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Pre-order our book YOU ARE AN ARTIST (which includes new assignments!) here: This week Sarah and John discuss some of their favorite responses to Nina Katchadourian's assignment Sorted Books. Thanks to everyone for your excellent submissions!

You can watch the Sorted Books assignment video here:

Featured in this video are:
mundane epiphanies:
Aude Odeh:
Matt Vree:
headless queen:
Sarah: Hey everybody. Today we're going to talk about Nina Katchadourian's assignment "Sorted Books."   John: Yeah, I love this assignment. Great to see books used in art and to see biographies through books. We're going to do some critiquing today. Very exciting. We're also going to share some of our favorites; this was a great assignment because it caught on not just with the Art Assignment community but also with other communities -- the BookTube community and a bunch of others. It was cool.   Sarah: Yeah, and the more assignment responses we get, the better because we get unexpected, fantastic responses and the whole project gets more interesting.   Sarah: So I told you things might get a little tougher in season two and it's time for a little tough love: presentation matters, guys.   John: Yeah, it's really important. In fact, you can't separate content from presentation, I would argue; like if I published a novel, and it was the exact same as any of my other novels, but the entire book was printed in Comic Sans, it would change people's relationship with it.   Sarah: Negatively.    John: So it's really important to use focus and lighting, even on a camera phone.   Sarah: Yeah, I mean, making art is full of decision-making, even if you're not aware of it. What's behind the books matters. How you stack the spines matters. The typography of the books you've chosen matters.   John: So one thing I saw a lot in this Art Assignment is that people who took extra time saw tremendous improvements in their work. So you guys played a lot with the rules on this one, which we always kind of like, like we sort of like it when people break the rules...   Sarah: Yeah, we do. Nina asked you to sort someone else's books and to create a kind of portrait of them, using three stacks of books.    John: But many of you sorted your own books, often autobiographically.   Sarah: Yeah, and a lot of you did it really well.    John: Yeah, like I really like this one, by Kyle Jones, and also this one, by Michelle Coppel.   Sarah: And I really liked this one by Luisa, who said it pretty much sums up how studying politics at university makes me feel about politics and the state of affairs in Germany and the world.   John: Yeah, one thing I like about that one is that it's sort of tilted, another example of how presentation matters.    Sarah: And I really like this one by Meredith, which also gave us a little peek into her room.   John: And then of course there were many non-autobiographical interesting ones like this non-self-portrait "Imagined Communities My Life as a Fake Fangirl" by Kelsea, which imagines a character through book spines.   Sarah: But then there were some really beautiful responses by people who did stick to the letter of the Katchadourian law and sorted other people's books.    John: Yeah, I really like the cross-generational ones, like this one by Stephanie, using her grandmother's books, and this one by Ana, was suitably grandma-y, complete with the little cat on top. But there were also many other fascinating portraits of family members.   Sarah: Like this one, of Erin Michelle's parents. And I especially like this portrait of a marriage, by Rachel Joanna.   John: And just one more. I really love this artist's portrait of her parents' marriage; I like how right after War and Peace, the books just "chk" -- you know, presentation.   Sarah: And that reminds me of some of the great responses you guys did that embraced the sculptural aspect of this project. When Nina Katchadourian forms these stacks, they're really kind of these temporary sculptures that exist and then she photographs them and then they disassemble and return to their libraries, but for this moment, you're really aware of books as sculptural, three-dimensional objects.   John: Another thing I really enjoyed were the non-English language submissions. I can't read in those languages, but it made me pay more attention to, like, context.   Sarah: And I actually felt myself looking at those submissions longer because I couldn't read them and I couldn't sort of enter the story of them. I looked at the background, I looked at the book design, the typography. I really enjoyed these, and then it made it even better to then read the descriptions.   John: Lots of people who didn't have access to large book collections of their own or their friend's also went to the library, which I thought was awesome. For one thing, the library usually removes dust jackets from books, um, which makes the titles kind of cooler and more interesting to read. But a lot of these library submissions really struck me.   Sarah: Right, and then instead of doing a portrait of an individual or a couple, you're making a portrait of a community. Many of the ones I enjoyed in particular were thematic in nature.    John: Yeah, like I really like Nancy's portrait of Malcolm X, Art Assignment producer Matt Vree, the amazing Matt Vree, had this fascinating one about the life and mind of a photographer.   Sarah: And this great one by Kevin Townsend about a life in the arts.    John: Some of the other focuses were on, like, creating actual narratives from book spines, which I thought was awesome. Particularly this one, which used "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs" and "Breakfast of Champions" to tell a story about America.   Sarah: And then some of them were just beautiful and great, and I'm just going to let you look at them.   John: Yeah, Sarah really liked these and she didn't want to end the video without them, and they are really good, so here.   Sarah: I found that many of my favorites were the shortest stacks, of just two or three books, and I really marveled at how much you can communicate with just a few, short phrases.   John: Yeah, this episode of the Art Assignment gave me one of my new, all-time favorite sentences: The sun also rises when things fall apart.   Sarah: Looking at all of these, I kept marveling at the eclecticism of most everybody's book collections. How you don't just have, like, one kind of book or another kind of book, but we all have this crazy mix of books that can yield some really interesting "Sorted Books" projects.    John: Yeah, it reminds me of how complicated we all are; that, like, the same person can own dry, philosophical texts and "Weirdos From Another Planet."   Sarah: This is definitely the kind of assignment that I plan to continue doing, as I go along and meet new people and stay at new people's houses, and I think you guys should continue to do it too.    John: Yeah, thank you so much for all of the Sorted Books assignments that you've done. Please continue to do them. Let us know about them by using #TheArtAssignment or submitting it on Tumblr, and thanks again. This has been so fun.   Sarah: You guys are a bunch of weirdos from another planet, and we're really glad about that.    [laughing]