If you haven’t seen the works of John Green, whose “Crash Course” series on world history and English literature we previously featured here, you’ve missed out on first-class examples of the learning experiences video technology, the internet, and burning curiosity have now made possible. (An antipathy to these subjects’ traditional classroom teaching methods may also have something to do with them.) PBS, however, has not missed out, and in partnership with Green and his wife Sarah Urist Green, they’ve just come out with The Art Assignment, a weekly web series that “celebrates the creative process” and introduces “today’s most innovative artistic minds.” An ambitious mission, and one you can find out more about in the clip above. But the Greens don’t intend to put together a simple primer on art. The Art Assignment, as Urist Green explains, has them “traveling around the country, visiting artists and asking them to give you an art assignment.”
The first episode has just become available, and, in it, they pay a visit to the Flux Factory in Queens, where artists Douglas Paulson and Christopher Robbins tell the story of their first “collaboration,” which involved their meeting at high noon in a lake in the Czech Republic, the exact geographical midpoint between their then-homes in Copenhagen and Serbia. Their assignment? “Find someone. Draw a line between the two of you, meet exactly in the middle. Once you’ve agreed on your meeting point, date, and time, you’re not allowed to speak to each other by any means.” John then wonders if that really counts as art (“On some level, to me, art is painting”), which prompts Sarah to quote artist-theorist Roy Ascott: “Stop thinking about art works as objects, and start thinking about them as triggers for experiences.” The Art Assignment will doubtless put the Greens and their followers through some interesting experiences indeed.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, Asia, film, literature, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on his brand new Facebook page.