Do It

  • do it instruction by Andrew Sunley-Smith and Jimmie Durham, Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia, 2001.

  • do it instruction by Rirkrit Tiravanija, Meyerhoff Gallery, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD, 2000.

  • do it instruction by Hans-Peter Feldmann, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Boulder, CO, 1998.

  • do it instruction by Diller + Scofidio, Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Mexico City, Mexico, 2001-2002.

  • do it instruction by Bruce Sterling, Morris Museum, Morristown, NJ, 1999.

  • do it instruction by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, TEOR/éTica, San José, Costa Rica, 2002-2003.

  • do it instruction by Annette Messager, Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN, 2000.

  • do it instrution by Shere Hite, Soo Visual Arts Center, Minneapolis, MN, 2001.

  • Invitation card, do it at the Morris Museum, 1999.

Curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist

do it began in 1993 with a discussion among Christian Boltanski, Bertrand Lavier, and myself in the Café Select, Paris. Both artists have been interested in various forms of instructional procedures since the early 1970s, and that evening they spoke of the instructions contained within their own work. Since the 1970s, Lavier has made many works that contain written instructions in order to observe the effects of translation on an artwork as it moves in and out of various permutations of language. Boltanski, like Lavier, is also interested in the notion of interpretation as an artistic principle. He thinks of his instructions for installations as analogous to musical scores which, like an opera or symphony, go through countless realizations as they are carried out and interpreted by others. From this encounter arose he idea of an exhibition of do-it-yourself descriptions or procedural instructions which, until a venue is found, exist in a static condition. Like a musical score, everything is there but the sound.


do it stems from an open exhibition model, an exhibition in progress. Individual instructions can open empty spaces for occupation and invoke possibilities for the interpretation and rephrasing of artworks in a totally free manner. do it effects interpretations based on location, and calls for a dovetailing of local structures with the artworks themselves. The diverse cities in which do it takes place actively construct the artwork context and endow it with their individual marks or distinctions.


For example, some of the artists’ instructions specify the participation of community members. Most instructions are relational in that they construct bridges between various communities and performance sites. The everyday, profane context of the exhibition site flows into the exhibition space according to the individual artists’ instructions. The boundaries between interior and exterior become porous.


It is important to bear in mind that do it is less concerned with copies, images, or reproductions of artwork, than which human interpretation. No artworks are shipped to the venues, instead everyday actions and materials serve as the starting point for the artworks to be recreated at each “performance site” according to the artists’ written instructions. Each realization of do it occurs as an activity in time and space. The essential nature of this activity is imprecise and can be located somewhere between permutation and negotiation within a field of tension described by repetition and difference. Meaning is multiplied as the various interpretations of the texts accumulate in venue after venue. No two interpretations of the same instructions are ever identical.


Shouldn’t scores be simply published in the newspaper, or available as printed cards or sheets of paper to be sent to anyone?

George Brecht, Notebooks I, II, III (1958-1959)


- Excerpt from Hans Ulrich Obrist’s introduction in the ICI do it catalogue (1997)


In 2013, ICI relaunched do it and published do it: the compendium. For more information, please see the expanded do it website here.



Hans Ulrich Obrist

Hans Ulrich Obrist (b. 1968, Zürich, Switzerland) is Artistic Director of the Serpentine Galleries in London, and Senior Artistic Advisor of The Shed in New York. Prior to this, he was the Curator of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Since his first show ‘World Soup (The Kitchen Show)’ in 1991, he has curated more than 300 exhibitions.

Obrist has lectured internationally at academic and art institutions, and is a contributing editor to the magazines Artforum, AnOther Magazine, 032C, a regular contributor to Mousse and Kaleidoscope and he writes columns for Das Magazin and Weltkunst. In 2011 he received the CCS Bard Award for Curatorial Excellence, and in 2015 he was awarded the International Folkwang Prize for his commitment to the arts.

His recent publications include Mondialité, Conversations in Mexico,Ways of Curating, The Age of Earthquakes with Douglas Coupland and Shumon Basar, and Lives of The Artists, Lives of The Architects.


touring schedule

University of Toronto
Scarborough, Ontario, Canada
November 7, 2001 - December 14, 2001

York Arts Center
York, PA, United States
October 4, 2001 - December 1, 2001

Addison Art Gallery
Andover, MA, United States
September 28, 2001 - January 6, 2002

Soo Visual Arts Center
Minneapolis, MN, United States
June 3, 2001 - July 29, 2001

Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, University of Western Australia
Perth, NSW, Australia
February 9, 2001 - April 29, 2001

Maryland Institute College of Art
Baltimore, MD, United States
November 17, 2000 - December 16, 2000

Atlanta College of Art
Atlanta, GA, United States
October 12, 2000 - October 12, 2000

Wriston Gallery, Lawrence University
Appleton, WI, United States
September 29, 2000 - November 5, 2000

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
Scottsdale, AZ, United States
June 3, 2000 - August 26, 2000

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art
Memphis, TN, United States
April 23, 2000 - July 2, 2000

Colorado State University Art Gallery
Fort Collins, CO, United States
March 24, 2000 - April 28, 2000

NSU Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale, FL, United States
January 14, 2000 - April 2, 2000

Stedman Art Gallery, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Camden, NJ, United States
January 12, 1999 - March 6, 1999

Zimmerli Art Museum
New Brunswick, NJ, United States
January 10, 1999 - April 4, 1999

University Galleries at the Ben Shahn Center for Visual Arts, William Paterson University
Wayne, NJ, United States
January 10, 1999 - April 4, 1999

Noyes Museum of Art
Oceanville, NJ, United States
January 10, 1999 - April 4, 1999

Morris Museum
Morristown, NJ, United States
January 10, 1999 - April 4, 1999

Monmouth Museum
Lincroft, NY, United States
January 10, 1999 - April 4, 1999

Hunterdon Museum of Art
Clinton, NJ, United States
January 10, 1999 - April 4, 1999

Institute of Contemporary Art, Maine College of Art
Portland, ME, United States
November 12, 1998 - December 18, 1998

The Nickle Arts Museum
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
September 25, 1998 - December 23, 1998

Visual Arts Center, Boise State University
Boise, ID, United States
September 15, 1998 - October 25, 1998

Pittsburgh Center for the Arts
Pittsburgh, PA, United States
September 4, 1998 - November 1, 1998

Salina Art Center
Salina, KS, United States
May 16, 1998 - August 2, 1998

Dunlop Art Gallery
Regina, Canada
May 9, 1998 - June 14, 1998

Lamont Gallery, Phillips Exeter Academy
New Hampshire, MA, United States
April 17, 1998 - May 9, 1998

Edmonton Art Gallery
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
April 11, 1998 - June 14, 1998

Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
Worcester, MA, United States
March 18, 1998 - April 19, 1998

Surrey Art Gallery
Surrey, Canada
March 8, 1998 - May 24, 1998

Galerija Skuc
Ljubljana, Slovenia
February 4, 1998 - March 14, 1998

Freedman Gallery, Albright College Center for the Arts
Reading, PA, United States
January 23, 1998 - March 1, 1998

Cranbrook Art Museum
Bloomfield Hills, MI, United States
August 30, 1997 - October 26, 1997

Palo Alto Cultural Center
Palo Alto, CA, United States
June 15, 1997 - June 27, 1997

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