How to enjoy public art
In the age of the Instagrammable large-scale installation, Umbereen Inayet, Toronto's Nuit Blanche Programming Supervisor, shares how to get the most out of an exhibition.
1) FIND THE STORY. “Everything is about storytelling. When I was working in therapy with clients [Inayet is also a social worker], I was really interested in narrative therapy because I find that when you’ve gone through something, it’s easier to talk about it when you’re telling stories. Now when I work with artists, I realize that they’re telling stories—whether that’s through music, songwriting, painting a picture or creating a conceptual piece.”
2) APPRECIATE THE EFFORT THAT WENT INTO IT. “Death of the Sun, the work I made with Director X [for outdoor art show Nuit Blanche in Toronto], took about two years. He does music videos [for, like, everyone—from Drake to Riri to Bieber], so he’s got storytelling down. We started workshopping ideas, and he said, ‘What about a solar system?’—he wanted people to feel how small they are in relation to this gigantic universe. I kept pushing him, asking why. He said he wanted to create a piece that brings people together. So I asked, ‘What’s the most important part of the universe?’ He said, ‘The sun.’ Then I asked, ‘What’s happening to the sun?’ And he said, ‘What if the sun dies?’ That’s the artwork! That back and forth took about six months, with some intense tests to our friendship, and then a year to create, produce and install the work.” (Drake later took it on the European leg of his Boy Meets World tour.)
3) IT’S OKAY IF YOU DON’T GET IT. “When you put art in the public realm, you’re going to have the people who have read the artist’s statement, people who like the festivity and the community aspect of it and people who are struck by it but aren’t sure why. That’s all good.”
This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of ELLE Canada.