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Art fans do it at Manchester International Festival

By Ian YoungsArts reporter, BBC News

Draw all the curtains on the planet. Smile at a stranger. Reinvent life. Start a rumour. Do nothing.

These are among the instructions written by 250 artists for the public to carry out as part of a 20-year art project called Do It.

In Manchester Art Gallery, I have squeezed a lemon on the upturned point of a bicycle seat, got on my hands and knees to make a ball from soggy newspaper and clutched a meteorite while contemplating the universe.

You may think these sounds pointless. You may think they sound fun. They are neither. They are art.

But I was only carrying out orders from artists as part of Do It. The project is now the basis of an exhibition in Manchester, where visitors are invited to Do It themselves in the gallery, or take home sheets of paper or a thick manual instructing them how to Do It at home.

The lemon squeezing is done at the behest of the German artist Andrews Slominski. The bicycle seat is mounted on a gallery plinth, which soon gets covered in juice and pips.

In another corner, a message from Yoko Ono implores us to write a wish on a small tag and tie it to an artificial Wish Tree. Wishes that have been attached include "I wish for love", "I wish to find what I'm looking for" and "I wish to get through today and not be assailed by instructions".

In another room, a meteorite is stuck to a magnet on the wall along with a message from the Scandinavian artist Olafur Eliasson, who is best known for creating a giant sunset in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall in 2003.

It is a heavy, metallic, warped chunk. As Eliasson points out, it is the first time I have touched something from somewhere other than this planet.

"Your imagination of the meteorite's trajectory - from outer space into this world and into your hand - makes it touching to hold in your hand," the message reads.

Some are very practical, like Ai Weiwei's spray can-on-a-stick contraption, or recipes, like the sea bass curry I have for lunch, which is made to a recipe by the Indian artist Subodh Gupta. Very tasty, but a work of art.

As well as offering the occasional moment of enlightenment, like the encounter with the meteorite, one thing I can say for Do It is that perhaps, by presenting us with these bizarre, unrealistic instructions, it makes us question the sense behind the orders we normally follow in our daily, rule-led lives. Plus, especially with a room in the Manchester gallery filled with artists' weird and wonderful games, Do It is good fun. But if good fun equalled good art, then galleries would just be full of fairground rides.