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This week we’re at Mildred’s Lane, a 96-acre site in rural Pennsylvania founded by J. Morgan Puett. Mildred’s Lane is an experiment in living - it's a space where Morgan and her friends collaborate on projects, practice creative domestication, and pay closer attention to every aspect of daily life. Her assignment asks you to do the same by playing a game of Scramble Scrabble Dinner. Here’s what she means:

Download a pdf of detailed instructions here: http://bit.ly/1VQCiCi
1) Find a nice cloth and sharpie pens for writing.
2) Gather 2 - 6 people. Each player writes their name on the cloth and makes a list from the letters of their name of food items and ways of preparing food.
3) Play a scrabble game with each player taking turns playing a word from their list, rotating the cloth as you go.
4) Keep adding words until you have a combination of ingredients and ways of preparation and all agree a dish is formed. Avoid the expected and embrace oddity. Sketch the dishes as they emerge.
5) Gather your ingredients and make the meal. Prepare and present it artfully.
6) Document the process with photos, video, drawings, or however you like, and share them on your social media platform of choice with #theartassignment.

Learn more about J. Morgan Puett and Mildred's Lane:
http://www.jmorganpuett.com/
http://www.mildredslane.com/


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*intro music*

Morgan: Every aspect of life is a rigorous engagement with the banal. So at Mildred's lane we make that a creatively charged practice from washing dishes out in the landscape to cooking a meal over an open fire to learning how to clean out a toilet properly. Everything is rigorous, whimsical, fun, engaging and we do it together.

Sarah: Today we're in Beach Lake Pennsylvania at Mildred's Lane, a 96 acre site founded and hosted by the artist J. Morgan Puett. It's named after it's former resident, and Puett along her son and a number of other collaborators has transform it into what she likes to call a new art complexity.

In the 80s and 90s Morgan lived and worked in New York City as an artist and a fashion designer and ran a number of stores where she showed her seasonal clothing collections, but sense 1997 she has lived here and developed this sight as an ongoing experiment in living activated by the people who come here.

Mildred's Lane is a place where Morgan and her friends can explore the interconnections of working, living, researching and making. They practice what they call creative domestication. Bringing rigorous attention to every aspect of daily life. This manifest in collaborative dinner parties determined by algorithmic games, carefully curating the fridge, and the collective development of project and events that question how we live, divide labor and relate to the environment.

There are no art studios here. This whole place is the studio. And we have the privilege of being here today and talking with Morgan and seeing what aspect of her practice you might bring to your life.

Morgan: Hey there. I'm J. Morgan Puett, and just is your art assignment.

Hoosh the way I use it is quite different than the term itself, but it's related to. But as an installation artist, I've kind of tweaked it and reinvented the term so as to help identify what it is we do on a day to day basis here, which is we conceptually and very intentionally arrange, rearrange, pull things apart, put them back together again.

Everybody collaborates on the hoosh here in the landscape. It can be a table top situation or it can be the entire landscape. A great way to have a successful collaboration is by using algorithms. Algorithms, you can make up rules and games to create new problems, not just to solve problems but to create new problems that also make it a socially democratic landscape for everyone's experience. So it's a surprise in the end. It sort of creates a way to do something together without any one person taking authorship that everybody is in it.

Your assignment is to produce a Mildred's Lane scramble scrabble dinner. You need to select a nice cloth that you can wheat paste and harden and spread out on a table or a wall, and you're going to be more or less playing a Scrabble game, but the ingredients are the players.

If I were playing with Sarah Green and Mark Olsen and myself, J. Morgan Puett, then those names would be written out on the cloth. And then we would make as many food items as you can possibly make out of the letters of that-- that person's name. Also include ways of preparing food. Then you rotate the cloth so that everybody can play each name. You use that list, and you play-- with a lot of room around it-- you write that word out very cleanly on the-- towards the middle of the napkin. And you keep rotating it so that everybody's playing and building on every dish.

Pretty soon, you'll get to a point where dishes are emerging, and you start sketching out what the dish might look like on the cloth until you get to the sketched, and even possibly the way it might be served. Your collective creativity starts playfully imagining what this table top dinner will look like. That is the collective experience that you're going to have.

John: All right. So I think we actually have to do this one.

Sarah: Oh, we're going to do this. Great.

John:But it's pretty complicated, so I'm wondering if people can just kind of use it as a framework.

Sarah: Yeah. It's a little confusing, but I think you sort of take this as like a loose framework and then you play whatever kind of dinner algorithm game you like.

John: Also, I know that you hate this question. I know it's your least favorite question, but I do. There is a little part of me that wants to understand why this particular dinner party game is art.

Sarah: OK. That's a legitimate question for sure. And I think you could play this game and not consider it art and that would be fine, but I do think that you might have a better experience with it if you consider a little bit of art history and the fact that Morgan's practices is very much informed by the Fluxus Movement that was from the 1960s and '70s. It was a loose international network of artists, and their leader, George Maciunas published a series of manifestos that described what Fluxus is, and I want you to read from one of them, John.

John: OK. All right. This is some atypical grammar here, Sarah but I will read it. "To establish artist's nonprofessional, non-parasitic, non-elite status in society, he must demonstrate own dispensability. He must demonstrate self-sufficiency of the audience. He must demonstrate that anything can substitute art and anyone can do it. Therefore, the substitute art amusement must be simple, amusing, concerned with insignificances, have no commodity or institutional value. It must be unlimited, obtainable by all, and eventually produced by all."

So I assume that this week's artist is from this Fluxus Movement.

Sarah: You're right. We're going to be talking about the artist Alison Knowles, who was a key member of this group. In October of 1962, Knowles first performed "Proposition No. 2" at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. Also titled, "Make a Salad," the piece involved the artist standing on stage and chopping the ingredients for a salad. It's an example of an open score, almost like a musical composition, a template able to be realized by others and open to interpretation.

Like other Fluxus numbers, Knowles was influenced by John Cage's teaching about indeterminacy and chance operations. Creating preconditions for her work and not knowing exactly how it will play out, she then served the salad, welcoming the audience to be part of the work and continued to act out the proposition on a number of future occasions.

Knowles, like Morgan, takes something uneventful and domestic and elevates it into an occasion worthy of attention and great care. Morgan's scramble Scrabble dinner also encourages an inclusive, collaborative, and improvisational approach to the chores and activities of life, re-imagining and re-contextualizing a thing as simple as dinner into an unpredictable and multi-sensory event.

Morgan: Very important to try to break your habits, not to predetermine what this thing is going to look like or how it's going to taste. Don't try to go to the conventional dish that you think is emerging out of the Scrabble. Try to challenge the dish. So each person who plays it should challenge the dish a little more radically than the last. The less cooking experience you have, the better because it's just more fun. It's just hilarious what happens. So a naive approach is sometimes the most profound.

It's kind of the word that fills in the gap for, like, whatchamacallit, anything. Like, girl, you're hooshed up. Or did you see how hooshed he was?