I wasn’t able to attend Nuit Blanche (an “all-night art thing” in Toronto where art installations are found in public spaces between sunset and sunrise) in the first two years it ran, as it would have meant losing the better part of two days of MBA work time. However, this year I was determined to check it out.
Nellie and I left home around 11PM and saw some smaller exhibits near home, like Benefit of the Doubt, Don Coyote, The Greatest Falls and Corvidae Ibidem. We swung past BCE place and the Toronto Nocturnes I photo exhibit before heading down to Union Station for the Horridor installation. The line was massive, however, and we decided to come back later.
We cut back to the east to see Commerce Court, which was kind of interesting, but I find standing in that square at night and looking up to be one of the more attractive venues in Toronto anyway. We continued up toward City Hall to see Blinkenlights, passing the enormous lineup for 15 Minutes of Fame, but when we got to Queen Street it was a freaking zoo. There were a lot of very drunk, very annoying people out last night, but I doubt they were there for Nuit Blanche so much as they were just the usual drunken asses who infest Queen on a Saturday night. Still, they made it impossible to even get near Nathan Philips Square, but we did stand on the south side of the street and watch a game of Pong being played in the windows of City Hall. We decided to walk up to College Park for some zombies.
We saw the smoking, bass-pulsating garbage can that contained the Stock Extravaganza exhibit, but couldn’t get near it for stoned onlookers. One of my favourites of the night was Four Sisters, a video of the view from the Gardiner Expressway displayed on a bare wall on Bay Street, with witty subtitles all about Toronto. A few more blocks north and we entered College Park, where there was supposed to be an assembly of zombies called Zombies in Condoland. However, what we found was completely different, and very strange. There were no zombies when we arrived, but rather a guy and girl wading around in the middle of the giant pool, as the crowd exhorted them to fight (which they did, kind of), kiss (which they did), get naked (which they did not) and so on. Then more guys ran out as the girl left, and they actually did wrestle with the first guy, including some decent flips and throws. Meanwhile, everyone’s wondering where the zombies are. More zaniness ensued, as one of the later wrestlers ran out to the center of the pool to chug a bottle of (what appeared to be) Ballantine’s and chase it with a bottle of Coke, at which time a large security came out to stop him. Then two women, stripped to their underwear, ran out into the pool where they fought for a while, then fought with some guys, then made out, then went back to the edge of the pool to strip off their clothes (!) and get dressed. While that little show was happening two of the wrestlers were taunting the security guard, and the crowd exhorted the guard to kick their asses, but it didn’t come to that. Security did eventually show up and corner all these jackasses, at which point the crowd started to wander off. Through all of this there were only a smattering of zombies walking around (it was a volunteer basis…people were encouraged to show up bloody and infected) none of them acting like zombies and all wondering what was going on. Anyway…very odd.
We walked back downtown, fighting through more immense crowds, through the rather boring Fifteen Seconds at Dundas Square, to the kind of cool Domain de L’Angle #2 where they fixed office ceiling tile and florescent lights over a garbage alley to create the situational juxtaposition, and it worked very well. My brain couldn’t decide where we were. We decided to try Union Station again; the line for Horridor was still long but we decided to wait it out and it only took about 20 minutes. It was interesting exhibit: six huge video screens, three on each side of a wide hall, each showing scenes from horror movies wherein characters scream, shriek and yell. The three screens on one side showed men; the other side women. I recognized a lot of the scenes, but the six screens changed so quickly and the sound was so piercing that my brain wasn’t really absorbing anything, just working to process the cacophony. Anyway, that was enough for us so we strolled home and crashed around 2:30.
Nuit Blanche is a very cool idea, there’s no doubt about that. I just wonder if logistical challenges are hurting it? Holding an all-night art appreciation/engagement event downtown on a Saturday night creates the immediate problem of being overrun by the very drunk and very stoned, not to mention the congestion of all the 905ers using the streets and subway to escape the entertainment district. I think that, if I do it again next year, I’ll sleep for most of the night and then go out after 2AM; by that time all the yahoos should be well out of the way and I’ll be able to examine art without having some large pony-tailed man yell “WHERE IS THE FUCKING GANJA?!?!?” in my ear.
In terms of the art itself, I thought a few entrants were interesting, but others didn’t impress me that much. I don’t seem to be the only one either; an ongoing Torontoist poll says 48% of people thought last night kind of sucked, similar to last year. The consensus seems to be that neither 2008 nor 2007 approached the quality of the 2006 debut. It sounds like the a zone to the west of downtown — Liberty Village — was the place to be.
So, I look forward to a more experienced go at Nuit Blanche 2009. For now, I’ve uploaded a few pictures from last night to this Flickr set.