The One That Got Away – Oliver Blank | The Art Assignment | PBS Digital Studios

The One That Got Away - Oliver Blank | The Art Assignment | PBS Digital Studios

[MUSIC PLAYING] Today we're in Columbus,
Indiana outside of a 1954 building designed by the
great Eero Saarinen that used to house a
bank but now, it's a conference center owned
by the company Cummins. It's here in the
former vault that we're going to be meeting with
composer Oliver Blank who's in town for an exhibition. Oliver was born in England
but lives in several cities, including San Francisco,
New Orleans, and Helsinki. He makes symphonic
cinematic music, sound toys, and public
installations that seek to give you alternative
and surprising experiences with the places you inhabit. I got to know Oliver's
work because of a project he did in Indianapolis
with the writer James A. Reeves called The
Bureau of Manufactured History. For this, he made a 45 minute
composition incorporating accounts collected from
city residents that were submitted by telephone. The assignment
this week is going to be a little bit different. Instead of asking you to
go off and create something on your own, you're all going to
collaborate to make something. Oliver is going to
ask you to contribute to a new composition. So let's go talk to him and
see what he has in mind. Hello. I'm Oliver Blank. And this is your art assignment. [MUSIC PLAYING] We were invited to Indianapolis
by the We Are City folks to undertake a residency. And so we had a few constraints
that we had to work within. It had to be about cities. It probably should be
about Indianapolis. And also we were told we have
a room, a space you can use where you can show something. So we agreed, well, we
have to build a thing and the thing has
to go in the room. We thought about how
can we not only just present a generic
history of Indianapolis or the history of
Indianapolis, but maybe a manufactured history. One that we could make and
contribute to ourselves and invite the community
at large and the citizens at large to contribute too. So we formed an
organization or an office in Indianapolis, which is The
Bureau of Manufactured History. And so the first
thing that we did was produce these
gorgeous little cards. You might be given a card in
the street by James or even by a friend. And it might say, run to a high
point and call this number. And on the phone line,
you're asked a question, such as what are you afraid
of most in Indianapolis. And you'll leave a message
and answer that question. So we collated loads
of these phone calls. And then we put
that all together in one place, which
was the first desk of the former office of The
Bureau of Manufactured History. So we put it all in this desk. And the idea is that
the desk is really a few different components. It's a desk with a chair,
the soul of Indianapolis, and a media player as well. Your assignment is to call the
number that's on the screen now and leave a message
saying what you would say to the one who got away. It could be a question or
it could be a statement. Maybe you just want to
tell them something. Just call the number
and leave a message. And you can also go and ask
a friend or a family member, brother, sister, mom, dad. Or even just some
random guy at a shop. Call the number, pass
the phone over to them, and have them leave a message. And the question
is, what would you say to the one who got away? This reminds me a lot
of PostSecret, you know? Frank Warren's art project
where people send in postcards with their secrets on them? Right. Anonymously. But some people have
done it not anonymously, like Tracy Emin's
Everyone I Have Ever Slept With where she embroidered
the names of everyone she's ever slept with to
the inside of a tent. What I like about
this is that we're kind of giving Oliver material. This isn't like previous
art assignments. Like, we're all in it together. We're all making
something together that he's going to form. Right. It's indicative of more recent
trends in contemporary art and that's participatory art. It's art that requires you. Since the '90s,
Yoko Ono has been making wish trees,
inspired by trees she saw as a child in Japan
in the courtyards of Buddhist temples, where people would
write out a wish on thin paper and tie it to a branch. She said they look like white
flowers blossoming from afar. And she's created her own wish
trees all around the world, collecting over
a million wishes. Rivane Neuenschwander
recalls a tradition where visitors to a
church in Salvador, Brazil make a wish as a ribbon is
knotted around their wrist or at the front gate. It's said that the wish comes
true when the ribbon falls off. For her work, I Wish
Your Wish, Neuenschwander printed others
wishes onto ribbons and asked visitors to take
one as long as they also left behind their own wish. Then there's Candy
Chang's project where she turned the wall
of an house in New Orleans into a place where people were
asked to complete the sentence, before I die, I want to. Within a day, it was filled. And since then, more
than 500 similar walls have been created
all over the world. Oliver is asking you to
contribute in a similar way. To reflect upon
a very particular wish so that together
we might create a work that reflects on the
past, but also the future. I love this very
pure, simple question that deals with the
one that got away. If you should've
told them something, what was it that you
should've told them? Or if you screwed up
and you're saying sorry, like, how did you screw up? What are you sorry for? Why are you sorry? Why is this so important? I'm really interested in that. Once we get past the I
miss you, I love you, or I want to be with you, or
maybe it's not about a person, it's about a thing. An opportunity for a job. A change of career that you,
years later, feel like that could've change my life. If you could now call up someone
and ask for that opportunity again or change that, what would
you, what would you tell them? I want to know what the thing
was and what the context was, and what you would try
and do about it right now. We'll wait a certain
amount of time to collect a certain
volume of material. And then it'll be
a case of going through all of these
recordings, editing them. I don't want anything
personally identifying, so if you name
names, I'll edit it out last names and
that kind of thing. I'll create a recording. You'll submit stuff and we'll
create a piece of sound art together that people
can listen to. [MUSIC PLAYING] I think we should
call the number and leave our messages
for the one who got away. OLIVER BLANK (ON PHONE):
Hello, this is Oliver Blank, and here is your art assignment. I'm really sorry
about the jerky thing I said about the power bill the
last time that we spoke, where you wanted me to pay
half the power bill and I was a real jerk about it. I feel bad about that. Gah. I just, I can't do it. You're not going to do it? I'm going to do it. I'll do it later. But I have to think about it. I really want to
take this seriously. The result will be
better if I'm like really genuine and on my own. This is, you have this
thing, a private life. I find it very strange. [MUSIC PLAYING]


  • Yan Amorim says:

    the more yoko i discover the more i like her

  • Hayden Corr says:

    Is it too late to call?

