Get Creative with Google’s “Do It” DIY Instructions

published May 25, 2020
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Credit: Anna Spaller

“Make some artwork for animals. And make them smile,” says a typed out art piece by Japanese artist Shimabuku. This simple instruction, known as a “do it,” is part of an art project, initially conceived in 1993 by Swiss artist Hans Ulrich Obrist, and now available online via Google Arts and Culture. “Do it” is an art project with a difference—the idea is that the viewer makes the art as per the artist’s instructions. 

Since its inception, the “do it” project has attracted artists from a wide range of genres to contribute their own instructional pieces. These include the renowned English artist Tracy Emin and the legendary Japanese musician Yoko Ono.

The pieces created range from practical to subversive to the downright strange. American poet Eileen Myres created an instruction to help you run for president. French filmmaker Agnes Varda encourages you to make a recipe for potato gratin. Cuban-American visual artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres instructs readers to buy 100 pounds of candy and leave it in a corner. Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei offers instructions on how to spray paint on CCTV surveillance cameras. 

The instructions are designed to be carried out either at home or as part of a mobile exhibition that can pop up anywhere in the world. 

In an interview with Google, Obrist, the project’s founder, says that the inspiration behind the project “is to create a global dialogue based on listening to each other and creating locally relevant actions that can be done together or as individuals.”

The Google Arts and Culture exhibition brings together hundreds of “do it” pieces that are held in galleries worldwide. It also shows some of the attempts that readers have made to create the pieces themselves and features interviews and discussions about what the project means. 

While some of the “do its” might seem a bit esoteric, a lot of them can be fun to try at home even if the results aren’t quite what you imagined. While I enjoyed drawing a picture of my cat with a smiley face, she didn’t seem too amused by the results.