Previous: Walk On It: Highlights | The Art Assignment | PBS Digital Studios
Next: Please Do Not Touch



View count:31,228
Last sync:2024-04-30 14:15
Pre-order our book YOU ARE AN ARTIST (which includes new assignments!) here:

This week we meet with English artist Oliver Blank who explores our sense of time and place through public installations. And this time we make an artwork together. Call (718)395-7556 to participate!
We've added some international numbers as well:
UK: +44 161 850 3439
AU: +61 2 8766 0624
CAN: +1 438-793-7060
NL: +31 85 888 6948

THE INSTRUCTIONS - The One That Got Away
1. Call (718) 395-7556
2. Leave a message saying what you would say to the one that got away
3. Tell us you've called (using #theartassignment and your social media platform of choice) and prompt someone to do the same.
4. Your voice may be featured in a sound piece composed by Oliver Blank
Sarah: Today we're in Columbus, Indiana outside of a 1954 building designed by the great Eero Saarinen, that used to house a bank, but now it's a conference center owned by the company Cummins. It's here in the former vault that we're going to be meeting with composer Oliver Blank, who's in town for an exhibition.

Oliver was born in England, but lives in several cities, including San Francisco, New Orleans, and Helsinki. He makes symphonic, cinematic music, sound toys, and public installations, that seek to give you alternative and surprising experiences with the places you inhabit.

I got to know Oliver's work because of a project he did in Indianapolis with the writer James A. Reeves called The Bureau of Manufactured History. For this, he made a forty-five minute composition incorporating accounts collected from city residents that were submitted by telephone.

The assignment this week is going to be a little bit different. Instead of asking you to go off and create something on your own, you're all going to collaborate to make something. Oliver is going to ask you to contribute to a new composition, so let's go talk to him and see what he has in mind.

(0:57) Oliver: Hello, I'm Oliver Blank, and this is your art assignment.

We were invited to Indianapolis by the We Are City folks to undertake a residency, and so we had a few constraints that we had to work within. It had to be about cities. It probably should be about Indianapolis. And also we were told, "We have a room, a space, you can use or you can show something," so we agreed, well we have to build a thing and the thing has to go in the room.

We thought about how can we, not only just present a generic history of Indianapolis or the history of Indianapolis, but maybe a manufactured history, one that we could make and contribute to ourselves and invite the community at large and the citizens at large to contribute to.

So we formed an organization or an office in Indianapolis, which is the Bureau of Manufactured History, and so the first thing that we did was produce these gorgeous little cards. You might be given a card in the street by James, or even by a friend, and it might say "Run to a high point and call this number," and on the phone line, you're asked a question, such as "What are you afraid of most in Indianapolis?" and you'll leave a message and answer that question.

So we collated loads of these phone calls, and then we put that all together in one place, which was the first desk of the former office of the Bureau of Manufactured History. So we put it all in this desk, and the idea is that the desk is -- is really a few different components. It's, um -- It's a desk with a chair, the soul of Indianapolis, and a media player as well.

(2:48) Your assignment is to call the number that's on the screen now and leave a message saying what you would say to the one who got away. It could be a question, or it could be a statement. Maybe you just want to tell them something. Just call the number and leave a message, and you can also go and ask a friend or a family member -- brother, sister, mum, dad -- or even just some random guy at a shop. Call the number, pass the phone over to them, and have them leave a message, and the question is "What would you say to the one who got away?"

(3:20) John: This reminds me a lot of PostSecret. You know, Frank Warren's art project where people send in postcards with their secrets on them.

Sarah: Right, anonymously -- but some people have done it not anonymously, like Tracey Emin's Everyone I Have Ever Slept With, where she embroidered the names of everyone she's ever slept with to the inside of a tent.

John: What I like about this it that we're kind of giving Oliver material. This isn't like previous art assignments, it's like, we're all in it together, we're all making something together that he's going to form.

Sarah: Right, it's indicative of more recent trends in contemporary art, and that's participatory art, it's art that requires you.

(3:55) Since the nineties, Yoko Ono has been making wish trees, inspired by trees she saw as a child in Japan in the courtyards of Buddhist temples, where people would write out a wish on thin paper and tie it to a branch. She said they looked like white flowers blossoming from afar, and she's created her own wish trees all around the world, collecting over a million wishes.

Rivane Neuenschwander recalls a tradition where visitors to a church in Salvador, Brazil, make a wish as a ribbon is knotted around their wrist or at the front gate. It's said that the wish comes true when the ribbon falls off. For her work I Wish Your Wish, Neuenschwander printed others' wishes onto ribbons and asked visitors to take one, as long as they also left behind their own wish.

Then there's Candy Chang's project, where she turned the wall of an abandoned house in New Orleans into a place where people were asked to complete the sentence "Before I die I want to _______." Within a day it was filled, and since then more than 500 similar walls have been created all over the world.

Oliver is asking you to contribute in a similar way, to reflect upon a very particular wish so that together we might create a work that reflects on the past, but also the future.

(4:58) Oliver: I love this very pure, simple question that deals with the one that got away. If you should have told them something, what was it that you should have told them? You know. Or if you screwed up and you're saying sorry, like, how did you screw up? What are you sorry for? Why are you sorry? Why is this so important? I'm really interested in that. Once we get past the "I miss you, I love you," or "I want to be with you," or -- or maybe it's not about a person, it's about a thing, like a, you know, an opportunity for a job, a change of career that you, years later, feel like, "That could have changed my life." If you could now call up someone and ask for that opportunity again, or change that, what would you tell them? I want to know what the thing was, and what the context was, and what you would try and do about it right now.

(5:52) We'll wait a certain amount of time to collect a certain volume of material, and then it'll be a case of going through all of these recordings, editing them. I don't want anything personally identifying, so if you name names, I'll edit out last names and that kind of thing. I'll create a recording, and you'll submit stuff, and we'll create a piece of sound art together that people can listen to.

(6:24) John: I think we should call the number and leave our messages for the one who got away.

Message: Hello, this is Oliver Blank, and here is your art assignment.

John: I'm really sorry about the jerky thing I said about the power bill the last time that we spoke, where you wanted me to pay half the power bill, and I was a real jerk about it. I -- that's --I -- I feel bad about that.

Sarah: Gaaaah! I -- I just -- I can't do it, I can't do it.

John: You aren't going to do it?!

Sarah: I'm going to do it. I'll do it later, but I have to think about it, I really want to take this seriously, the result will be better if I'm, like, really genuine and on my own.

John: I -- this is -- you have this thing, a private life. I find it very strange.

Sarah: [laughs]