Internationally celebrated Canadian rapper Drake is no stranger to the artworld.
In October, he was on the cover of W’s Art Issue. In May, he curated an exhibition (and an exhibition playlist) for Sotheby’s in New York. In 2014, he shot #artselfies with James Turrell’s installations at LACMA—and then, more recently, released a Hotline Bling video that takes place in a very Turrell-esque light cube.
Yet Drake has, to date, been underplayed in the realm of official public art.
All that will change May 1st, when Toronto’s Contact Photography Festival—the largest photography event in the world—launches its annual series of public-art installations.
This year, Contact’s public installations include a project based on the @UofTDrizzy Instagram feed. Followed by Drake himself, as well as some 15,000 others, @UofTDrizzy is known for its humorous, Photoshopped visions of Drake living the student life on the University of Toronto at Scarborough campus.
With each pic, @UofTDrizzy’s anonymous creator publishes captions that offer an unglamorous, student-loan-funded riff on Drake’s lyrics.
For instance, an image of sweatshirt-clad Drake striding across a snowy UTSC campus is captioned “I got a decent set of classroom manners / And a work-study that fills up any empty schedule or planner. / In love with the profs not caught up deducting marks for minor grammar.”
To that post, Drake himself replied “Put a jacket on @uoftdrizzy it’s freezing.”
Other images from the @UofTDrizzy feed include Drake waiting for the 38 Highland Creek bus (“tryin’ to get to campus, waiting for the 38. / My studygroup’s mad cuz im gon’ be late.”); Drake trying to register for summer courses (“Selecting summer courses, gettin’ waitlisted pretty hard. / not too many options, I knew this from the start.”); and using a UTSC bank machine (“I want that OSAP money, that grant money”).
Sabrina Maltese, artistic project manager for the Contact Photography Festival, says that the public-art project based on the feed has a lighter side and a heavier side.
“It’s definitely a humorous project,” Maltese tells Canadian Art, “But I think it also speaks to larger issues about our generation’s or society’s obsession with images of celebrities—and appropriating their images.”
As Maltese explains, Contact’s public-art project—created in conjunction with the still-anonymous @UofTDrizzy author and with University of Toronto masters in museums studies student Bethea Arielle—will see 11-by-17-inch posters printed of selected @UofTDrizzy posts. These posters will then be disseminated throughout the University of Toronto’s downtown St. George campus.
New posters will be released throughout the month-long May project, with selected @UofTDrizzy posts created especially for the project based on recent photographs taken at the downtown university campus.
tryin’ to get to campus, waiting for the 38. My studygroup’s mad cuz im gon’ be late. #utsc #uoft #scarborough #toronto #stc #38 #highlandcreek #drake #TTC #ovo #6ix #WhoGoestoSchoolOnSunday #ImFailingSZN #StudySessionTurnUP #ttczone
A photo posted by Drake (@uoftdrizzy) on Apr 12, 2015 at 3:08pm PDT
“Instagram is so pervasive in our society,” says Maltese, “So it is funny on the one hand, but I think it speaks to broader issues of how we interact with images today.”
The @UofTDrizzy project is just one of many celebrating Contact’s 20th anniversary. The project was seeded when Contact reached out to longtime friend and U of T museum studies director Matthew Brower for suggestions of students who might want to be involved in curating anniversary projects. Brower made the connection with Bethea Arielle, and Arielle with the @UofTDrizzy author.
“I am fascinated by the emergence of new information pathways and the immense reach and influence of pop culture,” Arielle says via email. “@UofTDrizzy on Instagram was an interesting concept for me because it has a large following, currently over 16,000 followers, yet the artist is completely anonymous and is an unlikely candidate to be recognized by the art world because social media is fairly new medium that is beginning to be explored in more traditional contexts such as galleries and festivals.”
“The fact that @UofTDrizzy features Drake was also important to me,” writes Arielle, “Since Drake has been hugely influential in developing the cultural landscape of Toronto by maintaining his loyalty to the city, encouraging local artists, and developing the resources to pursue excellence in music without having to relocate to the U.S.”
Several iterations were explored before Arielle and Maltese settled on the 11-by-17 format.
“The project went through many forms before it went to this postering [angle],” says Maltese, “but postering is the best format for it because the images will infiltrate the walls of the U of T campus as they do online. It’s kind of a mimicry of the Internet—you won’t be able to avoid it, hopefully.”
Here are some more images from the @UofTDrizzy feed:
Ever since I left the campus, you, you, you You and me we just don’t get along Making noise in Quiet Study when you know its wrong. Accessing private lab spaces where you don’t belong. #utsc #uoft #toronto #scarborough #hotlinebling #whenmyessayoutlinebling #beardgang
A photo posted by Drake (@uoftdrizzy) on Oct 20, 2015 at 6:36am PDT
A photo posted by Drake (@uoftdrizzy) on Mar 15, 2015 at 4:06pm PDT
A photo posted by Drake (@uoftdrizzy) on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:21pm PDT
Selecting summer courses, gettin’ waitlisted pretty hard. not too many options, I knew this from the start. #UTSCProblems #utsc #uoft #toronto #scarborough #finalsSZN #6ix #drake #ifyourereadingthisyoureonthewaitlist #ROSIisilluminati
A photo posted by Drake (@uoftdrizzy) on Apr 6, 2015 at 9:08am PDT
Dont treat me different cuz im famous ????⚡⚡⚡⚡⚡⚡⚡⚡⚡⚡⚡⚡⚡⚡⚡⚡⚡ #ROSIisVoldermort #TuitionIsLowerAtHogwarts #OvOHedwig #OvORon #OvOHermione #OvOSCSU #AllMyProfsAreSlytherine #ExamSZN #WhenTheMinistryOfMagicWontTransferYourCredits #YoureAWizardDrizzy #ImAWot? #aWizard
A photo posted by Drake (@uoftdrizzy) on Apr 9, 2015 at 12:17pm PDT
But tonight me and my friends we got classes to attend. We got classes to attend. ????????#???? #uoft #utsc #drake #drizzy #wattba #future #utscfeministstrong #uoftfeminist #toronto #scarborough #6ix #vaw #feministSZN #solidaritySZN
A photo posted by Drake (@uoftdrizzy) on Sep 21, 2015 at 12:25pm PDT
A photo posted by Drake (@uoftdrizzy) on Sep 25, 2015 at 11:19am PDT
How ’bout you go and get the candy in that costume that you borrowed. make the most out of tonight and worry bout the lab report tomorrow. #utsc #uoft #utm #toronto #scarborough #rtz #ovo #halloween #pumpkin #candy #drake #friday #6ix #butreallytho #itsnotevenhalloweenyet
A photo posted by Drake (@uoftdrizzy) on Oct 30, 2015 at 11:19am PDT
I want that OSAP money, that grant money. I want financial aid to to pour out some UTAPS for me. And tell me how they hate when they one semester apart from me. ???????????? . #utsc #uoft #scarborough #toronto #drake #ovo #6ix #dreamsmoneycanbuy #6godiswatching #poorstudentcashflow #utsctrashflow #nofridayclassflow #librariansgottoomuchsassflow