Art Assignment Marathon

Hosted by curator Sarah Urist Green, The Art Assignment looks at various aspects of contemporary art. There are videos that take you on mini-art holidays and ones which detail why particular artists deserve a place in the canon. It’s wonderful and accessible and I love it. It also features videos where artists set little art projects for you to do. Inspired by a recent video where Sarah and co tried to do as many assignments as they could in a single day (and also by the bleak, rainy day outside) I decided to do my own assignment marathon. 

Brief: Create a space (real or imagined) where you would like to work.

Our house has a cupboard under the stairs. After we moved in, I collected cushions and bought lights, found a little table and turned the cupboard into a cosy nook. Something about the isolation soothes my messy brain. It’s in the middle of our lounge room but I can be tucked away in there without anyone knowing. That’s what I wanted today.
I collected all the materials that I thought I would need for the first couple of assignments, made some tea, filled up a bottle of water and closed the door behind me. I wanted to be able to stay in my “studio” for as long as I could, separated from the outside world.
It’s interesting that in the precedent for the assignment, Sarah talks a lot about the artist as not solitary, about collaborative and communal artistic spaces. What I created went completely opposite to that idea. The dichotomy between the solitary and the collaborative when creating is interesting. So many artists and writers and makers work alone and yet so few creative works happen in isolation. I thought about all this, holed up in my isolation cupboard, alone with my quietly buzzing brain.

The brief: gather materials and create a constructed landscape. Take lots of photos.

There’s this strange little army man in the cupboard under the stairs that was there when we moved in. I thought it would be nice to make him a little home, tucked into one of the triangular cubbies underneath the steps.
I created my landscape using paper. I thought it would be nice to leave it and have it become an installation in my cupboard/studio. I was pleased with the way this turned out but photographing it was a challenge. Because of the location, I had to light it with a torch in one hand and take a photo with my iPad in the other. My arms were pretty sore by the time I had an image I was happy with. It would probably have been easier to create this in a space with “good natural light” as suggested but I ultimately decided that creating something to suit the location was more important to me than getting a perfect photo.
This reminded me of the surrealist landscapes I used to make growing up. I’d cut pictures out of magazines and collage them to create surreal images of fish swimming in the sky or women with giant heads crawling across the dessert. I loved making them. This assignment reminded me why I love doing these – I love making things, even (or especially) when it is just for the sake of making.

Brief: create a paper weaving  

At this point I decided that it would be cool to hang all my works in my cupboard studio. I was so besotted with this idea that it didn’t occur to me that making a triangular paper weaving (to fit in another under stair cubby) was actually a terrible idea. Mathematical thinking is not my strong point. I didn’t have any coloured paper so decided to use a sheet of musical score from an old book I got for craft/zine projects.
If I did this again I would make a regular shaped weaving and also cut much wider strips. I really need to buy a ruler. Doing this on a micro level was fiddly and hard. The less than ergonomic nature of my cramped studio became pretty apparent at this point.
I realised that by overcomplicating it, I’d gone against the spirit of the assignment. I think if I had made a much simpler weaving and not worried about making it interesting, it actually would have turned out a lot better.

Brief: Create a flyer that gives advice, shares something or promotes an imagined event.

I decided that I would make a flyer recommending recipes from Nigella’s website. I love Nigella. Recommending recipes to friends is something I get a lot of joy from. So I thought it would be nice to do it for strangers.
I trawled through the website and found a selection of recipes that I’ve tried (and liked) that are available online. I carefully wrote the name of each (along with the website) along the bottom so that I could cut strips for people to tear off. I found a cool picture of some chickens to be my backgrounds and glued it all together.
I copied the flyer later in the day, at Officeworks and put one on the community noticeboard in the shop. I also glued one to the pole outside our house. I want to stake out the one outside our place to see if anyone takes a recipe and which one they take.
The thing I like about this one is the way it makes you to interact with strangers but to ask nothing from them in return. You have to put the flyers out into the world and not know if they’ll be taken down, if people will enjoy them, what will happen. Your part of the exchange is done. Now you have to trust strangers to perform their half.

Brief: Create a work of art using the present perimeter system.
So what this assignment involves creating a hexagon, three half hexagons, three rhombuses and three triangles out of any material and then combining them to create an artwork. The assignment does specifically say this is maths homework. I am not good at maths. This is maths.
As previously mentioned I don’t own a ruler. So to create these shapes involved some improvisation. I had a sheet of paper that had a hexagon pattern on it, so that was easy enough. I tried to trace a rhombus off my iPad screen but that was hard. What kind of triangle? I might be terrible at maths but I know there are a million kinds of triangle! I feel like this assignment could have done with slightly more specific geometric instructions.
Given my dodgy creation system, my shapes didn’t tessellate perfectly like the examples. I fiddled with the shapes until they started to resemble something and then kept fiddling until I’d used them all up. I made a picture of a bird. I am not really sure this fit the brief? Is it ok to just make a bird? Anyway. Maths is hard.
It’s strange that something so simple can be so complicated. Shapes are easy. I encounter shapes everyday. But can I create them accurately out of paper? No. No I can not. Because they are much more complicated than I usually give them credit for. Sorry shapes.

Brief: Take a selfie. Change one thing about yourself. Go outside. Take another selfie.
I had reached the point in the day when I had to go to Officeworks. I decided at the last minute to try and find one final assignment to do, since I was leaving the house. This one seemed obvious, since it specifically involves leaving the house.
I decided that I would put on the most makeup my meagre supplies and skills would accommodate. At first this seemed too simple, too easy. I should have done something more meaningful. I do wear makeup, just not all the time and not very much and certainly not to go to Officeworks at 5:30 on a Sunday. Suddenly I realised how uneasy I felt.
I tried to creep out of the house without anyone seeing me. At Officeworks, I jumped every time a staff member talked to me. I felt so uncomfortable. When I came home, I immediately went upstairs and took the makeup off. I wore it only as long as I had to.
I could write whole essays about my relationship with my own image (couldn’t we all?) but on most days I think I feel pretty good about myself. This made me realise how delicate that self-esteem is. I feel good within the confides of the identity I’ve constructed for myself, which relies heavily on certain things (nice dresses, bright colours) and actively excludes others (too much makeup, heels). This realisation was kind of confronting. I’m still trying to unpack it.

The brief: Photocopy. Copy that copy. Continue until the original has been transformed.

I chose a comic – Teen Dog by my friend Jake. I copied a page I liked and then copied the copy, enlarging it by 400%. I kept copying and enlarging, darkening and lightening alternatively until I ran out of credit on my print card.
This felt like discovering hidden secrets in the page. My favourite part was when, completely by chance, the copy zoomed in on a figure in the background of the original page. The figure is Jake, who drew the comic and hid little images of himself in the background of each issue. It was funny that the copier picked out so exactly this little hidden joke.
The final copy is beautiful. On the last run through the copier, I lightened the image as much as I could. While most of the frame is light, there are these strange little black shapes that are struggling to break through the static. I feel like I could read all kind of things into this.

I managed to do seven assignments in about eight hours. It was fun! For a while, I was doing every single Art Assignment but somewhere along the line I fell behind. I’ve actually got quite a few that I did but never shared. This made me want to dig them up. And to spend more days working through the assignments that I’ve skipped over. Maybe even with people! This was such a wonderful way to spend a rainy Sunday. Would recommend.

Further reading

December – home

I spent the first minutes of 2018 on the beach. I’ve never actually spent New Year