Five Favorite Works of Art with Mike Rugnetta | The Art Assignment | PBS Digital Studios

Five Favorite Works of Art with Mike Rugnetta | The Art Assignment | PBS Digital Studios

SARAH GREEN: This episode
is supported by Prudential. This is Mike Rugnetta. Hi there. SARAH GREEN: This
is what his set looks like when he’s not in it. It’s pretty cool. This is his favorite
item on set. His friend made it
for him by hand. He hosts PBS Idea Channel,
which he describes like this. It’s a YouTube
show where we apply philosophical and critical
concepts to things in the pop culture canon. SARAH GREEN: It’s a
really great channel, you should check it out. Anyway, to the
point of the show. These are five of my
favorite works of art. “Private Parts”
by Robert Ashley. SARAH GREEN: So
“Private Parts” is a 1977 albums by Robert
Ashley containing two parts of his larger
opera, “Perfect Lives.” They’re these
really simple stories about everyday situations that
are told just very poetically, but also weirdly very simply. And just the way Robert
actually pairs his language with the music, it’s
really effective, even though it’s
also very simple. SARAH GREEN: We can’t
play the album for you because copyright, but Mike
says your first time hearing it is kind of like this. You know like when you pick
up a cup that has liquid in it, and you think it has
one kind of liquid in it but it actually has another. And you just take
a really deep swig, and then this weird
thing happens? That happened when When I
first listened to this record. I could feel this part of my
brain go, oh, your expectation was completely wrong,
and you no previous basis for what you’re
currently experiencing. SARAH GREEN: Mike only listens
to this album on vinyl. I will put it on,
and I will sit there, and it will be the
thing that I do. Like watching a movie,
or watching a TV show. SARAH GREEN: I’m not sold. Why should I give this a listen? This is actually a
really good, I think, entry point into
experimental music. Because it has a
lot of the hallmarks of experimental music,
but it is actually, I think, really kind
of easy to listen to. After you get past
that first layer, there’s a lot more to dive into. And you can spend a
lot of time with it, which I think is another
facet of experimental music. It repays investment. “Concret PH” by Iannis Xenakis. SARAH GREEN:
Technically speaking, this is a piece of music. Though some people might
say that is being charitable. That is very short, I think it’s
less than three minutes long. It is basically just the
sound of coals crackling. SARAH GREEN: He first
heard it in college through his experimental
music professor. Who introduced me to the
idea of musique concret, which was the first use of
prerecorded nonmusical sounds in a musical setting. SARAH GREEN: A lot of people
might say this about the work. You could easily
make this today in 25 minutes using stuff
that comes on your computer. SARAH GREEN: But to the
naysayers, Mike would respond, There are two possible answers. The first is, OK. That it’s all right for
people to not like things, especially things like this. I recognize this is a
challenging piece of music. But that I would also
say, to a certain degree, people like Xenakis
and his contemporaries allowed us to do things
that are currently happening in popular music. It just took us 50 years
to catch up to their ideas. And so to point at
his work and say like, what’s the point of this? Is to kind of ask what
the point of a lot of the adventurous noise,
for lack of a better word, is in modern music. Basically anything
by Agnes Martin. SARAH GREEN: Put simply, Mike
describes her work like this. MIKE RUGNETTA: A
lady draws lines on a canvas mostly
with a pencil. Sometimes they are dots. SARAH GREEN: He most
recently saw her work at the LA County Museum of Art. It’s great if you have
a chance to go see it, you should spend all day. SARAH GREEN: I agree, you
should see it if you can. It’s currently at the
Guggenheim in New York. And if you do see it,
Mike has some tips. I think the right kind of
mindset for going into an Agnes Martin show is the
mindset that you are going to almost invade her artwork. Stand as close as
you possibly can and look at all of the little
details, and then stand back and look at the painting
and try to figure out how all those things come together. And I think that’s almost
like the little puzzle to try to solve. That you’re going to look
at all the little parts, you’re going to inspect all of
the tiny little differences, and then see, as you slowly
step away from the painting, how they disappear. And think about why
that’s cool, or important, or boring and stupid, if
you end up not liking it. SARAH GREEN: Hey Mike, it
look super boring on screen. I think it’s super important
to see Agnes Martin in person. I think for the same reason
it’s really important see Rocco’s in person. That there’s a
lot of detail that just isn’t captured
when you’re not standing in front of this thing. And a lot of them
are really big, and that’s the other part of it. That they just
have this presence. The “Hitchhiker’s Guide to
the Galaxy” series of novels by Douglas Adams. SARAH GREEN: If you haven’t
read them, here are the basics. A man who is evicted
from his planet and goes on great
adventures to the edges of the universe with a cast
of just incredible characters. SARAH GREEN: Mike first read
these books in middle school. They were both
interesting and funny. And that was the thing that
I had not experienced up until that point. They had a lot going on,
there were a lot of characters that I really liked, but
that I also tended to laugh. And I don’t know if I knew
that that was possible, especially in literature. SARAH GREEN: And he
didn’t stop reading them when he no longer
looked like this. And the reason that I return
to them over, and over, and over again is that they
are undeniably popular culture, but they also contain
really complex and deeply philosophical ideas. And these were a set of books
where I got to realize that, and I got to work through
the difficulty of it, but was also entertained
the whole time. SARAH GREEN: He’s learned
some important lessons from the books, including Being alien is
kind of relative. And that home is
essentially arbitrary. And I think that a lot of those
novels, a lot of those books sort of work through that
idea in as many different ways as you could. And I think that
Douglas Adams also had a lot of really interesting
ideas about what technology is, and how it works, and its
relationship to people and cultures. And he dove into so
many different corners of those concepts that stuff
I still pull from today. So this one’s a little weird. It is a specific Global
Threat punk rock show that I went to in the
basement of Emerson College, and I think it was 1999. SARAH GREEN: I think it’s
best if Mike explains it. MIKE RUGNETTA: At this
point, Global Threat had been around for probably
about maybe a year or two. I really loved them,
I loved their records. They were one of my
favorite punk rock bands. I was super psyched
to go see them. At this show I wore
my new leather jacket. And they played,
I had a great time in the mosh pit and everything. And as soon as
the show was done, the front man didn’t
exit the stage, he just stepped off of
it into the audience. His friend handed him a beer,
he turned around to the stage, opened the beer, and then just
watched the rest of the show. SARAH GREEN: And this
blew little Mike’s mind. Because it was in that moment
that I realized the distinction between creator, creative
artist, and audience member was one that I had made. And I had given it to them. And so to watch him just
completely eschew it and just transition seamlessly from
artist to audience member, I still think about it today. I probably think about
that show once a week. SARAH GREEN: Thanks, Mike. Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thank you for having me. This episode was
supported by Prudential. The time between
when people think they should start
saving for retirement and when they actually do
is known as the action gap. And according to a recent
survey conducted by Prudential, the average American starts
saving for retirement seven years later
than they think is best, which can cost
over $410,000 in a lifetime. Prudential also found
that 80% of Americans have never estimated how
much retirement may cost. One in three Americans
is not saving enough for their retirement,
and over half are not on track to maintain
their current standard of living when they retire. SARAH GREEN: Go to and see how the action gap affects you.

