Sunday, October 4, 2009

2009 Nuit Blanche

2009 Nuit Blanche! Zone C in pictures

(below, parts of a short-story displayed on the factory wall in Liberty Village)

Deja 2009!

Where did the time go? I never even posted my pics of Luminato!
Here are some pics of 2009 Nuit Blanche and 2009 Luminato, in two separate posts.

Kaleidoscopic views of the contents of a dryer, Queen St. West.

View inside and outside the cone structure, Liberty Village.
There is also video of people singing into this structure in the above post.

Building homes from boxes, working with same tools as the homeless, Liberty Village.

Though many people were disappointed with this year's Nuit Blanche, I can't say I agree.
Last year I was in the downtown core. It was my first Nuit Blanche and I was by myself. I was mesmerized, and I really did not expect to enjoy the second one as much. I was supposed to meet up with people this year, but because it was so loud and crazy I never heard my phone ring. So I wandered alone through this maze of people, art installations and festive cheer.

I can't say I felt alone or bored, or let down, since it was just as fun and thought-provoking as the year before. This year I was in Zone C, Queen west and Liberty village. The streets were packed with people who, for reasons more enlightened and interesting than the usual, were partying it up. Sure the clubs and bars were still open, and packed, but so were the streets, galleries, salons, restaurants, shops and food-stands. The venues that did not officially participate did not let that stop them from contributing art pieces, installations, music or performances to the evenings' festivities.

The rejects from the official festival either simply set up shop somewhere, or joined a network of rejects (called officially "Les Rues Des Refuses" [sic] ) who help each other to find venues or outdoor locations for their own installations. See the map for this year's LRDR.
My question is, did anyone ever witness this kind of public outpouring of art from the non-commissioned, or rejected artists at Luminato? Anyone who has attended both could clearly see that there is no comparison. Why is that? What makes Nuit Blanche so spectacularly special that it encourages artists to spontaneously create and promote? I remember one artist in particular on Queen street, a photographer named Thom Hamilton, who decided to take a picture a day for the hundred days leading up to his departure from Toronto. He displayed them in an alley and put up a poster with his name and an explanation of the project, and that's it. Because of Nuit Blanche the crowds he got were amazing! I think of all the openings and wine and cheeze affairs I simply miss because it is difficult to get motivated to go out for one art event unless it is really big or special to you. Lesser-known artists could not hope to get nearly as many people to engage with their art unless a collective event of this size exists to draw people out.

So I avoided the big names, the long lineups, the commissioned works where inconvenient, and checked out local talent, festival rejects and uncommissioned works along the way. These were gems sometimes. Sometimes they were amusing, like the group honouring people along Queen street for anything at all. They welcomed people onto the podium and honoured them for...whatever! One girl was honoured for being "random". Some galleries had bands playing Led Zepplin covers that got crowds engaged in a way I could not imagine happening on just any old night at any old bar for any old ZEpplin cover band in Toronto. Let's face it, some of the excitement of the creations was simply a matter of atmosphere...but what an atmosphere!!!

I used to say, upon my return from China, I can see why new Chinese immigrants are so lonely here. In China everybody talks to everybody all the time, and people are everywhere at all hours of the night, especially in big cities. There are lights and noises that animate the most common streets. Ex-pats have something they refer to in many ways: "ex-pat syndrome", or "post-China blues" or "re-culture shock" or whatever you want to call it. They all refer to the same this, the loneliness and emptiness of North-American streets upon our return from the bussling Asian continent. We get used to it after a while, but the sense of loneliness, anomie, alienation, or isolation one experiences at a given point in their American lives is a result of our culture perhaps. Freedom of expression is the other part of our culture. My point is that in a country like Canada, as free as we are, we use relatively fewer opportunities to express it and exchange ideas about it than we could. The city of Toronto has offered us this amazing opportunity to engage together in the most fun way possible, and I still hear sooooooo many complaints about how we engaged, why, in what way, and why not in some other way, or what was WRONG with the way we engaged. I'm just amazed that such a free-spirited event, that was reminiscent of my "alone-but-never-lonely" experience in China did not garner the flood of positive reaction to equal the flood of positive artistic response. The artists stepped up and made the evening special, and the critics just did not get it I guess.

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