“I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.”
— Benjamin Franklin
The point of departure for “DOings & kNOTs” is the do it project — the “longest-running and most far-reaching exhibition to ever take place” — initiated by Hans Ulrich Obrist in 1993, and which was on display at the Tallinn Art Hall in 1997. The open exhibition model collects written instructions by artists, each of which could be interpreted anew every time they are enacted. The do it project, which is being hosted today by Independent Curators International (ICI) in New York, has undergone a fundamental change in terms of its institutionalisation and organisation. Hence “DOings & kNOTs”, which was initially planned to be about instructions in art, became more about the impossibility of following instructions, rules or a given formula. What is an instruction after all? An assignment? A command? A poem?
In one way or other, many of the works shown in “DOings & kNOTs” are still taking an instruction as a starting point, either by actively employing one (e.g. Dora Garcia’s installation “Steal this Book”), by inviting visitors to participate (e.g. Jürg Lehni and Alex Rich’s installation “Empty Words”) or simply by activating an inner image through a line of text (e.g. Rafael Rozendaal’s haiku murals). One room gathers a selection of 20 instructions from do it. In contrast to the more productive instructions found in do it, the ones on show here focus on deceleration and contemplation.
Other works deal with Tallinn Art Hall as a space for cultural production and its history. Artist Georg Steinmann was invited to exhibit at Tallinn Art Hall in the early nineties and after seeing the desolate conditions of the exhibition space, he proposed a renovation project. With funding from different institutions from both Switzerland and Estonia he entered a three-year-long commitment, which
as a result saw a carefully refurbished interior for the Tallinn Art Hall. In the context of “DOings & kNOTs” Steinmann will give a presentation about the process and the resulting work, which he entitled “Revival of Space” — a sustainable mind sculpture. In 2010, social sculpture “Artificial Queue” by Aaloe-Ader-Flo-Soosalu deals with Tallinn Art Hall in a different manner: The first 100 people to queue up in front of the Tallinn Art Hall received 100 Estonian kroons just to stand in line in front of an otherwise empty exhibition space. The media reported on the exceptionally long queue in front of an art institution — a symbolic image that had not been seen for years.
The potential for a poetic approach to instructions (that was already apparent in the original do it project) is further played out in “DOings & kNOTs”, for instance, with the work by Alex Cecchetti, who hands out whistles that imitate bird songs, so visitors can then perform a score that the artist provides in the form of a drawing. In Nicole Bachmann’s instruction piece “If, _and” a rug serves as
musical notation to be interpreted by local sound artists. Esther Mathis’ installation “Salt” is poetic without using words: Thin threads, attached to the glass ceiling of the main hall of the Tallinn Art Hall, are fed daily with salt water throughout the duration of “DOings & kNOTs”. Drop by drop small salt crystals will build up on the museum floor. The resulting organisms, complex and almost drawing-like, are transcriptions of space and time. The work, although installed in a museum-like context, can be re-enacted at home by following Mathis’ “Salt Manual”. Cesare Pietroiusti collects and verbalises “non functional thoughts”: ideas and observations that are not directly determined to carry out an activity and appear without reason. By publishing them in the form of a book, he invites his public to direct their attention toward the unconventional every-day.
Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen have organized complaints choirs all over the world, from New York to Tokyo. In the context of “DOings & kNOTs” a local group of complainers will write, rehearse and perform Tallinn’s own edition of the choir, featuring complaints that are specific to this city. Audrey Cottin’s unannounced Clapping Groups engage a group of people into a collective exercise of shared rhythm. Hanne Lippard hypnotises with her reading, Quim Pujol will experiment with collective trance and Olof Olsson, as always, is driving the blues away.
“Never working, never not working” is the motto of today’s creative industry, which surrendered to a sort of “culturbocapitalism” that never fails to produce new work — and hence new value — at an ever accelerating speed. “Do it”, then, would be an affirmative encouragement to increase performance. Opposed to this, “don’t do it” becomes a valid counterpart, an alternative concept focusing
on negation, a yang to the yin of overproduction. “DOings & kNOTs” tries to investigate what lies between refusal and doing, the script and the live moment, interpretation and judgement — imagined ideas and actual situations. The dream (nightmare?) of conceptualism, surface, ART, HUO, the internet, poetry, real space gatherings, twists and traps, cigarettes, books, lists and empty words — how could a present-day art show NOT be about all (or none?) of the above?
Artists: do it (HUO & ICI), LOOP, Konstanet, Anna Škodenko, Liina Pääsuke, Rafaël Rozendaal, Esther Mathis, Nicole Bachmann, Roland Roos, Jürg Lehni & Alex Rich, George Steinmann, Dora García, Cesare Pietroiusti Tellervo Kalleinen & Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen, Aaloe-Ader-Flo-Soosalu, Alex Cecchetti, Quim Pujol, Olof Olsson, Cia Rinne, Hanne Lippard, Audrey Cottin
Curator, project manager, production: Margit Säde
25.11.15 – 10.01.16
Host: Tallinn Art Hall
Supported by: Estonian Cultural Endowment, Nordic Culture Point, Pro Helvetia, Mondriaan Fund, Zürcher Hochschule der Künste, Stadt Winterthur, Danish Art Foundation, Spanish Embassy in Estonia, Independent Curators International.