do it: the question of human permanence

Posted on: July 2nd, 2018

In a culture of determined preservation–e.g., social media, instant photography, journaling culture–how odd and unnerving is it to have art that is purely defined by its impermanence?

Hans Ulrich Obrist birthed the idea in 1993: Art as a game. Art that transcends decades. Art that constantly evolves and reinvents itself. He, with artists Christian Boltanski and Bertrand Lavier, created do it.

In my opinion, do it is not about following vague directions, but rather destroying your own creation. At the end of the exhibition, the art pieces are deconstructed by the artists or disassembled for parts, unable to be replicated or recreated in the same form again. The instructions must instead be interpreted by a different artist in a different place at a different time. For some of us, this methodology may induce a headache–I know it does for me.

At first some may view this type of exhibition as simply bizarre, but if we view it in a similar context than that in which we view the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of sand mandalas, we can perhaps see the beauty and meaning that hide in the pages of the insurmountable do it compendium.

With their sand mandalas, the monks patiently and dutifully spend endless hours creating intricate designs from colored beads of sand just to brush the creations away and begin again.

The similarities between the two projects don’t end there. Both do it and the mandalas support the human tendency of reinvention. do it instructions are obeyed by artists through different methodologies in the same way that a mandala design is never created twice. Furthermore, the threat of impermanence forces you to focus more intently on the display, whether that is do it, sand mandalas, or something else.

With that perspective, do it isn’t so strange after all.

You can read more about the formal do it project here.