YouTube: https://youtube.com/watch?v=r7bBNAhYh7w
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Duration:1:02:00
Uploaded:2020-04-11
Last sync:2020-04-11 13:30
Buy the book You Are an Artist: http://bit.ly/2kplj2h
You Are an Artist virtual tour: http://www.theartassignment.com/tour

Sorted Books - Nina Katchadourian - original assignment video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A24MRdNMOIA

 (00:00) to (02:00)


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, youtube.com/theartassignment 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.  


 (02:00) to (04:00)


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?

 (04:00) to (06:00)


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

 (06:00) to (08:00)


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.

 (08:00) to (10:00)


J: Instagram, Twitter, or Reddit. Otherwise we're not gonna see it on Facebook, let's be realistic.

S: I might.

J: Sarah might, but I won't.

S: Yeah we actually have a good Facebook group. It's called Art Assignment: Extra Credit-


J: Ok, alright, I'll take it back. I'll take it back.

S: Where peop- where you can join and show your work, and share things like this. But also, you know, share it with us on Twitter, Instagram.

J: Yeah

S: And we'll- I'd love to re-post what you've made.

J: Sarah and I are gonna start by doing two that we've pre-prepared just to give you a kind of overall vibe. Sarah pre-prepared one-


S: Oh, yeah

J: Using one of my all-time favorite middle school novels by Celia Pérez.

S: Yeah, so this one, The First Rule of Punk, this has a great spine. So, yes there is some other stuff going on, but it's pretty clearly readable. It's bright. And then I looked around and I was like 'Oh, k, The First Rule of Punk?  What's the first rule of punk?'
S: And then I found this book Do What You Want. So, let's see, you gotta line it up so that you really read it in order. So... oop.

J: It's a little over exposed. Welcome to the Macbook Air webcam.

S: Yeah. (laughs) First Rule of Punk: Do What You Want. There you go. There you go. I think that's pretty good.

J: And I took M.T. Anderson's brilliant, Nation Book Award winning novel The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox Party, which is one of the all-time great young adult novels. And I combined it-

S: (chuckles)

J: And also, I don't know if you guys know this, but, um, there's a global pandemic. And-

S: A pox, if you will.

J: There's a pox, if you will. And I combined it with a book of essays, so that my initial spine portrait is a bit of a self portrait of how I feel right now.

S: Gotta get closer.

J: And it's The Pox Party: A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again.

S: (laughs) That's pretty good. That's pretty good. I like that.

J: Yup


 (10:00) to (12:00)


S: So the other thing about this is once you find your stack, set it aside and then really think about how you're going to photograph it. So even if this is great, if you take a bad picture of it, it's just not- you know, there's a few things you can do to like slow down, and put it on- with a nice simple background, like set it where there is good, natural light, photograph it now, maybe photograph it in the morning, see how it looks.

S: Like another tip, if you're taking a picture, even with your phone, is to take a breath in and then like hold your breath while you're taking it so you're not moving. Any photographers out there know these things,  but I think that oftentimes you just like, aim your aim your camera at the phone and don't necessarily think about what's going on. It makes a big difference and you know after you've gone to the trouble of sorting your books, you want it to look good, right?

J: Yeah.

S: [laughs] Okay, so let's see I've got my What Was Contemporary Art and then I also found that I have a book What is Ccontemporary Art. So I was thinking it might be cool to like figure out what goes in between.

J: Is this gonna be a portrait of you?

S: I don't know. Like I find it-

J: Sarah is extremely uncomfortable even with making abstract, spine poetry portraits of herself.

S: Well maybe not, I dunno.

J: It feels like even that feels personal. I think that's my challenge for you, make a self-portrait and I will make a self portrait that is more revealing than The Pox Party, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never do Again. But seriously, I don't want to do this again.

 (12:00) to (14:00)


S: Yeah, I mean-

J: It's too bad that you're not on the- the woman on the right is really beautiful. 

S: [laughs]

J: I agree. 

S: You're on my right.

J: I know! I'm on the right! As we're sitting!

S: Yeah, I mean speaking of Corona virus, and what's happening right now,

J: Thanks Lorena.

S: Huh?

J: Oh Lorena just un-hid it. But yeah, just be polite, I'm sorry, I probably shouldn't have engaged with that stuff. 

