A new interactive art installation in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall pays tribute to people — those leaving this world and those entering it — in the recognizable form of train station arrivals and departures boards.
The artwork, fittingly named Arrivals + Departures, is the work of the artist duo YARA + DAVINA. Composed of Yara El-Sherbini and Davina Drummond, the duo is based between the U.K. and U.S.
Arrivals + Departures invites the public to share the names of those important to them: people who have arrived and departed the world, as a way of celebrating life and commemorating death. Names and stories can be shared through an online portal and the names displayed can be seen both online and in-person.
Unlike most statues and memorials where the public does not have a say in who is honored, Drummond said that the duo wanted to create public art that functioned for the public — where the people could decide whose names get venerated.
“We were trying to address how we can think about arrivals and departures in a different way to open up meaningful conversations about life and death, the power of naming, public art, agency — all of these things in one simple act,” El-Sherbini said.
First premiering at Somerset House in London during September 2020, Arrivals + Departures made its U.S. debut in collaboration with the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) to kick off BAM’s Spring 2021 season.
BAM Artistic Director, David Binder, said that this season, BAM has put together art that will transform “some of Brooklyn’s most beloved and distinctive sites into stunning stages.”
With its historic location in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall, El-Sherbini explained this deliberate choice of setting, as the hall represents a place for civic engagement and political activism.
“For us and these boards, as well as naming everyday people, it can also be a platform for political protest and social activism,” El-Sherbini said.
While members of the public can engage in subversion of the boards, Drummond and El-Sherbini have also organized a series of “digital takeovers,” where an organization or person is invited to take over the boards for a day to share the names and stories of their approach.
Past takeovers include one that was done by community organizer Rima Hamid, who recognized the names of the 104 victims of the Khartoum Massacre in 2019 in Sudan. This year, the duo has arranged for a few immigrant rights advocacy groups to take over the artwork.
In conjunction with the public art installation, BAM will be hosting The Power of Naming, a free virtual conversation with YARA + DAVINA and special guests. The event will take place on Tuesday, March 23, and will reflect on Arrivals + Departures and explore the power of naming, both personally and in respect to public memorials.
Arrivals + Departures will be located on Joralemon Street until April 11, 2021, and the artist duo encourages the public to submit names and stories, as well as share photos of or with the exhibit, using the hashtag #arrivalsanddepartures.