, donating their instructions (ranging from poems to diagrams) to Obrist. At the point that Obrist began compiling do it: the compendium, over 300 individuals had contributed, with the project morphing into sub-events like "Do it (Museum)," "Do It (Home)," "Do It (TV)," "Do It (Seminar), a "Philosophy Do It," and even an "Anti-Do It."
An eclectic mix of works meant to be replicated everywhere from the gallery to the supermarket check out line, instructions range from the informative to the absurd, with frequent stops at the casually brilliant. In short, do it is the perfect guide for the life lived in art.
Check out the slideshow for some of our favorite pieces!