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Sorted Books - Nina Katchadourian - original assignment video:

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John: I think it's finally gonna happen, Sarah.

Sarah: I think it's happening.

J: We're going to succeed at doing a liveshow of The Art Assignment, live!  

S: Hello.  Hey, yo, we did it.  We--oh, is it bad?  Hey, everybody.  Thanks for joining us this evening.  

J: Yeah.  

S: Yeah, we are not used to scheduling livestreams in advance.

J: Yeah.

S: And I think I threw our whole system off.

J: That's why we were 30 seconds late.  We're sorry.  

S: Yeah.

J: We're here to celebrate Sarah's book, You Are An Artist that comes out on Tuesday.  She's not gonna talk about it that much, so I'm gonna talk about it for her.

S: I am.  I'm  very comfortable talking about what's inside because it's good and I'm proud of it.  I wanna share it.

J: I'm comfortable talking about the low, low price, the fact that it's available at your local library for free, there's ebook and audiobook editions, and also, if you can't afford to buy the book You Are An Artist, I have amazing news for you.  You are currently on a YouTube channel that contains so many great art assignments.

S: Yes, yes.  So during the course of making this video series, during the first three years, we gathered 60 assignments out around the country from artists and had them give you guys assignments and so there are 60 assignments out there already on our channel that you can do.  

J: Yeah.

S: One of which we're gonna be doing tonight.

J: We're gonna do it tonight.

S: Yeah.

J: We're so excited.  We haven't done that much prep because we don't wanna ruin the magic, but we have done a little bit of prep just to introduce you to the idea.

S: Yes.

J: So tonight, first off, let's talk about what we're drinking.

S: Okay.

J: This is a wine show, Sarah, and we are proper smart wine people.

S: I thought--well, is this a wine--we've never, we've actually never streamed on The Art Assignment channel, John, that's your ch--that's vlogbrothers.

J: I'm announcing that this is a wine channel.

S: It is Friday night.

J: Friday night.

S: You don't have to.  You don't have to drink.

J: Of course.  Please don't if you don't--are not comfortable dr--of course.

S: Yeah, yeah.

J: We're here to talk about our wine, not to put any expectations on you one way or the other.

S: Yeah.

J: Make good choices.  

S: Cheap wine is also great.  I'm a big fan of the boxed wines.  

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J: Yeah.

S: Yeah.  They're very good.

J: So.

S: So anyway.  Back to this.  So as I was saying, like, in the book--

J: Yeah.

S: There are 53 assignments.  40 of them were originally videos and the way they appear in the book is different than the videos and there's sort of more information in some ways.  Different information in other ways, but one of them, one of my favorites, is by the artist Nina Katchadourian and it's called Sorted Books.  Not 'sordid' like, like--

J: Like--

S: Like--sorTed.  

J: Yeah, with a 'T'

S: With a 'T'.  SorTed.  She did a whole series.  Here's a book called Sorted Books and some people just call this spine poetry.  This is a thing that people do, but Nina's assignment, here, here, you show--

J: Well, one of my favorite, all time favorites, is the one that's on the back, "What is art?  Close observation."  You just line up titles of books in your library to turn them into poetry or to turn them into, in the case of this art assignment, to turn them into a kind of portrait, right?

S: Right, so in the art assignment, she--the original art assignment has you asking someone else if you can peruse their collection of books--

J: Yeah.

S: --and create a portrait of them through their own books.  We can't go over to other peoples' houses, or most of us can't go over to other peoples' houses right now, so it's a great opportunity to make a self-portrait or a self--or a portrait of your roommate or your spouse.

J: Or a portrait of the person you love using your books.

S: Yeah.

J: You're allowed to expand the assignment in any way you wish.

S: Right.  Right, because an assignment is just a place to start, so.

J: Right, one of the great things about the book, You Are An Artist is that after the assignment, can you find the assignment?  I don't know where it is.  I have to confess.  You probably know exactly where it is.

S: It's ok.  

J: One of the great things about the book is that after talking about the artist--

S: You've looked this up, though right. What you need?

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J: and an introduction to their practice -- the sorted books?

S: Yeah, but keep. I'll, I'll...

J: There are variations that you can try--

S: Yeah

J: to expand upon the assignment because, really, like, what the assignments function as -- yeah, show it.

S: So, this is an example of one of the chapters, so this-- oh no that's the end of another one-- so this is sort of the beginning of the Sorted Books chapter and you, like, read about how Nina Katchadourian, when she was in grad school, she and some of her grad school friends went over to one of her friend's parents' houses for the weekend and challenged each other to make art with what they found there.

J: Right.

S: And what Nina did was go through the parental library and start this book sorting process. And she has a very specific process for doing this. Like, she goes through first-- especially if it's a big collection-- she writes down titles she really likes. And another thing you're really gonna want to look at is, like, how the typography is and how clear the title is. Like, this is nice and clear and there's only like a little author title, so you've got this, like, What was Contemporary Art? And, like, we went through our books and found the titles that we thought sort of looked good and would be very readable in a book stack.

J: Yeah

S: Um, and also might be fun to play with.

J: Yeah, so the thing about this book is that it is an introduction to how artists get ideas and kind of an encouragement to help you get ideas in the ways that other artists get ideas because you are also an artist.

S: Mmhmm

J: And I like how every chapter begins by talking about the way that this particular artist found their way to this practice. Nina Katchadourian also does lots of other weird, amazing stuff.

S: Well, she really does--

J: We'll talk about that in a second.

S: One more thing is, when we visited her for the Art Assignment channel... uh... this channel

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S: she was sorting the books of William S Burroughs, the late author.

J: Yeah.

S: And he- she also says, whenever you're going through your library or someone else's library, pay attention to multiple copies. So, like, here you can see William S Burroughs had Del- Denton Welch's I Left My Grandfather's House, 3 copies of that. Um. And also 2 copies of Flashback. So, like, this one is "Only yesterday, I left my grandfather's house, flashback, I left my grandfather's house, I left my grandfather's house, flashback, flashback."

J: And that's very apropos of the writer William S Burroughs was because he used a lot of, like cut out chapters. He would, he would write sentences and then rearrange them on the floor and stuff, and so it's also reflective of his work.

S: Yeah.

J: It becomes a kind of portraiture.

S: Yeah.

J: So

S: Has anybody in the audience ever- um- ever done spine poetry? Sort of done this kind of activity before where you arrange books to form, like, little poems?

J: And, if you have, get ready to get- to be better at it. Because this is gonna be an evening of tips and tricks out the wazoo.

S: Yeah. Yeah. It's gonna be great, and, um, I think-

J: Oh, Matt says "I have some copies of Turtles All the Way Down, I could make those all the way down." It's pretty good. Pretty good.

S: Yeah, I like that. Well, I did think about that when we were going through, like, some of your- some of your books.

J: Yeah.

S: Turtles All the Way Down like a nice, large stack of Turtles All the Way Down.

J: My books, yeah, one thing I really like about my publisher Julie Strauss Gabel, she's a title forward publisher. Like Paper Towns has a real good title.

S: Oh, but it's sideways.

J: Well it'd be great if my name wasn't there but there's nothing we can do about that. They insisted on it.

S: Well, but it's also- you gotta make it readable.

J: Yeah, we could do a stack. Verticle stack.

S: Like, maybe for this one you'd have one on the side. Yeah.

J: Yeah.

S: Um, and the o- So what you're gonna aim to do is create your stack.

J: Yeah.

S: And then take a photo of it.

J: Yeah.

S: And share it with us on whatever social media platform you enjoy with the hashtag YouAreAnArtist.

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