Through executions of instructions-based and Conceptual art, the student curators of this exhibition explore how modern and contemporary artists have used their practice to shift conventions surrounding systems of power, the role of the object, and authorship. 

Read our curatorial statement.




Students of the Florida State University's Museum Object Course, offered in the Department of Art History, are proud to present How to Resist Expectations: Instructions-Based Art in Practice. Under the guidance of Dr. Tenley Bick (Assistant Professor of Art History), Professor Meredith Lynn (Assistant Curator, FSU Museum of Fine Arts), and TA Sahara Lyon, students researched and executed instructions-based works by artists who used their practices as a platform for resistance. After World War II, with the rise of Abstract Expressionism, avant-garde artists became increasingly disillusioned with the validity of expressionist practice and its attendant conventions of sole authorship by an “original” creator. At the same time, postwar economic shifts and widespread cultural conformity incited these artists to eschew artistic conventions by creating works that were anti-aesthetic, deskilled, or process-focused, using instruction as medium. In the late 1950s, alongside the parallel exploration of aleatory and collaborative practices in Japan’s Gutai Group, artist Allan Kaprow pioneered “Happenings,” inspired by the teachings and work of experimental composer John Cage. The instructions-based and decreasingly choreographed live events that were Happenings highlighted performances and interactions between artists and their audience. These shifts influenced artists to focus on activity over aesthetics. In the early 1960s, the international artistic movement of Fluxus began experimenting with “event scores,” in which process and chance procedures were emphasized over the end result. Alongside these artistic movements, cultural theorists such as Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault would radically reconsider authorship in the postwar decades.

Several of the works executed by students are deskilled in practice; they did not require technical mastery to be executed, but rather involved banal activities and everyday materials, which made the works chosen for the exhibition accessible to everyone regardless of artistic talent, training, or position. While the historical scope of our exhibition spans the proliferation of instructions-based art from 1950s to the present, selected instructions-based and Conceptual artworks are arranged thematically.  These works challenge power structures, debate the commoditization of the art object, and question the idea of authorship to achieve their goals. 

Through the completion of instructions-based work in our contemporary moment, this exhibition highlights that these works have been used to protest expectations and continue to do so during a worldwide pandemic. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was necessary for students to complete the instructions-based works at home while adhering to suggested guidelines for social distancing. This often meant executing the works alone or collaborating with others within our living spaces. Using the resources available to us, we were able to explore and understand the creative labor involved in the artistic process.