do it, an interactive collective exhibition at the Sharjah Art Foundation, plays with the idea of concept versus execution when it comes to creating contemporary art
“1: Collect some dust. 2: Pour the dust over your work desk. 3: Outsource.” These words, written on the wall, constitute one of the exhibited items created by the GCC artist collective, seen at Sharjah Art Foundation’s new exhibition do it, at Bait Al Shamsi until April 23. do it is not your regular exhibition, in which traditional artworks such as paintings, sculptures or photographs are on display. Instead, the exhibition consists of the artists’ instructions, based on which visitors themselves can create a work of art.
The public, including many cheerful and very young art lovers coming along with their parents, appears to truly be enjoying experiencing the experience of creating or contributing to the development of an original, individual art piece. This spirit of creation collaboration is essential to the project, which demands the active involvement of the community in the creation of new works.
The original do it project was first conceived and organised by renowned curator and Serpentine Gallery co-director Hans-Ulrich Obrist in 1993. The current show in Sharjah is co-curated by Sharjah Art Foundation’s director Hoor Al Qasimi and Obrist himself. Over 60 newly commissioned artists’ instructions are on display. All of them will be published, together with a selection of previous works and accompanying essays, in a forthcoming bilingual publication. Among the commissioned authors are several prominent artists from the wider region.
Although the exhibition may seem unorthodox, it has the potential to be fascinating and inspiring for anybody. For those who are just beginning an acquaintance with contemporary (and conceptual) art, the imperative of participating can increase interest in the current methods and modes of artistic self-expression. More specialised art enthusiasts may enjoy the theoretical questions raised by the show, in which the whole classical process of art is inverted.
It poses a real challenge to decide who is the “artist” — the person who wrote the instructions, or the person who executed them — and what is the “artwork” — the instructions themselves, or the work that the visitors create while following them.
The process could be interpreted as a witty way of mocking today’s art market with its vertiginously priced artworks, because, as do it emphasises, in the end art always starts with an idea.
A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The One – on – One Issue #35, on page 26.