[Presentation & Publication]

How might instructions operate as both language and bureaucratic idiom? How can they be a repository for desire and power, with consequences beyond the symbolic and linguistic?

meta-meta is an expansive interdisciplinary project organized by DC and New York-based artist Misha Ilin (he/him); comprising a book of the artist’s instruction pieces (structured to mirror the periodic table and the principles of a game manual, published by WPA), an exhibition, and a series of public programs and new experiments. The project, which was initiated at WPA through a research residency in 2021, engages the history and methodologies of instruction-based practices (from Fluxus to Artificial Intelligence) to extend the artist's ongoing investigation of modes of resistance to authority and control. 

meta-meta: Exhibition

Over the course of five weeks, meta-meta will unfold in WPA’s Project Space, the same space where Ilin’s inquiry began, as an Artist-Organizer-in-Residence in 2021. In this space, Ilin will present a reconstruction of his residency in the form of an installation that will serve as a site for re-activations of his instruction pieces and a laboratory for new experiments organized through a series of public programs devised in collaboration with artist Harrell Fletcher, musician Joshua Coyne, and scholar and critic Colby Chamberlain.

These conversations and experiments will further elaborate Ilin’s multi-year research of instruction-based practices: from the Fluxus movement of the 1960s, whose principles intentionally blurred the distinction between life and art, to artists today using instructions as a language of communication with AI interfaces to introduce new forms of creative expression.

meta-meta will continue to be expanded beyond the exhibition, public programs, and publication through an evolving archive of diagrams, video recordings, correspondences, and other artifacts created over the course of collaboration between the artist, audience, and participants. The archive will be shared on WPA’s website and Instagram.

meta-meta: Public Programs

Misha Ilin’s meta-meta is accompanied by a series of public events that will situate his engagement with instruction-based practices within a broader context, including: a workshop with Some People Press/Harrell Fletcher to develop new conceptual strategies for economizing social practice and mapping both tangible and intangible exchanges; a musical performance with Joshua Coyne derived from a score that will be recomposed by the audience in real time; and a conversation with scholar and critic Colby Chamberlain, taking a deep dive into Ilin’s publication's organizational logic and its design as a game manual for future activations.

  • Saturday, October 14 | Exhibition Opening & Book Launch

  • Thursday, October 26 | Workshop with Some People Press 

  • Thursday, November 2 | Musical Performance with Joshua Coyne

  • Friday, November 17 | Discussion with Colby Chamberlain

meta-meta: Publication

meta-meta: book of instructions by Misha Ilin (2023) 
Published by Washington Project for the Arts

Including correspondences with: Harrell Fletcher, Hannah Higgins, T. Jean Lax, Raphael Rubinstein, Alexandro Segade, and Constantina Zavitsanos.

Misha Ilin's meta-meta: book of instructions (2023) delves into the artist’s utilization of instructions as a medium, tracing its evolution from his initial explorations of strategies of care through his ongoing research into human responses to environments of excessive authority and control. The book, which functions as both documentation and a game manual for future activations, consists of a curated selection of 70 (out of more than 800) instructions, arranged variously by theme, affect, and project through a Table of Contents that mimics the design of a periodic table.

This arrangement showcases not only the morphological changes of instruction within Ilin's practice as it traverses through the book, drawing parallels to the tradition of artist instruction books such as Yoko Ono's Grapefruit (1964) and more contemporary endeavors like Hans Ulrich Obrist's and Boltansky Brothers' Do It project (1993 to present). It also situates itself within the broader artistic canon exploring how instruction-based practices, while employing conceptual developments of the Fluxus movement, continue to evolve in response to contemporary discourses.

In this respect, the book's inquiry extends beyond documentation and game play. It shows how instructions can be effectively employed in projects that scrutinize the relationships between hosts and guests, immigration bureaucracy, issues of censorship, and formation of knowledge, revealing the complex nature of power imbalances in various contexts. It also traces the evolution of instruction-based artworks, from a simplistic means of audience engagement caught in the dichotomy of submission and control, to a potent form of personal resistance and reclamation of agency in response to the inherent tension within this duality. Furthermore, it explores the linguistic capacity of instructions to serve as forms of knowledge and experience, thus articulating the emerging relevance of this medium as a main means of communication with language models and machine interfaces.

meta-meta: book of instructions is annotated with edited transcripts from a series of correspondences and conversations between Ilin and experts in various fields, each exploring different topics relevant to the artist’s interests in instruction-based work. These experts include artists Harrell Fletcher, Alexandro Segade, Constantina Zavitsanos, poet and writer Raphael Rubinstein, curator T. Jean Lax, and critics and scholars Colby Chamberlain and Hannah Higgins. These exchanges cover a range of topics, mapping the field of instruction-based practices from its historical connections to artistic movements, and exploring its role in performance, power dynamics, political manifestations, and pedagogy. 

Misha Ilin: About the Artist

“Several years ago, I left Moscow to pursue my life as an artist in the US, becoming what is termed a ‘culturally relocated person’—one who abruptly yet voluntarily relocates to the West. Born in Protvino, an off-the-map research city in Russia, and summering in Mordovia, a place known more for its prisons than scenery, I realized that the quiet orderliness of Protvino and the ubiquitous penitentiaries of Mordovia became more than just receding footnotes in my life narrative. These facts of my biography—random yet rhythmic, mundane yet uncanny, closed yet infinitely open—taught me to see beyond the apparent and seeded my artistic interest in humanity's reaction to environments of overwhelming control.”

Misha Ilin studied art at the National Center for Contemporary Art in Moscow. In 2016 he moved to the United States to pursue his art career and receive his MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2019. Misha has recently exhibited at M+B Gallery, Los Angeles; the kitchen, Berlin; Modern Art Museum, Shanghai; and Washington Project for Arts, DC, among other venues. Misha currently lives and works in New York. mishailin.com


October 14, 2023 – November 18, 2023


WPA Project Space