Some Instructions

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From “Draw Europe”

Inside of this month’s art issue, we’ve commissioned a series of event scores called “Some Instructions” from a variety of our favorite artists, writers, and musicians. These event scores are performances open to your interpretation. You’re urged to perform these instructions privately, publicly, or “negatively” (i.e., not at all). You can decide to simply read the instructions—alone, in front of your cat, or before a stadium full of spectators. You can float these instructions on the surface of a nearby lake. You can post your performance to YouTube and tag it “skywalkers gangnam style star wars lego.” The choice is yours. You’re the artist.

Here are five event scores from Noah Eli Gordon:

“Covers”

Go to a club that caters to local talent, one of the singer-songwriter variety. Find a relatively unknown act, say a man half your age with an easy voice and a propensity for minor chords. Surreptitiously record him playing. Learn these songs; this might takes weeks, but be sure you’ve perfected them. Contact the man, tell him you’d seen him play, and would love to do a show together, would love, in fact, to open for him. Play only this man’s songs at the show. Say nothing about it. Have someone in the club video this man’s face while you’re playing his songs. Make a loop of this video, a silent one. Title the piece “Covers.”

“Erasure” 

Install in the center of a small gallery a medium-sized cherry tree. When your exhibition opens, begin by plucking each leaf. Speak to no one. Move slowly, methodically, and be sure to dress in neutral, yet drab colors. Something wool or linen. Once the tree is thoroughly leafless, remove the square of sandpaper from your pocket. The exhibition is to close once you’ve sanded the entire tree to nothing.

“Artists on Painting”

Survey strangers in a high traffic area—your only question: What is painting? Save these answers. Record them. Later, you’re going to turn them into paintings. To do this, transcribe with a black marker each answer onto canvas stretched especially to fit the answer’s entire text. This may take some practice, but you’re learning. You’re learning. Assemble two dozen of these works for a gallery show. Title the show, “Artists on Painting.” Make a list of twenty four famous artists. It’s best if they’re contemporary; failing that, at least those who’ve produce work within the last fifty years, those whose lexical tics wouldn’t be so alien so as to exclude whatever contemporaneous flourishes (or restraints) you’d discovered in interviewing the public. Wait, I’ll do it for you: Alice Neel, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns…oh, never mind, just make sure you attribute each quotation you’ve taken from the public to one of these famous artists. After all, they make the stuff, so they know best.  

“Draw Europe”

Purchase a large, blank notebook. Take this with you to art openings, poetry readings, avant-garde musical events, a baseball game. Ask people to draw Europe, to draw and label all of the countries in Europe. Ask people to do this to the best of their ability, without consulting a map, smartphone, or friend. Publish these drawings as the book Draw Europe.

“Maximum Verbosity” 

Have a film crew follow as you stop strangers on a downtown street, asking “What’s your story?” Collect hundreds of responses. Keep contact info for each. Actually, this reminds me, I hate being accosted by clipboard-toting activists, and always try to cross the street, or at least give them a wide enough birth (is that the correct word here?) that someone else might saddle up between us. This wasn’t always the case. A few decades ago, I was part of a cycling advocacy group, and was collecting signatures in downtown Northampton for improved bike lanes. At the time, I was lovers with a painter who, when I ran into her with my clipboard, patently refused the petition, explaining only that she never signs anything, that it’s a stance I should respect. I was shocked. Cecily, now I get it. Okay, so once you’ve collected hours and hours of filmed responses, edit these so that you ask each respondent the entire question, “What’s your story,” but limit the substance of their answers to whatever vocal tics and excess utterances they used in the process of articulating a response—all the ums and ands in quick succession. Invite everyone you’d interviewed to a screening of the film. Look, this could go on and on, but I’ve got to admit my mind’s a little elsewhere right now. I wonder what Cecily’s up to?

Noah Eli Gordon is the author of numerous books. His contributions come from a work-in-progress titled An Index to 800 Works by Noah Eli Gordon. Find him on the web here: noaheligordon.com

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