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The Art Assignment travels to New Orleans to meet with Tameka Norris, who makes art in a variety of media and often uses her body in her work. She challenges YOU to become someone else.

Sarah then highlights Adrian Piper, who created an altar ego for herself (The Mythic Being) and performed this ego both in private and in public.

INSTRUCTIONS - Become Someone Else
1. Take a selfie
2. Change one thing about you
3. Go out into the world
4. Take another selfie
5. Upload both photos using #theartassignment
6. Fame and glory (your work might be in a future episode)

Find out more about The Art Assignment and how to submit your response:

(The Art Assignment Intro Plays)

Sarah: Hey, we're now in a windy and cold New Orleans in the Upper 9th Ward to meet with Tameka Norris. She actually started out wanting to be a rapper but now she makes art in a variety of media, including performance, video, film, painting and instillation.

She often uses her own body in her work, and previous performances and videos have seen her reenact works like Michelangelo Pistoletto's sculpture "Venus of the Rags" and Marina Abramovic's "Art Must Be Beautiful, Artist Must Be Beautiful." Most recently, Tameka has produced a film, an instillation that's a part of the prospect 3 city-wide art exhibition. It's titled "Meka Jean, How She Got Good." And in it, we see Tameka play the protagonist, as she struggles to understand herself and how she relates to this city.

Tameka thinks a lot about how we construct our own identity in relation to where we live and how we present our self to that world. So let's go talk to her and see what she's got for us. 

Tameka: Hi, I'm Tameka Norris and this is your art assignment. 

I mean, even as a kid, I think I thought that I was an artist. But that meant singing in my brush, I don't know. It just meant dressing up in clothes but I think I've redefined who I am as an artist over time. Meka Jean is a combination of Tameka Jenean, so my first and middle name. My babysitter would be like, "Meka Jean, where are you?" and my family calls me Meka, Meka Jean. 

She is basically that 3 year old girl, that 4 year old girl singing in the brush. Sort of no limits, not yet self aware about gender, race, identity, just sort of open. Having Meka Jean, which is not someone from the future or someone who I'm making up the rules for, I'm actually going back and looking at my life, looking at my childhood and really wanting to honor that playfulness. 

Your assignment is to become someone else. So first, before you do anything, take a selfie, then get one transitional item like a mustache, lipstick, tie, whatever it is, a wig, then go out into the world, check your mail, go get a coffee, take a ride in your car, etc. In the process, take another selfie and that's it. 

Sarah: There is another thing Tameka wanted emphasize, and that was to be sure you weren't becoming someone you know. 

John: Yeah, that's really important because I think it's okay to be inspired by someone you know for this assignment, but it's more interesting if you're becoming a different version of yourself than if you're imitating a friend or a celebrity. 

Sarah: And there's so many great precedents for this art assignment. I can think of a ton of artists who've taken on alter egos. There's Marcel Duchamp's "Rrose Sélavy," or Andy Warhol.

John: But, the animation I'm guessing is going to be about the great Cindy Sherman. I mean, Cindy Sherman is fantastic and she's great for this assignment because she's become loads of other people in her work. 

Sarah: Yeah, that's true but what Cindy Sherman does is really directed toward the camera and I think the part of this assignment that I find the most interesting is that you have to go out into the world as somebody else. And that makes me think of a different artist.

John: So I'm wrong?

Sarah: You're wrong. 

John: GAH!

Sarah: In 1973, Adrian Piper was studying philosophy at Harvard and began a series of performances in response to the political climate of the time. Dawning sunglasses, a wig and a mustache, Piper transformed herself into a male alter ego she called, "The Mythic Being." The Mythic Being first appeared in ads placed in the Village Voice, in which she combined a photo of the character with text code from her own journals. The Being also did a variety of private and public performances, hanging around the house doing yoga and venturing out into the streets to explore her own reaction and those of others to her acts of aggression and stereotypical masculinity.

She documented these performances and she made drawings based on the photos, creating works that sprang from her belief that you can be transformed by the immediate experience of becoming or encountering The Mythic Being. Mythic because of its gender, race, and status were unstable and unclear. 

Tameka's assignment asks you to become your own Mythic Being, informed by your own time and place, influences, stereotypes, fears and ambitions. 

Tameka: One of the easiest, sort of symbolic ways of transition is if in physical appearance. And that small gesture, I think, can always insight some sort of an internal shift. When I put on red lipstick, which I'm very uncomfortable doing, I feel like, "Ooh, I've become something," or the expectation because I have on now red lipstick does something. Or what if a guy puts on a tie and he rarely wears a tie, you know, who do you become? How do you preform this symbol?

I was visiting some friends and they're transgender and they just thought that it would be fun and funny to go out in the world. And I think we were going out grocery shopping, so simple transition. They bound my chest and they took a little snippet of my hair, and we glued it along my mouth and made a mustache. And really, I had on the same clothes I would have, that I was wearing, jeans and a flannel top. And that was it. I was very aware of, well shoot, do I walk differently? Do I talk differently? Do I use my own voice? What do I do? And it was- and I tried it all while I was out. How do you preform your new self that you're becoming. And I found that to be really interesting. What parts do you keep, what parts do you push away? And we just played with that idea. 

(The Art Assignment Outro Plays)

I think I'm quite an attractive man, actually.