It’s billed as “the world’s longest-running exhibition” despite the fact that at the end of its run in any particular city every piece in the show is destroyed. That’s because “do it,” which makes its Philadelphia debut this weekend at Moore College of Art & Design, doesn’t comprise a collection of paintings or sculpture or even a specific installation: Instead, it exists as a compendium of instructions, which artists and other participants carry out anew at each iteration.
Those instructions may be as simple as Lebanese artist and poet Etel Adnan’s one-word contribution, “Doodle.” They can be as involved and specific as a diagram for the construction of a platform stage for toy poodles, or so abstract that every realization is necessarily different. The project was initiated by Swiss curator Hans Ulrich Obrist along with a pair of French artists in 1993 and the instructions have since been translated into nine different languages.
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Originally a set of 12 instructions, “do it” has grown to include 250 pieces by artists including Tacita Dean, Sol LeWitt, Joan Jonas, Agnes Varda, Yoko Ono, Christian Marclay, David Lynch, Bruce Nauman and Jérôme Bel. For Moore’s exhibition, curator Kaytie Johnson chose 70 pieces, including those by the aforementioned artists, all of which will be realized by Philadelphians — artists, performers and even visitors to the gallery.
It was important to Johnson that all of the participating artists be Philadelphia-based, she says, because “the compendium includes artists from all over the world, so in order to put the local in touch with the global I decided to make the show very specifically Philadelphia-based.”
The first instruction realized was Michelangelo Pistoletto’s “Sculpture for Strolling,” which was carried out this summer by students in Moore’s Summer Art & Design Institute and Young Artists Workshop programs. Pistoletto’s piece requires a large ball of newspaper soaked in water to be created and walked around the city, so the students took their paper ball to Aviator Park; both the ball and a video of the stroll will be on display in the gallery. Other pieces are simply actions to be carried out by visitors while in the gallery or later, once they reemerge into the city.
“We’re more interested in directly and robustly engaging visitors to the gallery rather than just having them come and look at objects,” Johnson says. “It’s really a perfect fit for us because of its collaborative nature. It will look completely different at the end of the exhibition than it did at the beginning; it’s not a static exhibition at all, and I think that’s one of the most important and appealing things about it.”
Sept. 13-Dec. 6
Moore College of Art & Design
20th St. and Ben Franklin Pkwy.