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This week we gathered some friends and challenged ourselves to an art assignment marathon - how many assignments can we complete in a day?

Try an assignment and share your experience with #theartassignment!

Caption Contest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORAwNMs1ie4
Fake Flyer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hk29r3SEDJ8
Constructed Landscape: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfAtcLKFiGo
Blow Up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LKl36tuHwA
Copy a Copy a Copy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMvUmCYb8XM
News Photographer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APRRQ7z75x0
Body in Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZ7LVHLdYuE

Don't forget to subscribe for new episodes of The Art Assignment every Thursday!

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[MUSIC PLAYING]

SARAH GREEN: For a while, I'd been thinking about doing a kind of art assignment marathon, to see how many assignments I could do in a day. And since it was a rainy Tuesday, I thought I might as well give it a go. And I roped in some friends and the lovely people who make this show to help.

The key to any marathon is preparation. So I made a list of what I thought was feasible and started to scheme and gather materials. First up, I started with David Rathman's Caption Contest. And I had sent the file of his painting to the copy store to get a larger print. I've seen a lot of responses to this one, and so many really good ones. I was a little worried. I wouldn't be able to do anything new or any good. So I just tried to summon what the picture really makes me think about, and that's people wearing combat boots in the early '90s. And that made me think about the movie "Reality Bites," which sent me down the rabbit hole of re-watching the trailer, looking up quotes, and reminiscing about that time, pre-total internet invasion, when friends made analog videos of each other. I selected a line from Janeane Garofalo's character, Vickie, which for me is a perfectly open-ended statement that describes a hard-to-express feeling very accurately. Oh, and I don't think we ever showed you David Rathman's caption for his image. Here it is. No surprise-- it's fantastic.

Next up, I called in the brilliant and creative Rosianna Halse Rojas to do Nathaniel Russell's Fake Flyer assignment with me. Because this is just the kind of thing that is fun to do in groups with other people and their ideas to work off of. For some reason, I have a bunch of old stock photo catalogs from before it was all online. And the images are hilarious. I thought that would be a great way to jump-start some flyers, rather than just the intimidating blank page. And they were. This assignment was hugely enjoyable-- and much easier to do, once we got settled into the Fake Flyer mindset. I seriously could have done this all day. Every flyer we made wasn't genius, but it didn't matter, because heck, it's just cheap paper and Sharpies and tape, and who cares? There's really no way to mess it up. You can be silly or serious or maudlin or nonsensical, and it all works.

After that, we cleared the decks for Paula McCartney's Constructed Landscape. We quickly realized we needed good natural light for this and changed our set-up to accommodate. We cut up some boxes to make backdrops and started in. I had raided my pantry for lonely and expired food items and grabbed some plants and herbs from outside. And Rosianna had gathered materials from home and garden, as well. We also used an old art magazine to pull images for backgrounds. And the process, for me, felt like a cross between making a diorama in elementary school and crafting a three-dimensional Dada-informed collage. The most interesting part of this for me was the transition from making the scene to photographing it. When looking through the lens of a camera, suddenly the image appears jarringly different. Playing with camera placement and focus and light changes the scene dramatically. The whole thing really came alive once we populated the scenes with little figures. Providing a visual anchor really made the difference between creating just a strange, optically confusing image and a real, believable sense of space.

Then it was time to get out into the real world. So Zulaiha Razak joined us, who does a lot of fantastic behind-the-scenes work for "The Art Assignment" and is always game for an adventure. Since I had already done Assaf Evron's Blow Up in the assignment video, Zulaiha gave it a try. She chose to capture a busy intersection that she drives through every day but had never explored on foot. She found the three minutes spent looking at the photograph essential here. Your eyes are forced to notice the details when you're not allowed to look at anything else, especially when it's something whose overall details you see every day. And the photograph produced some surprising details, from touching inscriptions on bricks to the reflections in puddles from the rain earlier that morning. There was so much character and personality hidden away on a seemingly mundane Indianapolis street. Her biggest takeaway was how much we miss when we're stuck in our little car bubbles, focused on getting from point A to B. She could've spent all afternoon walking around and taking pictures, but this was a marathon, and we had to move on.

We then set off to do Molly Springfield's assignment, Copy a Copy a Copy. And I had convinced my friends who own a business to let us use their copier. Zulaiha and I brought some books from home, and we roped in our amazingly multi-talented director/editor/camera operator Mark Olsen, as well. Zulaiha used her favorite contemporary art textbook from college and focused in on an image of Ken Aptekar's painting, "Pink Frick," enlarging and darkening until she achieved this really cool, abstract graphic image. Then I used my worn-out old copy of "War and Peace," who's back cover had fallen off and was covered in notations. Thinking that marginalia might make for an interesting image, I started at work, darkening and enlarging and shifting the paper with each step. I ended up with no trace of the marginal and a weird black hole, instead. Mark then handed over the camera-- but not this camera-operating skills-- and copied his book on Italian cinema, focusing on a still from a Vittorio De Sica film. He kept enlarging by 400% until he made this peculiar nebula image. We all decided Zulaiha won this one, and that photocopier optics are fun to play with and utterly unpredictable. Oh, and we also made copies of our fake flyers and make sure to leave our mark in the office.

Then it was time for Alec Soth's News Photographer. I decided to pose as a blogger doing a profile on businesses in the area and checked out an intriguing shop I frequently pass but have never been in. They sell pipes and cigars and pens, and going in is like stepping back in time. It smells musty and tobaccoey and great in there. And I discovered they also sell used books. I took a few pics and talked to the clerk, who told me that their shop had opened in 1985 and was the last new business to open in that building. I left with a strong intent to return, once I figure out who in my life needs a find writing instrument or Newt Gingrich memoir.

The last leg of the marathon was to complete Maria Gaspar's Body in Place. She asks us to choose a place that is visible to you but seemingly invisible to others. And I decided to focus on the White River, which runs through Indianapolis. It has a long history of industrial waste pollution. But the real issue now is that the city's sewer system overflows into the river after as little as a quarter-inch of rain. The EPA and the city have developed a plan to curb the overflow by 2025. But in the meantime, we just, er, live with it. And since the river is non-navigable, the city built up around it, but not facing it. It's kind of like the city has its back turned to it, making it easier to live with the fact that poop literally flows through it. Despite all this, it's beautiful. I live near the river, enjoy looking at the river, and even go canoeing in the river. But I assiduously avoid making contact with the water. So I asked John to walk into it with me. And as I mentioned earlier, it had been raining that day. Although a lot of people are working on correcting this, I hoped this small action could signal my attention and awareness of this predicament-- this river that is a shared resource and shared responsibility. OK, that's it. We did it. It was much more gratifying than I expected. And as far as I know, I didn't contract any waterborne diseases. I want to do it again.