Art Assignment Marathon | The Art Assignment | PBS Digital Studios

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This week we gathered some friends and challenged ourselves to an art assignment marathon – how many assignments can we complete in a day?

Try an assignment and share your experience with #theartassignment!

Caption Contest:
Fake Flyer:
Constructed Landscape:
Blow Up:
Copy a Copy a Copy:
News Photographer:
Body in Place:

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for a while I've been thinking about doing a kind of art assignment marathon to see how many assignments I could do in a day and since it was a rainy Tuesday I thought I might as well give it a go and I roped in some friends and the lovely people who make this show to help the key to any marathon is preparation so I made a list of what I thought was feasible and started to scheme and gather materials first up I started with David Rothman's caption contest and I had sent the file of his painting to the copy store to get a larger print I've seen a lot of responses to this one in so many really good ones I was a little worried I wouldn't be able to do anything new or any good so I just tried to summon what the picture really makes me think about and that's people wearing combat boots in the early 90s and that made me think about the movie reality bite which sent me down the rabbit hole of rewatching the trailer looking up quotes and reminiscing about that time pre total internet invasion when friends made analogue videos of each other I selected a line from Janeane Garofalo character Vicky which for me is a perfectly open-ended statement that describes a hard to express feeling very accurately well when I don't think we ever showed you David Rothman's caption for His image here it is no surprise it's fantastic next up I called in the brilliant and creative rosianna halse rojas to do nathaniel Russell's fake flyer assignment with me because this is just the kind of thing that is fun to do in groups with other people and their ideas to work off of for some reason I have a bunch of old stock photo catalogs from before it was all online and images are hilarious I thought they would be a great way to jump start some fliers rather than just the intimidating blank page and they were this assignment was hugely enjoyable and much easier to do once we got settled into the fake flyer mindset I seriously could have done this all day every flyer we made wasn't genius but it didn't matter because Hackett's just cheap paper and sharpies and tape and who cares there's really no way to mess it up you can be silly or serious or maudlin or nonsensical and it all works after that we cleared the decks for Polly McCartney's constructed landscape we quickly realize we needed good natural light for this and changed our set up to accommodate we cut up some boxes to make backdrops and start it in I had raided my pantry for lonely and expired food items and grabbed some plants and herbs from outside and rosianna had gathered materials from home and garden as well we also used an old art magazine to pull images for backgrounds and the whole process for me felt like a cross between making a diorama in elementary school and crafting a three-dimensional Dada in Kalash the most interesting part of this for me was the transition for making the scene to photographing it when looking through the lens of a camera suddenly the image appears jarring ly different playing with camera placement and focus and light changes the scene dramatically the whole thing really came alive once we populated the scenes with little figures providing a visual anchor really made the difference between creating just a strange optically confusing image and a real believable sense of space then it was time to get out into the real world so zulia Razzak joined us who does a lot of fantastic behind-the-scenes work for the art assignment and it's always game for an adventure since I had already done Asaf Efron's blowup in the assignment video zulay I gave it a try she chose to capture a busy intersection that she drives through every day but had never explored on foot she found the three minutes spent looking at the photograph essential here your eyes are forced to notice the details when you're not allowed to look at anything else especially when it's something whose overall details you see every day and the photograph produced some surprising details from touching inscriptions on bricks to the reflections and puddles from the rain earlier that morning there was so much character and personality hidden away on a seemingly mundane Indianapolis Street her biggest takeaway was how much we miss when were stuck in our little car bubbles focused on getting from point A to B she could have spent all afternoon walking around and taking pictures but this was a marathon and we had to move on we then set off to do Molly Springfield's assignment copy a copy a copy and I had convinced my friends who owned a business to let us use their copier zulay and I brought some books from home and we roped in our amazingly multi-talented director editor camera operator Mark Olsen as well Celia used her favorite contemporary art textbook from college and focused in on an image of Ken optic cars painting pink Frick enlarging and darkening until she achieved this really cool abstract graphic image should I use my worn-out old copy of Warren piece whose back cover had fallen off and was covered in notations thinking that marginalia might make for an interesting image I started at work darkening and enlarging and shifting the paper with each step I ended up with no trace of the marginalia and a weird black hole instead mark then handed over the camera but not his camera operating skills and copied his book on Italian cinema focusing on is still from a Vittorio De Sica felt he kept enlarging by 400% until he made this peculiar Nebula image we all decided Zulia won this one and that photocopier optics are fun to play with and utterly unpredictable when we also made copies of our fake flyers and made sure to leave our mark in the off then it was time for Alec Soth's news photographer I decided to pose as a blogger doing a profile on businesses in the area and checked out an intriguing shop I frequently passed but I've never been it they sell pipes and cigars and pens and going in is like stepping back in time it smells musty and tobacco E and great in there and I discovered they also sell used books I took a few pics and talked to the clerk who told me that their shop had opened in 1985 and was the last new business to open in that building I left with a strong intent to return once I figure out who in my life needs a fine writing instrument or Newt Gingrich memoir the last leg of the marathon was to complete Maria Gaspar's body in place she asks us to choose a place that is visible to you but seemingly invisible to others and I decided to focus on the White River which runs through Indianapolis it has a long history of industrial waste pollution but the real issue now is that the city's sewer system overflows into the river after as little as a quarter inch of rain the EPA in the city have developed a plan to curb the overflow by 2025 but in the meantime we just live with it and since the river is non-navigable the city built up around it but not facing it it's kind of like the city has its back turned to it making it easier to live with the fact that poop literally flows through it despite all this it's beautiful I live near the river enjoy looking at the river and even go canoeing in the river but I assiduously avoid making contact with the water so I asked John to walk into it with me and as I mentioned earlier it had been raining that day although a lot of people are working on correcting this I hoped this small action could signal my attention and awareness of this predicament this river that is a shared resource and shared responsibility ok that's it we did it it was much more gratifying than I expected and as far as I know I didn't contract any waterborne diseases I want to do it again

