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Q&A: Artist Golboo Amani on her Public Reading performance piece

(Manolo Lugo)

(Manolo Lugo)

As part of the SummerWorks live art festival in Toronto next month, local interdisciplinary artist Golboo Amani will perform her piece titled Public Reading, in which she reads aloud to a group while walking through the city’s Queen West neighbourhood. Participants select the reading material from a small library the artist provides from her personal collection.

Quill & Quire spoke to Amani about the literary-based project and how it came to be.

What inspired this project? 

As a transit user I found that people in transit often take the opportunity to use reading as a way to shut themselves off from everything happening around them, and though I love watching people emotionally react to what they’re reading, I wondered what would that experience feel like if it was more public – what if we shared what we were reading with other trasit-goers? In the original iteration [in the Artist-Run Newsstand project] I invited people to participate by being read to out loud during their commute in rush hour. There were people who reacted really well by actively listening, and then there were people who felt it really disruptive to that space.

How did you select the books for this piece? 

I openly share that this collection comes from my personal library. So these are books that I have read, that I’m interested in, that have either been given to me or that I’ve collected in my lifetime. It’s happened that people have picked a book based on its title and were surprised by the content.

Most of the non-fiction is in the realm of feminist social justice, but includes things like disability justice and racial justice as well. These are things that are of personal interest to me. The fiction ranges from everything from The Little Prince and Mary Poppins to books geared toward adult readers.

What kinds of people have you interacted with or do you hope to interact with with Public Reading? 

It’s a really broad range. What it allows for and what I experience, because it’s engaging with community, is I’m always surprised by my interactions with people. One of the follks I read to was entirely illiterate, and so this became an opportunity to share literature with this person. And then in another case, I read to a librarian who worked at the CBC archives. I also read to a group of children who were going to school in the morning.

What do you think is the significance of reading aloud? 

It’s a way of sharing, and it’s a way of sharing an act that we often do privately. A lot of my artistic practice is based around alternative pedagogy and accessibility, and I feel like this is a way of sharing the things that I have come to learn through the books that I’ve interacted with. It’s like spreading the word in a way, casting a wider net or exposing a new audience to some of the texts I’ve had access to – I’m a university educated person and obviously the literature I have access to is really different from people who haven’t been able to enter the academic field. But it doesn’t mean that it’s inaccessible to them in its language. I find that when we read out loud, there are some people who absorb that auditory information better than through any other means. For someone who’s illiterate, like the participant I mentioned, they may not be able to read it, but they can certainly hear the words and absorb that information in a different kind of way.

Public Reading will take place Aug. 5 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Aug. 9 from 5 p.m. to 8p.m., and Aug 12 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., starting outside the Theatre Centre at 1115 Queen St. W.