Collage Talks: Yusuf Ali Hayat

What: If the future is to be worth anything — 2020 South Australian Artist Survey
Where: ACE Open
When: 12 September – 12 December
Who: A whole lot of South Australia’s best artist, check them out here

Photo: Sam Roberts

“Today’s been a good day, it’s been a long time coming.”

Over the course of the last few months, Yusuf Ali Hayat has been busy. Emerging out of a SALA where he was showing paintings at praxis ARTSPACE and drawings at FELTspace, we chat with him part way through his install at ACE Open, where he’s working on an installation that’s been one and a half years in the making.

Yusuf has been working with ideas around migrant narratives and experiences of cultural, racial, and ethnic difference over some time. With this in mind, the events of the last six months have given him a lot to think about.

“It’s hard to watch what’s happening in the world. It’s also surprising to watch Australia in how quickly people move on. Things like death in custody, the age of juvenile detention; it felt like there was a momentum around that, but then it shifted… They’re things that need to be on the agenda, but they need to stay on the agenda.”

Yusuf explains that in our homes we are likely to be familiar, wear our own clothes, speak our own languages. But what he is exploring in this installation is how we navigate public, shared spaces. Yusuf’s new work at ACE Open is about finding new ways to say things and new ways to get along better.

“Behind it all is a sense of finding different ways to communicate and live with each other. Not just cohabitation, but cooperation, collaboration, communication. Not just to tolerate each other, but to actively work together. Not try to be the same person, but try to find a way to do all of those things.”

Yusuf has created a space that you can take what you want from: “that’s where art can be even more, because it opens up space for interpretation and imagination.”

The most important part of the work is the opportunity of encounter, both a stranger and the artwork. Yusuf gives us space to consider who is a stranger? Who do we make strange? And how do we encounter them in public spaces?

But, if nothing else, it’s an immersive, aesthetic experience. Yusuf wants to evoke curiosity in people, to leave you with a feeling of joy and wonder, a feeling of enchantment.

With the ups and downs of changing regulations, it feels surreal to be counting down to ACE Open’s If the future is to be worth anything. Yusuf emphasises how amazing it is to be here. “They planned this in March, not knowing the landscape or how things were going to look or looking to Victoria more recently and thinking this could be us tomorrow. But here we are.”

And here we are! If the future is to be worth anything opens on 12 September and will run a whole four months through to December. ACE Open have also recently announced their public programming, you can check that out and more details about the exhibition all here on their website.

— Natalie Carfora

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