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In which we feature responses to The Art Assignment Ep. 2: Stakeout!, given by Chicago-based artist Deb Sokolow:

Thanks to all who posted the responses featured in this video:

ConVinceingVince (friends in Balboa Park):

Ajetosien (Margriet & Josien):

Daisy May Smith:

collegeswaggernuggets (college campus selfie project):


Julia Smith:

Kenton Visser:


Laufey Haraldsdóttir:

klonschaferl (Friends in Vienna):

Jennifer Reynolds-Strange (Jen and Sumayya):

Danielle Vaughn (Harvey):

Joanna Volavka (frog w peppermints):

venjb (you are beautiful mirror box):

CzarMadeline (pennies):

The Art Assignment #2 - Stakeout Pt. 2 - "Forsaken Bubbles"

Lin Hai Wen:
Box of chocolates "for you":

VidsByBrad (homer simpson bookmark):


Jeffrey Lanzini:

Sarah: Today we're going to talk about Deb Sokolow's Art Assignment, the Stakeout. 
Person: Yes! Successful art! 
Sarah: If you haven't watched the assignment episode yet, you probably should. So perhaps unwisely I used the word 'stalker-like' in the original video. I shouldn't have done that. This assignment is not about stalking. It's about people-watching, and people-watching is not stalking. From the many videos I've seen of people doing their own assignments, I've been really impressed by how people have approached this challenge with thoughtfulness and sensitivity. I've concluded that the stakeout is really about empathy, and about figuring out ways to give gifts to strangers without freaking them out. As Deb put it, "People watching is a way to understand and relate to other human beings, and to combat a sense of isolation." So having said that, let's look at some more responses. 
Like this Dutch Stakeout by Magriet and Josien. They made a box of split peas, covered it in gift wrap, and added signs that said, "Please touch our peas," and "Dig in and find a surprise." In the peas, they put little rolled up messages saying things like, "Have a great day!" It's exceedingly charming and they seem to have a really good time.
Magriet and Josien: [exclamations of anticipation and then laughter]
Sarah: Or there's this one by Daisy May Smith in London. Her object was a disposable camera asking people to take selfies, an act that narrows the pool of respondents to those who would be comfortable sharing their image with a stranger. She established trust and the lighthearted tenor of the assignment with her notes: "Hello curious person! Take a selfie with me. I'm an art project!" And at the end included the handful of pictures she got out of the exercise. 
Most of the responses creatively and sensitively addressed the issue of whether or how to show the people who participate in the Stakeout. Like this college student who also leaves out a camera for people to take selfies.  You see the action from far away, but at the split second a person takes a picture, she flashes the image they took super quickly. Or there's Jane83Doe who also tries to maintain the anonymity of the people she records, putting annotation fields over their faces to try to obscure them. 
And then there were people who just decided to just document themselves talking about their own Stakeout. Like Julia Smith, who describes people instead of showing them. And she had some really lovely thoughts about the process as well.
Julia: It's not just about an art product; It's not just about the painting or a thing. I've always thought about art as experiences and I think Sarah's trying to teach us that art is experience and how you react to things and your thoughts on it.
Sarah: Other people made sketches and drawings and notes about their Stakeout. Like this guy, who made these amazing drawings and notes about his Stakeout, wisely deciding not to make his object a bag of mysterious powder and even including documentation about his Stakeout outfit. And when he does depict his subject, he does so from behind. 
allylucas99 made this great drawing, showing step-by-step what happened with her Stakeout including the all-important last step: "Make sloppy poster of Stakeout instead of doing calculus." 
And these excellent notes by Laufey Haraldsdóttir, even including that she was listening to Beyoncé during her stakeout. 
There were a number of people who got caught in the middle of their Stakeout, like these three friends in Balboa Park in San Diego. They left a box of fun stuff you can wear like fake moustaches and antler headbands with a sign that said, "Take One Have Fun #theartassignment." One of the men they were observing turned on them and even takes their picture, in a marvelous reversal of watcher and watched. 
And there are these friends in Vienna who put out two books in the middle of a public square. At one moment, a man comes up, pretending to be part of a criminal investigation unit, and then the real police come and politely end the Stakeout because they're worried someone might trip.
People put quite a bit of thought into what their intriguing object would be. Jen and Sumayya, who you may remember from their Meet in the Middle video, decided to put out a big yellow tutu with a sign that says, "Dance with Me." And then there was Harvey, a box offering dollars in exchange for thoughts. This woman left a frog sculpture filled with peppermints. And this Staker-Outer made a box with a mirror that says "You are Beautiful" inside.  Someone else leaves a bowl of pennies. Geeksdanz used a bubble gun as their object of choice and not only documented the Stakeout, but also did an interpretive dance based on the experience. 
Lin Hai Wen made an origami horse folded out of his school newspaper. He left it on top of a stack of the papers but nobody took it. He concluded that next time, maybe he needs to be more explicit and leave a sign that says, "Take my horse." 
Others went with the tactic of making their object a present, like this person, who wrote a blog post about their experience of setting out a box of chocolates wrapped like a gift with a great tag that simply said, "For You." 
And there were also less enticing objects like a golf ball and a Homer Simpson bookmark made more enticing by being wrapped like a a gift. 
VidsbyBrad: At first I was disappointed that the boy or lady didn't open the present. But then I realized: it was a good thing. By not opening the present they were able to creatively think about what it may be. 
Sarah: Many of you were made to feel uncomfortable by the experience, like JoyLyte, who put a bear piggy bank with a note that said, "Be my friend" on top of a trash can at a shopping mall. A couple does end up taking the bear, and although her feelings about the process are mixed she still seems to emerge from it with a sense of positivity.
JoyLyte: That was pretty cool. It's just something really different, and it made me feel like the weirdest person ever. 
Sarah: There were many people whose projects could have been considered failures. Like Jeffrey Lanzini, who put out a book of selected writings by Kierkegaard with money in it. He placed it on a beach during a kite contest, and then when that didn't work on a ledge in a busy area nearby. But no one took it. 
Geoffrey: Now if a person had taken it, they would have been a jerkface and probably added one more point to my dislike for homo sapiens. But in a way, the people that didn't take the book are just as big a jerkfaces as the people who would've taken the book because they're turning down a whole world of knowledge as well as being bribed by the book to take that knowledge. Even if they took the book home and then threw it away without me knowing it, I probably would've been much happier that there was some sort of resolution.  
Sarah: And Cynicus also had less than desired results.
Cynicus: Oh, are you kidding? [scoffs] 
Sarah: There is definitely loss that accompanies this assignment, and commentators like Elise Roberts share the following: "This reminds me of how I feel whenever I show someone else any art I've made. You don't know how they're going to respond to it. You have your hopes and ideas of what and how you want them to respond to your expression of ideas, but you've not got no control over them. And that's why art is terrifying for the artist." 
Of the assignments I've seen so far, the somewhat terrifying feeling is what makes this assignment challenging and worthwhile. It requires you to put something of yourself out there to be embraced, ignored, or even thrown away. 
Thanks to all of you for participating in this challenge. As I've said before, there are no due dates for these assignments; so keep staking out an uploading your responses with #theartassignment. And once again: please don't break the law. Maybe that should be the new Art Assignment sign-off.