If you are out and about in Santa Barbara over the next several weeks and you think you see an elephant, it’s not necessarily the DTs. “Light Elephant,” a 16-foot-tall inflatable white sculpture, is part of a multimedia art project that’s the brainchild of Iman Djouini, artist and professor at UCSB’s College of Creative Studies and Department of Art, and Jonathan Taube, artist/architectural designer. When I spoke with Djouini by Zoom on September 2, she acknowledged that the roll out of this project has been somewhat mysterious by intention, saying that “we don’t want to dictate what’s going on” with how people interpret the project. Expect to see the elephant at various sites over the next several weeks until it settles down for a nap in the gallery at the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara on September 22.
Part of the impetus for the project stems from a class that Djouini will be offering this fall through the College of Creative Studies. The class, Social Print Lab, examines the ways in which print and social media both capture and transform people’s attention to public spaces. By placing something — in this instance, an inflatable elephant — in various public spaces and allowing people time to photograph and respond to it, students will learn about how social networks operate and how they influence our perceptions. Djouini and Taube encourage everyone to follow #lightelephant and #lightelephantsb along with the main feed, @lightelephantsb, on Instagram in order to participate in the project.
Each week in September will be devoted to exploring a specific one of the following themes: Public Bodies, Public Relations, Public Spaces, and Public Histories. The project’s Instagram provides prompts that solicit reactions from individuals. For example, when the light elephant appeared at the Lobero Theatre, the prompt question turned on the theatrical tradition of the “ghost light,” and asked viewers to respond to the question, “who are you leaving a light on for?”