White Night 2010

Posted on October 4th, 2010 No comments. The post is really that bad, huh?

I know I’ve advocated imbibing a trifle before heading out for the the evening, but I’m gonna start prefacing that with, “except not to the point of getting shit-faced”.

Weaving between teenagers hardly capable of holding their drink let alone appreciating art of any kind, and the puddles of vomit they leave about the place, to me, kinda cheapens the experience. Not unlike using the English translation of Nuit Blanche.

So that’s the one thing about Nuit that this year stood out loud and sore for me.

Beyond that, I was sure the crowds would dissipate post midnight. Last year I headed out at around one o’clock, this year I was there sometime after two in the morning, but with considerably more people. I suppose that’s inevitable; the event now draws in excess of a million people and I’m sure there’ll be more next year. Clearly single-digit temperatures and the threat of rain means nothing to the swarthy outdoors art crowd.

Okay, criticisms dispensed with. Let’s get to the meat and potatoes, shall we?

So, once again I found myself unable to make it to the elusive Zone C. Since I live on the eastern edge of Zone A I necessarily have to traverse it to get to the other side. It’s about an hour of distractions, crowds, and everything and anything designed to ensure that you never make it through.

For starters, there’s always something going on at Nathan Phillips Square. This year the area in front of City Hall hosted a sprawling performance by Daniel Lanois entitled “Later That Night At The Drive-In”.

art, nuit blanche, performances, nathan phillips square, city hall, toronto, city, life

That angled mirrored roof I assumed was still to be installed was actually intended to sit at an angle in order to allow the audience a view at the group of musicians beneath, churning out eerie Pink-Floyd-like riffs to accompany cut-up bits of classic cinema projected onto conical cloth towers, sections of the sidewalk, parts of City Hall, even the pond / soon-to-be skating rink.

performance art, natha phillips square, city hall, nuit blanche, toronto, city, life

I stuck around for a remix of Hitchcock’s Vertigo but once the electric guitars started to get shrill, I got gone.

The one installation I really wanted to see was Max Streicher’s “Endgame (Coulrophobia)”. The giant inflated, super-creepy clown heads, wedged between a couple of Yonge Street buildings were, frankly, everything I’d hoped for.

coulrophobia, endgame, art, yonge street, nuit blanche, toronto, city, life

Coulrophobia is a fear of clowns, communicated with amazing precision. The head at the bottom looked especially savage.

Not far away was Michael Fernandes’ antithetically friendly “Arrivals/Departures” where visitors were encouraged to scoop up a piece of chalk and, on a very large blackboard, record where they came from / were going.

art, nuit blanche, toronto, city, life

I wrote, “veni, vidi, vici” which got a chuckle from Nuit volunteers – “is that a band from the eighties?” they quizzed. “You bet your Ides of March!” I assured them.

I didn’t really feel like lobbing a third reference over their heads so I left to see the exhibit across the street. Besides the giant clown heads, this was definitely one of the coolest bits of art I saw.

The piece, “Big O” by Zilvinas Kalpinas, had intelligence in the design if nothing else.

It consisted of two rows of fans that faced each other and between them, caught on the undulating air currents, was a big loop of magnetic tape that I’m fairly certain came from an old VHS cassette. The whole thing, from the choice of materials to the intrinsic understanding of thermodynamics, left me with the  impression that there was a deep commentary in there — about the changing boundaries of technology, the maleable nature of the world around us, maybe a bit of both, or more, or less. Simple but effective.

While other works weren’t quite as elegant, many of the installations demonstrated a terrific sense of humour. Unfortunately I can’t find the name of the piece or the artist (this was in a section showcasing last year’s favourites), but the statue of E.T. holding his famous, glowing life-giving finger over the lifeless body of Yoda and surrounded by religious symbolism — pretty fucking hilarious.

yoda, e.t., art, nuit blanche, toronto, city, life

Funny thing about Nuit Blanche is that half the time you’re not sure if you’re looking at a piece of art or something that’s always been on the street and you just never noticed before. Some people suggest that that’s the point of the exercise.

Take this “piece”, for example:

art, yonge street, nuit blanche, toronto, city, life

Fog and bright lights; people weren’t sure what to make of it but everyone who stood before it walked away with altered perceptions. Literally. The most common comment was, “Holy shit that’s bright! I can’t see a damn thing!”

I ended the morning with a double-header, Martin Arnold and Micah Lexier’s piece named “Erik Satie’s Vexations”. The performance consisted of two pianos simultaneously playing a single sheet of music, over and over and over again; 840 over-agains, in fact. The thing was originally supposed to be played by just one pianist but the twelve-hour constraint for Nuit required the piece to be performed in tandem, in essence playing at double the rate.

performance art, nuit blanche, toronto, city, life

The composition wasn’t long, maybe a minute of music, at which point assistants would replace the completed sheet of music with a new one. They would then take the sheet to the other side of the building where it would be folded into a paper “sculpture” by two more “performers”.

performance art, sculpture, paper folding, nuit blanche 2010, toronto, city, life

Twelve straight hours of playing, folding, and back-and-forth ferrying. “Vexations” — seems like an accurate name, doesn’t it?

Of course I’m just scratching the surface here. Out of about 130 exhibits I saw 10 — if I was lucky. Anything more than that would’ve required planning and preparation – on weekends I try not to burden myself with such things. Besides, art is meant to be enjoyed organically and with a sense or surprise. Wandering around is, in other words, the best way to do it. And a damn fine excuse for not making it to Zone C too!

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