  • Nadia Rayhanna says:

    I'm very curious to see the result of this one! Can we already see (listen to) it? 😃

  • Noelle McLaughlin says:

    Can we still call this number or has too much time passed to participate?

  • maithili gupta says:

    this was such an interesting assignment.  also, I'm curious with end result 😮 please please upload?

  • Valentine Bo says:

    I think this process of making art very fascinating. The art nowadays is no longer a question of technique or of painting skills or drawing or anything, it is just: you, as a human being, and the art. You are your material.

  • Leila Bathke says:

    Is there any time deadline? Can I do it today..?

  • L says:

    You were my best friend
    In the whole world
    You started laughing with them
    And I when I tripped you weren't there to catch me
    I left
    And when we met again you weren't the same
    I was disappointed

  • terralynn9 says:

    If anyone's watching this now and thinking you're too late – try anyway. The number's still working in February 2015…

  • terralynn9 says:

    I'm feeling very grateful because I'm having a hard time coming up with anything 'that got away'. I have surprisingly few regrets so far.

  • Katy Hopkins says:

    When are we going to see the results of this assignment?

  • TJ Southam says:

    I did it! Documented some of what I said and thought here:

    Thanks for a cool Art Assignment! First one I participated in. Might try to do another over the holiday break.

  • esther says:

    A recreation of this "Before I Die" project was recently (ironically i think pretty much about the time this video went live) put up at my Uni (in Frankfurt, Germany) and it's really interesting to hear where it came from 🙂 Also I love this art assignment, if only international calls weren't so expensive and if only i knew how to put my thoughts/feelings into words. 

  • oaueo says:

    Is this assignment still open? I'm still thinking about what to say. If so, any idea how much longer we have?

  • Xenolilly says:

    Just called a little while ago. I was totally non-coherent and brief. It was a surprisingly emotional experience.

  • tuns 2888 says:

    SO.. i CALLED #theartassignment  

  • abeta201 says:

    That was really quite cathartic. Thank you for the chance to relieve me from the past!

  • saraaahmazing says:

    I left a message. I hope it went through… I was pretty nervous because, of course, I was thinking of the individual it was meant for. The first time I called, as soon as it beeped, it hung up. So I had to call and do it again. This is what I said:
    You always wondered why I left.
    It’s because I used to think you were as deep as an ocean
    and then I realized I was drowning.
    I thought I loved you because you were broken
    But then I realized it wasn’t my job to fix you.
    But to fix myself.

  • Alina says:

    Is it too late to do this?

  • Laura Arbetman says:

    Done! I love this type of art. 

    Oliver – Do you plan on documenting your reaction/others reactions when listening to the messages? I think it could be a really cool thing to film the raw reactions. idk just an idea. 

    Thank you for doing this! it's honestly a really awesome idea and taking part in it was amazing

  • EverybodyQuins says:

    I knew exactly what to say and who I wanted to say it to. I had never said the words out loud and I was in tears before I even started

  • Tim Brown says:

    I called and unlike an art piece that I created and felt it was completed this assignment has my heartfelt message (my Part) but I am now feeling anxious that my effort will not be included in the final Oliver Blank message (His part). This time I am feeling awkwardly expectant. It is like getting up your courage and just hoping you get to play in the BIG game.   

  • Lizzie Martin says:

    Is this internationally available? 

  • maryam ahmed says:

    I called The One That Got Away and left my message! Such a great project, I'm sure the end result will be epic!

  • XxTheBobBear says:

    How long will people be able to participate in this?

  • Lauren Synowiec Mathewson says:

    I think it's a nice challenge to say the thing to someone you haven't had a chance to. I found after leaving my message it felt foolish, like are those still my thoughts or just the memory of the thoughts that were once there. When given the chance to actually say what I have wanted to, it's hard to hear it out loud since those thoughts are not ones I can always voice freely. Great art assignment, it really made me think and reflect on my own feelings.

  • Brittany SSP says:

    I love the last line of this video.  "You have this thing, a private life, that I find strange."  I like that it harkens back to "The Yeti" who we never saw…obviously I don't know Sarah or John but it feels like I do after hearing from/about them for so long.  Sarah's reluctance to do this quickly on camera (and maybe in front of John) just seems authentic somehow.  I respect that- in this world where we put everything on out there on social media (which isn't always bad), it's nice to see someone hesitate before pulling the public trigger.  I like the idea of private thoughts.  So, thanks for representing that here Sarah.  

  • Brooke Vaillancourt says:

    Just did it… That was a rough one, I guess I used it as practice for something I should really say soon though

  • Emily L says:

    Just left a message. Was super emotional for me  :'(

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