I’m really pleased with the debut videos from The Art Assignment, a PBS Digital Studios web series hosted by contemporary art curator Sarah Urist Green, formerly of the Indianapolis Art Museum. The idea is simple: artists are approached and asked to create a work, something performative that viewers can then perform themselves. It’s a great way to make understandable the kind of art that does not hang on a wall – though by-products of the work could. So far they have featured artists Douglas Paulson and Christopher Robbins (episode 1), and Deb Sokolow (episode 2). Paulson and Robbins created a work in which two friends set out to meet midway between wherever they happened to be, and have lunch. This looks back to Tom Marioni’s work, Drinking Beer with Friends is the Highest Form of Art, and provides a good introduction to this for of conceptual art. Is the route itself a form of art, the experiences had en route, or the time spent with a friend at the end? The answer to all three is yes.
Green is no stranger to the internet. Her husband John Green, best-selling author (The Fault in our Stars) and seemingly incorrigible (in a good way) video maker (Vlogbrothers with his brother Hank, educational videos of various kinds), serves as Executive Producer and, of course, appears in the videos. They seem comfortable presenting a form of art that is less well known to the general public in a way that is easy to grasp and even fun – populist, if I can say that without any negative connotations. And given that a professional curator is involved ought to help keep it from being too explanatory – that is, willing to address professional artists on their own level, without the oversimplification that can happen in educational programming.
I recommend you go to their YouTube channel and catch up on the videos. I keep thinking of artists I would like to see involved, from those well-known in the art world (Rirkrit Tiravanija) to those who are already household words (Yoko Ono).
If I can quibble very slightly, the logo they have adopted for their videos does bear some resemblance to a logo used in the second season of Space: 1999 (see below), but, as the Greens were busy, oh, being born, when that show was on, I suspect they and their designer didn’t notice. It takes a hardcore geek like me to see things like that, and lends a bit of surrealism.