No one knows what it means, but it’s provocative….It gets the people going.
As Scotiabank Nuit Blanche (SNB) descended on Toronto the Good once again, the streets filled with art and folks hoping for a unique experience.
I love Toronto, and I love art, so SNB is right up my alley. At my first SNB two years ago I headed out on the town with some friends, with no real plan, at 7pm (#rookiemistake). By midnight we gave up, having seen only a handful of installations and never escaping the financial district. The crowds were too thick, the lines too long. Last year I volunteered at the installation at my work for the full 12 hours, so had no chance to see the rest of the city. This year would be different. And it was.
A friend asked to show some of my paintings at his Starbucks at Queen and Bathurst, and do live-drawing. From 11pm to 1am I sipped hot chocolate and drew the myriad customers and staff who came in for a hit of caffeine to fuel their art night. It was great fun and I loved talking to folks as they waited for drinks. Crowds actually gathered at the window to watch me draw.
Sometime around 1:30 Dale Rioux and I headed out on our SNB mission, with my planned-out map in hand.
HERETICAL OBJECTS Glow in the Park
This piece completely lived up to my expectations. Glowing balls glittered in a park, turning all the adults in to kids again. We juggled, we tossed, we amassed and we strew the balls, and it truly did look like stars. Public space! Interactivity! Introspection! That’s how you do public art, folks.
FORTY PART MOTET
Janet Cardiff, Forty-Part Motet (2001), 40-track audio installation, [Surrey Art Gallery, Surrey BC, Jan 2-Mar 23] Collection of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Image courtesy of the Surrey Art Gallery.
Photo: Sharon Doucette
I love Janet Cardiff. Her Paradise Institute was the most mind-blowing work I had ever experienced, and fundamentally changed my understanding of art’s boundaries forever. I had seen her The Forty Part Motet at the Power Plant Gallery a few years ago and could not get over its powerful simplicity. I could have stayed at the installation at Trinity St. Paul’s all night. The 40 speakers each project one singer’s voice. You can walk around, listening to a single part of a 40-part harmony, or sit in the middle and let the music mellow and meld before it reaches your ears. Folks were lying on mats in the floor, eyes closed, taking in the sound. Holding hands with friends. Smiling. I cannot lie, I got verklemt.
Had to swing by my alma mater, UTS. The facade was strewn with different illuminated materials. I thought the origami boxes used the space well.
TENT & SEMAPHORE
Drumming at a lovely downtown church. Intense. Energetic.
Of course I went by the Canadian Music Centre, where I work. The brand new performance space was used to its fullest with lovely modern dance, light, and music. It was great to see folks sitting and taking in the performance.
I always like how installations at Ryerson University make use of its alleyways. This interactive installation filled the narrow space with energy. It also inspired my favourite OH of the night: “I don’t think this is a bar guys, I think this is an exhibit. I don’t think they serve alcohol here.”
EARTH-MOON-EARTH (MOONLIGHT SONATA REFLECTION FROM THE SURFACE OF THE MOON)Once upon a time I worked at Theatre Museum Canada, which rented offices above the Elgin Theatre. Every day I entered by the stage door, walked under the stage, up the grand staircase, through the Palladian Lounge, and finally to my office. Good times. Anyway, this is another piece I had previously seen at the Power Plant Gallery. The music is translated to morse code, sent to the moon and reflected back. Because of the irregularities of the moon’s surface the music comes back imperfect, with notes coming early, late, or lost to space.
BEAM OF UNDERGROUND SUNIntense bright light! Loud! A little scary! Liked it a lot.
GREEN INVADERSPop culture! Nostalgia! Shared experience! Bright lights! Consumerism! Invasion! Globalism!
THE OTHER SIDEFour cameras, four screens, four corners. The trick was that the camera behind you projected to the screen in front of you, so you could never see your own face. Pretty sneaky sis. But seriously, I liked that.
MUSEUM TO THE END OF THE WORLD
All night we had been hearing what a nightmare the lineups were at City Hall. Fortunately my plan of getting to the installations of SNB after 1am worked perfectly. By the time we made it to the City Hall parking lot, it was 4am and we were allowed right in. It was an extensive and intense experience down there. The everybody’s-worst-nightmare-tableau-vivants were suitably uncomfortable-making. The hyper-reflective tubes were my favourite – beautiful and frustrating at the same time, in that my eyes watered when I tried to focus on them.
9 BEET STRETCHThis piece slowed down Beethoven 9th Symphony beyond recognition. I kept trying to recognize what part of the music we were at, but absolutely could not. It was as ethereal as it was frustrating. Folks had clearly let go of the latter part of that equation and lay down on mats, relaxing. I really enjoyed this piece too. Plus, it’s always nice to check out an EJ Lennox building.
THE NOT ART
It’s no secret that SNB is also treated as an excuse to be drunk. Streets become mosh pits. Vomit has to be avoided. People run up on top of taxis.
Walking the financial district at 4am is reminiscent of that scene from the 1967 Bedazzled when Stanley revisits Spiggott and the once-glamorous lair is a sad and sorry shadow of its former self. Most everyone on the street lurches around like zombies. Friends try to carry drunk colleagues home, or console whoever is crying in the bar doorway. I’m not a late night person, so these are scenes I haven’t seen since my undergrad years.
In addition to the party-goers were the buskers and independent artists who came out to take advantage of the increased foot traffic. My live-drawing wasn’t a sanctioned SNB installation, but the store was open, and the audience was there, and who can fault making art more accessible and introducing it to new spaces?
What’s your take on SNB?