Hans On

Daniel Birnbaum at Art Basel Miami Beach


On the left: panel participants. On the right: Hans Ulrich Obrist chats with Yoko Ono. (All photos: Julieta Aranda)

“Hi there,” said John Armleder, the most glamorous-looking art-world denizen since—forever. Looking up at the sky, he didn’t appear to be greeting us—the audience standing expectantly on the grass—but either a passing airplane or (as he explained to me later) the heavens themselves. With his signature braid and dark suit, and shades with one transparent and one dark lens, he looked more like some kind of luxurious pirate than one of Christ’s disciples—but that, it seems, is what he felt like. Now that I think about it, the whole scene had clear biblical connotations. The gospel according to Hans Ulrich Obrist, also known as do it, is a modest-looking but wildly ambitious, small orange book—a sort of do-try-this-at-home artmaking manual—and we were gathered to celebrate its publication. At the very center of a long table presided Obrist himself, with six disciples on either side (though Yoko Ono was present only numinously, in the form of a phone connected to her apartment on Central Park West.) The sun was shining as always on the Miami Beach Botanical Garden as John Baldessari, Lawrence Weiner, Marina Abramovic, and others gave us some suggestions on how to really do it! For instance, this advice, courtesy of Abramovic: “With A Sharp Knife/Cut Deeply Into The/Middle Finger Of The Left Hand/Eat The Pain." Weiner said he never tells people what to do: “I don’t want to fuck up your day, I want to fuck up your whole life.” Or did he say he didn’t want to fuck up our lives? Nobody was quite sure afterward. Finally, Abramovic asked us all to lie down on the grass and, of course, we all did; she told us to scream for two minutes and, of course, we all did. It was loud. In short, it was a pretty strange book launch. But I would do it again anytime.

On the left: Obrist and artists Lawrence Weiner and John Baldessari. On the right: Marina Abramovic orders everyone to lie down.