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This week we meet Jan Tichy, a Chicago-based artist who gives us the assignment to create an Expanded Moment using video.

We also discuss how this assignment is a play on THE DECISIVE MOMENT by photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, who captured split-seconds points of action.

INSTRUCTIONS - Expanded Moment
1) Find a place with the potential for visual movement
2) Place your video camera on or attach it to a stable object
3) Record at least 2 minutes without moving the camera (and no sound!)
4) Upload it using #theartassignment
5) Fame and glory (your work might be featured in a future episode)

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

Today, We're in Chicago, in Pilsen, outside of MANA Contemporary, a huge complex that houses exhibition spaces and artist studios, including that of Jan Tichy, who we're about to visit. 


Jan was born in Prague, moved to Israel, and then moved to Chicago in 2007 for his MFA at the school of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he now teaches. And while he's not from Chicago, Jan spent a lot of time thinking about and investigating his adopted city. 


In 2011, he did a project involving the last remaining high-rise at the Cabrini Green housing project, during its final days before demolition, illuminating it with lights that blinked in patterns corresponding to the pace of poems written by young former residents. 


He was also inspired by a series of photographs, titled Changing Chicago that was made in the mid-1980s and attempted to document daily life of the city. Jan has created a series of video works by the same title in which he sets up his camera and makes a durational image from a single vantage point, and he's also worked with local high school students to do the same. So Jan's thought quite a bit about the place where he lives and we're about to ask you to do the same. So let's go talk to him.


Hi, I'm Jan Tichy, and this is your Art Assignment. 


When I was invited to work, um, at the Museum of Contemporary Photography with their collection and started to go through the entire 12,000 images, at a certain point I started to recognize these works coming from a project called Changing Chicago, created in 1987. It--it sort of attempted to capture this moment, this portrait of a city in a particular moment, and letting thirty-three photographers bring their perspective on different parts of the city. I realized that there are things that I wanted to respond, that, uh, there are things that I'm interested to talk about in relationship to what's happening in Chicago. And that maybe in some romantic way, I wanted to be as well part of it, part of this uh, group um, that wanted to document the city twenty-five years ago. And I decided to work with video rather than traditional photography and be in a dialogue with the project, not just in the sense of what I am saying, as well as how I am saying, and sort of bring to this new installation of all these works coming together the different notion of time.


Your assignment is to find a place with potential of visual movement. Place your camera on a stable object. Build a frame and record at least two minutes of video without moving your camera.


Sarah: Oh, and no sound! Jan didn't mention this at the time, but that's a pretty key aspect of this assignment and something that makes it more about photography than about film or video.


John: I like this in terms of photography because photography is really complicated. Like there's that great line about how ultimately it's just light and time.


Sarah: Yeah, and there are a variety of photographers who kind of play with those ideas. Someone like Hiroshi Sugimoto who sets up a camera in a movie theater and takes a really long exposure that lasts from the beginning of the film 'til the end.


John: So it looks like it's just one picture, but actually, it's the whole movie.  


Sarah: And we're calling this assignment "The Expanded Moment" because it's a play on the term "the decisive moment" that we associate with French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson.


John: Very good French accent.  


Sarah: Well, you know, you can call him Henry too. 


You know his photographs and would recognize them instantly. They're some of the most iconic images of the 20th century, and he's famous for this idea of the decisive moment, and that's this sort of one moment and placement that the photographer has to seize on and capture.


John: It's the idea that there is a best moment.


Sarah: So you may have heard of the decisive moment, but I wanted to kind of unpack it and see what he actually said about it.


Cartier-Bresson published a photo book in 1952 with the title Images à la sauvette, or Images on the Run, but the English edition was titled after a quote by Cardinal de Retz in the book's preface: "There is nothing in this word that does not have a decisive moment." 


Cartier-Bresson describes his early days as a photographer, prowling the streets all day, determined to trap life: "I crave to seize, in the confines of one single photograph, the whole essence of some situation that was in the process of unrolling itself before my eyes." 


"To me," he says, "photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event, as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression."


Jan is embracing an alternative take on photography, not seizing or trapping a moment, but identifying a frame and letting the scene unroll before our eyes. rather than stopping time, Jan proposes a way to extend that photographic moment, allowing that change can sometimes be better represented through expanded moments rather than decisive ones. 


And he was talking about event of a split of a second, and what happens when the bicycle passes, and I'm more interested in what's happening, you know, a minute later, uh, when the couple is passing by, and when another story starts to develop. 


In the afternoon we will go to the Museum of Contemporary Photography to meet with the curator, Karen Irvine, and meet with students from ChiArts, local high schools, and together we will learn about the original Changing Chicago Project and have the students think about their way of responding and presenting their Chicago today in the form of a video, of an expanded moment.


We look today, twenty-five years later, we see a different city, we see the change, right? And so look around, look what has changed, what is going to change, and even things that you don't know that are going to change; they will eventually, right? 


Each of you will take it somewhere completely different because you are all different and have--you live in different places, you see the world around you differently, and your artistic approaches are different.


Take your time. Let the time pass. Observe. Think. And return, again and again.