02/22/2014 04:10 am ET Updated Feb 22, 2014

New Web Series Will Challenge Your Narrow Definition Of Art

"Autointerventionist" artists Douglas Paulson and Christopher Robbins met for the first time a few years ago while living abroad in Denmark and Serbia, respectively. Although it was Robbins who, in the search of like-minded creators, first reached out to Paulson, it was Paulson that suggested that they meet.

But they wouldn't meet just anywhere, Paulson explained. They would meet in the exact midpoint between their two locations, the middle of a pond located in the southern Czech Republic, and not communicate again until they saw each other there at high noon at an agreed upon date.

It was an art project to be sure, but maybe not the kind that your high school art teacher assigned you in 2D workshop. Nevertheless, it's the subject of the inaugural episode of "The Art Assignment," an adamantly interactive web series by former Indianapolis Museum Of Art curator Sarah Urist Green. The series' goal, to "demystify the art-making process and bring you to a wider understanding of what art is and what it could be," is evident throughout the episode, embedded above.

"Hold on, I understand why this is, like, beautiful and metaphorically resonant, but this is not The Metaphorically Resonant Assignment. It's The Art Assignment," Sarah's co-host and husband John Green protests after Paulson and Robbins' border-crossing and definition-bending artwork is introduced. "Why is that art?"

"People have been arguing for a long time that art doesn't have to be an object or material. It can be something like Roy Ascott said: triggers for experiences... The definition [for art] has broadened." Sarah explains.

It certainly has. Sarah traveled across the country to interview Paulson and Robbins in New York for the web series, and is excited to visit more creative spaces. "I think for lesser known art hubs, Kansas City has a good cool art scene, Minneapolis has a great art scene, and there are places, of course, all over the country," she told HuffPost Arts, "and I'm really looking forward to continuing to discover new places."

Each stop will include an artist and an "assignment", one that viewers will be encouraged to attempt themselves. The assignments will be diverse: some in the future might delve into more traditional forms, but at least one will include the making of a GIF.

But are GIFs really art? Will they one day find their place in museums? This question made the former curator laugh. "I'm sure that an animated GIF has been shown in a museum already, but I think that the younger generation, as they grow up, maybe the distinctions between these mediums, like a video and a GIF and a photo, I think those will be less distinct and people will be more comfortable."

John, at least, has been convinced. He's already scheduled his "meet in the middle" masterpiece for this week, when he'll trudge through the snow and slush of Indianapolis to see a familiar face in a wholly unfamiliar backyard.

The art world might be changing, and only for the more exciting.



  • 1 Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss"
    Obviously you are a romantic, one who dreams of traveling the world, eating fine foods and probably falling in love with an opera singer. Or, you're just attracted to shiny things like gold, and you owned too many college dorm posters.
  • 2 Vincent van Gogh's "Starry Night"
    You are a quiet intellectual who enjoys spending nights in... gazing out windows perhaps? You are exhausted with the use of the term "introvert." You may or may not be pursuing an unrequited love interest. And the object of that love interest is probably sunflowers.
  • 3 Edvard Munch's "The Scream"
    "Laid back" is not a term people would use to describe you. You can often be seen finishing work in the wee hours of the night, complaining to friends by daylight that you're "so busy" and "stressed." You're making this face right now, aren't you?
  • 4 Frida Kahlo's Portraits (Any of Them)
    apn Photo/Lilli Strauss
    You have extravagant style, a dominant speaking voice and an impetuous attitude overall. You utter the words "Why Not?" more than the average individual. If faced with the decision of which pet to buy, your brain goes straight to monkey.
  • 5 Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa"
    You've read too many thrillers that sensationalize art history, so much so that you've embarked upon your own quest to solve the mystery of this woman's smirk. This is, therefore, not the first time you've gazed upon her face today. We fear your undeterred resolve.
  • 6 Jean-Michel Basquiat's "Dustheads"
    Mainstream [insert anything here] is just not for you. Your friends consider you a source of information for things indie, alternative and artsy. You make a lot of mixed tapes. And your next choice for favorite artwork would have been anything by Keith Haring. Well done, you.
  • 7 Georgia O'Keeffe's "Pink Tulip"
    Your desert island check list: a good book, a strong cup of tea and an iPod stocked with a few hours of classical music. Or just this painting. This painting would do.
  • 8 Jackson Pollock's "Number 19"
    You thrive in chaos. You eat while driving, read magazines backwards and need to have at least one layer of clutter around the house to feel comfortable. But hey, it works.
  • 9 Salvador Dali's "The Persistence of Memory"
    Photo Sean Gallup/Getty Images
    You are the type of person who feels very comfortable sharing vivid details from your slightly horrific dreams to the chagrin of every single one of your friends. You have inhaled. You have exhaled. And then you repeated the process a couple times for good measure.
  • 10 Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Screenprints
    Your biggest secret: You've more than once contemplated a singing career because, hey, your voice sounds really good echoing through the halls of empty staircases.
  • 11 Hieronymus Bosch's "The Garden of Earthly Delights"
    Oddball, horse of a different color, strange bird. There are more than a few phrases to describe the special brand of "you." But you don't care. Because you're too busy examining the 50 shades of crazy happening in this painting! Amiright?
  • 12 Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain"
    You're a contrarian with a quick wit. If Magritte's "Ceci n'est pas une pipe (This is not a pipe)" was on this list, you would have picked that. In fact, you pick that anyway.
  • 13 Katsushika Hokusai's "The Great Wave off Kanagawa"
    Because who doesn't love a good early 19th century woodprint? Seriously, everyone loves this artwork, they just do.
  • 14 Cindy Sherman's Self Portraits
    PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty Images
    You have muttered the word "obvious" about 13 times throughout the course of reading this list. You love Cindy, but she's not even your first choice for favorite contemporary artist.
  • 15 Damien Hirst's "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living"
    AP Photo/Matt Dunham
    You've never been to a museum. But you do have a morbid fascination with animals in vitrines.
  • 16 Barbara Kruger's "We Don't Need Another Hero"
    (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
    You're reading this list from the study room of your college humanities department. Your coffee mug features either the visage of Notorious RBG or reads "eschew obfuscation."
  • 17 Kara Walker's "A Subtlety"
    (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
    You either enjoy massively popular art shows in Williamsburg, regardless of the content, because, well, this makes for a great 'gram. OR you are acutely aware of the surreal history hidden behind this 75-foot long sculpture and, for the record, hate selfies.
  • 18 Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Rooms
    (Photo credit should read KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images)
    Polka dots, need we say more?
  • 19 Banksy's "Riot Green"
    (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
    Go home, friend, you're drunk.