41 thoughts on “Art Assignment Marathon | The Art Assignment | PBS Digital Studios

  1. i really enjoyed this. i know this was a marathon and a vlog, but i really feel like the video could have been 12 or 15 minutes long; i would have liked to spend more time with each of your assignments and your thought processes and reactions. i think in these side videos and with this audience you have the license to not tetris a video together, but to give it more space and calmness.

  2. When the river that ran through Hartford got too stinky & floody (factory, human, AND pig farm waste), they called in the Army Corps of Engineers to bury it. Bury. It. Maybe you're lucky your city can turn its back…

  3. Last still had such aesthetic haha :)) i don't know if john's facebwas being ironic or he really felt that way. Matchy outfits! this vid makes me want to be able to hold a stock photo book in my physical hands..

  4. I should do this. I started out watching these videos with the intention of going through each one and doing all of the assignments. But I hit a roadblock with the first assignment when no one would agree to meet me in the middle except a good friend who lives in Denmark and who I haven't seen in years. We agreed to meet one day in the middle, which would be a small, remote town in Russia Even though we didn't physically meet, we kind of mentally met in the middle, because we both thought about a small Russian town in between Denmark and Japan that we otherwise would never have thought about an the assignment allowed me to talk to a friend who I haven't seen in a while and I was reminded how she's the kind of person who would go on adventures with me and even promise to meet me one day in a small Russian village for no other reason then that I wanted to make art and I thought it sounded like a good idea. People who travel a lot meet so many wonderful people around the world. but we're doomed to never have all of the people whom we care about in one space or even one country. Distance and time make me treasure my momentary experiences with these people, but it makes each new move a kind of tragedy, the potential death of a friendship in many ways.

    But, anyway, because we didn't physically do the assignment, I felt bad and I gave up. That was about 2.5 years ago when I first came to Japan (I think…memory has a way of distorting itself, so it might have been 1 year ago).

    Now, I might try again. I wanted to catch up, do all of the assignments, and then people able to do the assignments right after you posted them so that I could be a part of the community and have the support of the community, but now I content just doing the assignments for myself. Now, will I actually do them without the incentive of a group to talk about it, maybe.

    Maybe if one of the assignments is about grading hundreds of essays, then I'd be able to do it now. Maybe you could do an assignment about throwing hundreds of essays out of a window and watching them blow in the wind and into the rice fields, enjoying that small moment of freedom and rebellion before everyone blows a gasket. That would be highly satisfying, but I imagine it would make future Michelle really really angry at me and I've already done enough to piss off future Michelle, like writing this long reply instead of getting ready for work or writing a reply to someone who has been waiting for me to reply to him for 2 weeks, but I just can't think of what to say. Sigh, poor future Michelle. I'm sorry for all the bad things I'll do to you…

  5. Seeing that river that runs through so much of the city yet does not have any kind of 'waterfront' is really odd. I'm going to guess that it's not all that uncommon in the US, where so many towns were established long after (non-navigable) rivers ceased to be major factors of life? In Europe, cities are much more likely to date back to times when rivers were incredibly important sources of (more-or-less) potable water, fish and later mechanical power so even non-navigable rivers tend to feature much more prominently in city layouts.

  6. I loved this! I really want to make some fake flyers, college campuses are a great place for easter eggs like that.

    I go home to Cleveland many summers, and have swam in an overwarm lake erie that was a bacterial risk. Going into that water was a special experience haha.

  7. This was a really awesome video! I live in a flood prone area in Texas, and am off of school today due to severe thunderstorms this morning. You've inspired me to do an Art Assignment of my own today, and I think it might just have something to do with my own local river.

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