S: Yeah. But anyway, we have, sort of livestreamed on a few different channels, or on your vlogbrothers channel in the early days of this, and I feel like things have not gotten better, in fact they've gotten worse all around. 

J: Oh yeah, yeah for sure. 

S: Yeah, I'm finding it a little bit easier to disassociate from it, during particular periods of the day.

J: Yeah, I mean I think that's a function of privilege, I think that lots of people aren't able to do that, but we are able to do that, because if I go outside, I can, outside is about the same, honestly, you know.  So that's nice. But we are certainly conscious of how difficult this is for everybody.  This is the rare thing when you can just describe it as 'this' and everyone knows what you're talking about.

S: Right.

J: Where there is a 'this' so ubiquitous that all of humanity shares it, which is terrifying and overwhelming, but I also, I am heartened by the kindness that people are showing each other, even under stress, especially under stress, and that is a balm to me, I hope it is to you.

S: Yeah, and it's also-




 (14:00) to (16:00)


J: There's no minimizing how much it sucks. 

S: Oh, for sure and I also think this can be a kind of outlet for that, I mean I know I have a lot of anxious energy that I don't really know what to do with, and focusing it into an art assignment, or hanging out with you guys is very helpful for me, to have these moments of connection, and then to have something that I am looking forward to doing tomorrow, as simple as that is, like a little thing.

J: Even if it's something tiny like taking a bath.

S: Right.

J: I spent all day today looking forward to the bath that I took-

S: Was it great?

J: And it was as good as I had hoped.

S: John and I have actually started to fight over who gets to do the dishes.

J: I was saying that to the podcast I was talking to today that, doing the dishes used to be a chore-

S: It's like such a satisfying task!

J: But now it's something that we can finish.

S: It's finite.

J: You can listen to music while you do it, it's precious alone time. 

S: Right.

J: Somebody said up there, and I thought this was a very good observation about right now, Brooke said "I keep thinking that this is the time I'm going to want to remember." Which I think is true on a lot of levels.

S: Yeah.

J: Like I think-

S: I've thought about that too.

J: Hopefully it will make us grateful for the next normal, I believe there is a next normal coming, it won't be like the normal that we just were ripped from, but there is a normal coming and it will be better than this.

S: Yeah.

J: I believe that, I might be wrong but I have to believe that. And I think it will be helpful to remember this. I was thinking about that
too Brooke, like I was thinking about, like how do I write  Anthropocene Reviewed essays which are always absurd at this
like particularly absurd historical moment, when like it genuinely makes no sense to be reviewing nunchuks.

S: But it never has made sense. 

J: No no it never made sense, in fact when we were in Sierra Leone I wrote an entire Anthropocene Reviewed episode, that never will see
the light of day,

 (16:00) to (18:00)


J:  About how if you ever want to feel like reviewing the Anthropocene as a gag is worthless. And empy work.

S: You were going to do cholera, and is that a spoiler? 

J: I did it, I did it like a year and a half ago but I'm gonna expand it.

S: Oh that's right sorry. I listen to your poscast.

J: It's a huge spoiler actually about a future project, but we won't talk about that.

S: Okay anyway, John's been reading about cholera.

J: I have the cholera pandemic of 1832 in New York specifically.

S: But like when you were thinking through how to represent cholera in Anthropocene Reviewed, like there is a certain amount of distance that makes that possible.

J: Well I mean except not really right because cholera-

S: Oh, can you hand me that tote bag? I have other books. 

J: -or it continues to be a huge human health problem and like most health problems it is really an outgrowth of injustice. It's like a- cholera is driven by social injustice. So yeah, and that's why I find it so sad that it's still part of the human story, because we could have gotten rid of it a hundred fifty years ago. That's a good one.

S: That's a good title, really clear typography, Good Talk.

J: Yeah I'm gonna start to look here at my books.

S: And here's one I thought it would be good, The Art of Relevance, nice and clear.

J: I liked this one, I liked this quick- this little poem, it includes one of my favorite Jenny Diski novels: "There is no dog, only human."

S: Oh yeah, wait, you gotta line 'em up

J: You gotta line it up properly, I'm sorry, I'm not going to line them up Sarah

S: Because that's one of the ways that you can sort of like, visually forget about the names, and sort of see that as by a line like- left aligning the titles. Nina does that, and you don't have to, but yeah, if that- (laughs) That's good. I like that.
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