Dereck Turner

15 thoughts on “Five Favorite Works of Art with Mike Rugnetta | The Art Assignment | PBS Digital Studios

  1. obsessedandstuff says:

    that was so interesting ! the last one is my favorite 😀

  2. innocent_fugitive says:

    To oversimplify a bit, Hank and John give me new perspectives on things and Sara and Mike give me totally new things to think about. I never watch an episode of The Art Assignment without coming away a slightly different person which is scary, exciting and nourishing. Thank you so much for your thoughtful, rich perspective and bold compassion.
    Thanks to Mike for sharing, I knew you'd have some wild content and give me some new things to experience.
    Since I'm also a big fan of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy I wanted to add my perspective. For me, Adams had an amazing way of getting to the heart of science and technology, how they affect us and how they are affected by human nature. His thorough understanding of the concepts gives his explanations a timelessness and poignance that stays long after you've stopped laughing. Although, to be fair, I never really stop laughing.
    Thank you both for once again putting some new wrinkles in my brain.

  3. Mariana Espindola says:

    That was fun! And Mike is the cutest thing… 😍

  4. Maku L says:

    That's hot.

  5. Isik W. says:

    can you do one with abbi jacobson?

  6. dtape says:

    I really enjoy this series. I grew up in a household where art wasn't really present or enjoyed at a conscious level. Coming from that it's great to hear people share their relationship with art and express how it's affected them. I hope you guys do more of these.

  7. Kathy Fausett says:

    Some people love the crust—–I love the filling.

  8. Roman Riesen says:

    I have the exact same relation with douglas adams works! XD

  9. Trassel domedag says:


  10. Energy and Light says:

    It's here on youtube…

  11. Arr Ziz says:






  12. Arr Ziz says:

    To me 'Moondog' would be an appealing start to 'experimental like' music.

  13. minitumen says:

    PUH-lease! Make more of these. They are super interesting because they show you a small glimpse of a YT personality's mind, while still talking about art! It's perfect!!

  14. AudreyburntheHep says:

    This Episode was presented by pretentious.

  15. Emile Constance says:

    Mike seems like an affable, likable guy…but his list seems largely concerned with what might be considered "hip" or "cool," rather than with works of art that might have some aesthetic merit.  I understand the appeal of "hip," but it can lead one into a cul-de-sac of meaninglessness.  This is intended as constructive criticism, and not personal criticism.

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