Exhibition

Modus Operandi

15 Apr 2017 – 15 Jul 2017

Société d'Electricité

Brussels
Brussels, Belgium

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The exhibition Modus Operandi activates a well-known strategy from conceptual art using instructions and explores art by delegation.

About

The artwork imagined by the artist is presented in form of a written or verbal statement to be executed by others. The instructions take form with advised experts such as the curator him or herself and his or her assistant, usually in dialogue with the artist. The instruction can be transmitted through: 'cards' as with the 'event scores' of the artist George Brecht or as in Lucy Lippard's 1969-74 'numbers' exhibition series ; 'Certificates' for Sol Lewitt's 'instructions' or Laurence Weiner's 'statements'; 'definitions / methods' for Claude Rutault; or in form of instructions communicated by telephone as in the mythical 'Art by Telephone' exhibition of 1969 and its recent 'Recalled' versions. Thus the artwork already exists in form of a description, and a collection of instructions makes it possible to constitute an exhibition.

This exhibition by Société explores this dematerialisation of art and their activation around historic and current works. The show further put into perspective a type of conceptual art in connection with algorithmic art, a parallel that took already place in 1970 during the 'Software' exhibition, and as Sol LeWitt explains in Paragraphs on Conceptual Art (1967) ‘When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art...the artist would select the basic form and rules that would govern the solution of the problem.’
 

The art by instruction nevertheless approaches the principle of a music score which needs each time a new interpretation. Here the work only exists through its  transmission, its execution and the documentation of its reactivation. But the instructions of conceptual artists deliberately leave room for the subjectivity of the person who realizes the final work. Consequently the process contains several stages, including a dialogue necessary for the interpretation, which tends to an experience close to the format of the workshop and the performance for those who activate it and give it body. This "performative" aspect generates a variation of executions according to each context, since the work is replayed according to its constraints, the actual references and the choices of those who follow them. Even if they literally follow the instructions and are in exchange with the artist, if the principle is fixed, the work varies slightly and gains significance at each iteration.

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