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We went to ArtPrize and met up with Minneapolis based artists Carolina Borja and Amy Toscani. Their exhibit this year invited the audience to destroy the large-scale handmade piñatas that they had spent hours constructing. And now it’s your turn to make and break. Here are your instructions:

1. Create something
2. Have someone else destroy it
3. Share with us an image of the destroyed object and/or your documentation of the process of destruction
4. Upload with #theartassignment
5. Fame and glory (Your work might be in a future episode)

Learn more about Carolina's work:
http://www.carolinaborjastudio.com/

Check out our video on our ArtPrize experience:
https://youtu.be/AobJlzQhQ1E

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Sarah: We're in Grand Rapids Michigan during ArtPrize, an annual art competition decided by both public vote and a jury of experts that takes over the city for three weeks. This is the seventh ArtPrize and today we're meeting with two artists who are participating in this year's competition.

Carolina Borja and Amy Toscani are both Minneapolis-based artists who won a pitch night competition to install a work here in Grand Rapids. Carolina Borja was born in San Diego, California and lived in Mexico before moving to Minneapolis, and her work reflects on her experience of a collision of cultures and traditions. She studied industrial design and Mexican folk art, and her work incorporates elements of craft and popular art while bringing them into her own thoroughly contemporary aesthetic. Carolina's work considers how identity is by its nature a very fractured thing.

Amy Toscani takes as her starting point thrift store collectibles and imagines other lives for them, creating sculptures like Cuccu, a dog figurine she built out into an oversized, curious, and ultimately sympathetic object. Her sculptures are both playful and inquisitive, approaching objects some might dismiss as lowbrow with humor and questioning as well as tenderness. Amy's work asks important questions, like how and why we become attached and assign value to objects.

Together Carolina and Amy have made this work titled "Constructing and Deconstructing" and it's composed of these large-scale handmade piñatas that audience members are invited to whack at and rip apart. With this work Carolina and Amy are thinking a lot about the collision of cultures and what it means to not only make something, but also to break it. So let's go talk to them.

Carolina: Hi, I'm Carolina Borja.

Amy: And I'm Amy Toscani.

Both: And this is your Art Assignment!

Carolina: Well, we talked a lot about the idea of having this tradition and changing the tradition of breaking the piñata, and then we wanted to like meet at an intersection where she felt she was bringing her own work and ideas and I was bringing my own work and ideas and for some reason we thought it was a piñata.

Amy: Carolina and I always had a conversation about... this is not-- she would sort of anguish about "this is not the traditional Mexican craft and if real piñata makers saw what we're doing, they'd be appalled." I was like, "Don't worry, we're doing it, don't worry about that, we're making it our own right?" So I think that's what we did here as we just made these pieces our own.

Carolina: When there's no breaking session, people can still come and then it'll be a different kind of perspective because you'll be able to view what has shifted. Right now all the installation is hanging and as the time comes from the nineteen days pass by the installation on top will become an installation and the bottom and you'll have a second one created

Amy: Part of the beauty of this piece is that you do get to break it, so it has but lack of preciousness right but usually art has, that you can't touch you can bump into, you know, let alone walk with a stick. I have never seen a piece of my work destroyed purposefully. I think maybe that's where I'm hesitant or I might be a little sad or morose about like, seeing these things destroyed because I mean, you know, Carolina the last night when we were installing were like "oh and this is my favorite" and we picked out each others' favorite, our own favorites and we're talking about it and just sort of making them, memory of making them and then you let that go right. You let it go.

Carolina: Your art assignment is to create something

Amy: And then have someone else destroy it

Carolina: Which becomes a second piece

Amy: Or the documentation of destroying it becomes a piece on its own.

John: So Sarah, what I love about this assignment is that on some level like making things for me is an act of like putting something in the world and then having other people take it apart. So this is very metaphorically resonant I think.

Sarah: Right. And it talks about the assumption that art is immortal right, that art can outlive you and even though some materials are heartier than others, everything is going to erode, everything is going to go away, nothing lasts forever.

John: Yeah. I mean that's sad, but there's also something kind of freeing about it.

Sarah: Right. And this assignment asks you to take that idea and to fold it into the work itself.

John: You know it made me think about when you took me to Venice in 2011, we saw an artist named Urs Fischer who did this amazing like self-portrait made of wax and then it burnt like a candle and it melted away.

Sarah: Right, and also made me think about Janine Antoni's Lick and Lather busts. She made these bust sculptures of herself out of chocolate and soap, and the Chocolate she licked and nibbled on and the soap she ran under hot water so that the features sort of became less distinguished, but it actually, this this activity goes back much farther than those examples.

In 1953 a young Robert Rauschenberg approached an artist he respected tremendously, Willem de Kooning, and asked him for a drawing. So that he could erase it. De Kooning somewhat reluctantly agreed and Rauschenberg methodically and thoroughly erased it and then presented it exactly like that with attribution. Some years later, Niki de Saint Phalle began a series of shooting pictures where she'd fill plastic bags and cans with paint, plaster them to the surface of a board, and then shoot at them or invite others to do so. In 1961, Rauschenberg and his friend Jasper Johns did the honors, resulting in a work that looked not unlike the popular abstract expressionist paintings of the time. And in 1968, Swiss artist Dieter Roth, known for his preoccupation with impermanence and decay, made a series of busts of himself as an old man out of a mixture of chocolate and birdseed. They were designed to be placed outside on a post and enjoyed by local bird life until nothing remained.

While artists are often thought of as creators, in each of these cases we see meaning developed from the act of destruction rather than construction. What can you do that becomes significant in the act of its undoing.

Amy: I think part of it too is like having-- when you destroy

Carolina: A surprise?

Amy: Yeah that's what I was gonna-- You blew it! Having a surprise. Surprise! Having a surprise at the end of it or little payoff at the end of it. I think some of it-- I mean maybe that's why we're driven whack these things in the first place is that there's the unknown right? And so it's it's like this Christmas present or something.

Carolina: Well I think also it's not only just breaking it but like you really have to dis-integrate what is there to make it something different. So whatever they make your build, it can't be just broken, it has to be destroyed and almost about to take another shape of its own. I think what is cool is when you have someone else break it, you have the option if you're that someone else, to either enter it as your own and have no responsibility towards it, or be aware that you're kind of collaborating in the sense that it's a piece that hasn't ended yet and that you're participating in whatever the other person is offering. So I think that doesn't happen if it's yourself.

Amy: That's a good point, it is a collaboration. Yeah.

[endscreen]

Amy: She's like "nooo" I'm like "YES." I'm like "Don't touch that one! I made that one!" That took me four hours, I mean, and then we were talking about the time that we put in to these, and each one

Carolina: Let's not talk about time.