Modern art according to ‘uoftdrizzy’

Creator of U of T's fake-Drake Instagram account discusses upcoming feature at the Contact Photography Festival
Noor Naqaweh/The Varsity
Noor Naqaweh/The Varsity

BY NOW you’ve probably seen ‘uoftdrizzy’ on Instagram, but starting May 1, you’ll get to see the locally-viral Instagram account as a public art installation for the twentieth anniversary of the Contact Photography Festival, one of the world’s biggest photography events. The account uoftdrizzy rose to Instagram fame through its edited photographs, which depict Drake as a UTSC student. The photos are accompanied by captions that turn Drake’s lyrics into accounts of U of T student life, specifically lamenting things like grades and student debt. 

“I wanted to do something creative and funny and just loved the absurdity of the idea of Drake being a UTSC student,” says the anonymous artist behind uoftdrizzy. The account has garnered almost 17,000 followers, including Drake himself.

Posters of uoftdrizzy’s Instagram posts — including new pictures taken at the St. George Campus — will be posted across U of T’s downtown campus throughout May. According to the project’s curator, Bethea Arielle, the goal of the poster-sized installations is to “explore the concept of an analog feed,” and have it stand out among the “noise” around campus.

Arielle decided to include uoftdrizzy in the festival because she saw it as an opportunity to give “a platform to an emerging artist.” Ultimately, she wanted something that students could connect to. Arielle hopes the relatability and familiarity of the installations will help students that are intimidated by the art world to develop an interest in art. She hopes the posters’ presence around campus “will help bridge the gap of art appreciation and encourage creative expression in the student population.”   

Instagram as a platform for modern art

The public art installations of uoftdrizzy are igniting a discussion regarding the relationship between social media and the contemporary art world. “Remember when Instagram was just a site where people would post filtered photos of their meals? I think [it’s] moved way beyond that. Social media allows people to challenge old-school ideas of what art should look like,” says the artist behind uoftdrizzy.

“[Social media is] a pretty new style of exhibition, a new way of experiencing art,” agrees Blair Swann, art editor of The Hart House Review. Swann uses Richard Prince and Amalia Ulman as examples of Instagram artists that are changing “the way social media and contemporary art intersect.” 

Swann also notes his own critique of the fake-Drake Instagram. “[I] see a bunch of pictures of campus with Drake stock images crappily photoshopped in,” he says. “[The] critic in me says there’s no way anyone can mistake this for art.” 

“I’d classify [uoftdrizzy] as more a humorist rather than an artist,” says Tobias Williams, the curator of Vulgar Era, an art exhibition hosted at Toronto’s Xpace Cultural Centre. “However, there’s a definite similarity between the methodology of [uoftdrizzy] and the way that an artist creates work. They are both driven by commitment to concept and perspective, as well as a certain amount of open-endedness.” 

“Art is often about challenging perceptions, so I wholeheartedly believe uoftdrizzy deserves to be recognized as an artist,” says Arielle. She likens the art world to a continually transforming “hierarchy.” 

On the other hand, uoftdrizzy notes that it’s perfectly fine if people don’t take their Instagram seriously. The artist was initially surprised that contact decided to use their Instagram feed, since contact traditionally features “high-art.” Nonetheless, uoftdrizzy sees this as an example of how the art world is transforming. 

“[People] want to be exclusive about who’s allowed in their little art club, and the reality is, art doesn’t belong to a single group of individuals and their version of it. My [response] to them is to be more open-minded about what they consider art to be and how to see artists,” says uoftdrizzy. “And if they’re still mad, that’s okay, I’m going to keep creating. I’m not asking for their approval.”

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