instruction-based art

Please, Follow Instructions

Mark Robert Barry
UH 210 – Studioless Art
The University of Alabama

Overview

Deepen understanding of conceptual art making practices by creating instruction-based art.

Objectives

  • Explore instruction-based art.
  • Broaden knowledge of common techniques used by conceptual artists.

Implementation

The materials used to create the artwork are open to students. Although, the final piece should be presentable (consider size, portability, medium, etc.) to the class for critique.

Process

Day 1

  • As a class, discuss conceptual art and the process of instruction-based art.
  • Look at examples.

Day 2

  • Execute Sol Lewitt’s Work From Instructions (1971).
    USING A BLACK, HARD CRAYON DRAW A TWENTY INCH SQUARE. DIVIDE THIS SQUARE INTO ONE INCH SQUARES. WITHIN EACH ONE INCH SQUARE, DRAW NOTHING, OR DRAW A DIAGONAL STRAIGHT LINE FROM CORNER TO CORNER OR TWO CROSSING STRAIGHT LINES DIAGONALLY FROM CORNER TO CORNER.
  • Look at, and discuss the range of outcomes.
  • HOMEWORK: Students then write three separate sets of instructions. Follow their own instructions to test potential for successful execution and/or lack of clarity.

Day 3

  • Share and discuss instructions and outcomes in class.
  • Each student picks a single set of instructions (written by another student).
  • HOMEWORK: Follow the instructions.

Day 4

  • Share and discuss instructions and outcomes in class.

Guidelines

Simple instructions can often lead to complex outcomes. What are the undefined variables? The greater opportunity for personal interpretation, the greater the chance for variation. Is that a bad thing or is it too open ended?

Your instructions must be repeatable. Artists must be able to follow your instructions multiple times with similar, but not exact duplicate outcomes.

Do not endanger anyone. Do not create situations that strike, trip, lacerate, distract, or potentially injure anyone (including yourself) in any way.

Do not damage University or private property. Your instructions should not include any process that would lead to University or private property being damaged or altered in any way.

Do not invest your artworks with overt concepts; rather, create instructions that lead to aesthetic works that focus on line, color, texture, shape, pattern, etc. For example, don’t give instructions dictating that the artist write ‘Save the Planet’. Avoid referencing symbols like hearts, smiley faces, and peace signs. Cliche symbols can and will cause conceptual distractions from your aesthetic purposes.

Evaluation

Students are evaluated with consideration to craftsmanship, effort, following directions, and quality participation during critique.

Reference Materials