Instructional Art Practices

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Pencil drawing of helix and face made of squares

Instruction: A1
Pencil drawing, 20x15

Matej Vakula, Artist and Educator ●

“(Beyond) Instructions in Art” was a Round Table discussion concerning my research on instructional art; its history, present and future; and how its extrapolations can create new open forms of participation and even cross into programming languages.

We talked about the history of instructional art, which was conceived in the ‘60s and ‘70s through the experiments of various conceptual artists – e.g., Yoko Ono and Fluxus, but also Stan Vanderbeek and others. Their work, which continued throughout the ‘80s, laid the ground for more recent artistic approaches, which are neatly summarized in the curatorial efforts of Hans Ulrich Obrist, and particularly in his collection of works entitled do it: the compendium. Although partially unknowingly, do it: the compendium outlines a method for creating an “open artwork” which could possibly be modified, either by changing its written concept – the instructions themselves – or through a free creative interpretation of the given instructions.

This method is more precisely articulated in my own body of work, through such works as Manuals for Public Space and Exercise 1.0 The Beta Version. Manuals for Public Space serves as a collaborative platform for defining and redefining such instructions – in this particular case, how to reclaim public space. Exercise 1.0 The Beta Version was a workshop that attempted to create artificially intelligent, environment-responsive and self-replicating paragraphs within the Polish Constitution.

Extrapolating the idea of instructions even further and thinking about them as “recipes” or algorithms, this artistic concept and process can be extended to ideas and approaches that come from programming languages, networked cultures and science; e.g., open source collaborations, collaborative models (in language and science) or mathematical algorithms.


Pencil drawing of artistís palette with crossed bones in front

Instruction: Death of an Artist
Pencil drawing, 20x15

A blank form

Exercise 1.0 The Beta Version
Ink jet print, 11.7x16.5