Giving up entirely on chronological order of my larger life on this blog, I will nonetheless attempt a chronological account of Nuit Blanche, October 2, 2010. I met F and R for dinner, and then we split up into two vehicles. The nature of the crowds and the evening was such that we never managed to re-connect, and I toured the city and the events with RJH, occasionally checking in with R. I was sorry to never manage to get together, but it was really useful to exchange notes about lines and quality of events/exhibits (or, sadly, lack thereof). I found over all the crowds were larger, and more drunk, and the art not quite as inspiring as last year, though we did enjoy ourselves and it was still a very special night. I mean really, how can I resist a free, sleepless night of a contemporary-art-transformed city. Though, I think that the curators do need to have some better crowd planning. Estimates of attendees, according to the radio, were as high as a million people. We need more events, like the peerless Kent Monkman's, which were open to all without any lines, and the crazy, roving Morris dancers, to entertain the freezing queues of people. Either that, or next year, I'm going to sleep all evening and leave my house at 3:00 am when the crowds finally begin to wane.
We began with Aurora, 2010 in the atrium of the Royal Conservatory of Music. The line was almost an hour (complicated by the fact that Bloor street is torn up and one cannot get to the sidewalk from the road unless prepared to go through or around the ditch, and there was no demarcation of the lines for the ROM versus the Royal Conservatory, and finally, the fact that there was a concert on which got out as we finally neared the front of the line and we had to wait for thousands of people to exit *headdesk*), but the cold and the frustration were alleaviated by being able to watch the Crossings the video installation projected onto the ROM Crystal, for part of the wait, and the merry band of roving Morris dancers (who should entertain all line-ups everywhere, because it's hard to be cross watching mad, white-clad, dancing fools with sticks). Aurora, 2010 was a large, kinetic, light sculpture which was supposed to interact with the audience. It wasn't clear to me how it was interacting (my brain is wired for how questions, hence the detailed photos of electronics in my flickr stream), but it was rather magical and otherworldly. It reminded me of a seaweed forest, but all feathery, white and lit. There were bulbs of amber fluid at the end of cables with vibrating, feathery protrusions, and a loud, beastly breathing sound. I reached up and touched it to figure out how it was interacting (and no guard complained of my behaviour, which was nice in a piece which is supposed to involve its audience). (Also, in a wise move, we a) used the luxurious, largely empty washrooms and b) snuck upstairs for a different view).
I loved how the ghostly video installation Crossings interacted with the faceted shape of the Crystal at the ROM, and being able to see eery purple-lit dinosaur skeletons through the windows behind.
Hearing R's report that the Interactive landscape Dune, 2007-2010 in the legendary lower Bay Station was an hour's wait for "nifty, but basically LEDs on sticks" we decided we didn't care that much and wanted to see something without waiting. Since Kent Monkma and Gisèle Gordonn's Iskootāo, 2010 was at the rock in the middle of Yorkville park, we figured it would be open and without a line. It was very hard to photograph (contrast mine and the one below by my photographer RJH), but this light and sound displace starred Kent Monkman's "infamous alter-ego Miss Chief Eagle Testickle". This was another highlight - with nothing really more than red lights, drum over recorded music, Monkman mesmerized the crowd. The symbolism of the rock itself (a "650-tonne billion-year-old chunk of the Canadian shield"), and the clash of the Cree drag show in tony Yorkville was really compelling. It was also amazing to see how welcomed the show was by the crowd.
Next, after grabbing some food and water in a convenience store (avoid the hoards in the Starbucks) we continued to Yonge and just south to the KortuneFookie - the giant, cedar, interactive fortune cookie. Press a button, get a fortune. I was really keen on this. I thought getting a fortune would be fun. This was a bust. The sculpture was dull. The wait was the better part of an hour and I had to tell one, selfish, disengenuous young woman, that she needed to get to the back of the line with the rest of us. At the front, a drunken man jumped the queue and said, lamely, "Oh, there's a line." RJH made him accept his fortune ("You pushed the button, you take the fortune.") to cheers from the crowd. Fortunes were lame and mispelt. The upside? Our neighbours in line and the friendly Jamaican ladies selling cheap, but hardy samosas to people in line.
I wanted to see the giant, spherical origami at the Bata Shoe Museum before leaving Zone A, so we headed that way, passing Agnès Winter's Monument to Smile, 2010 projected onto Holt Renfrew. It was interesting enough to warant stopping and photographing the moving, smiling photos. Bonus points: no line.
I was expecting more from Whimsical Wabi-sabi, "the massive illuminated origami spheres that transform the Bata Shoe Museum into a unique urban garden". They were massive, they were lit, they were several and the did represent a lot of work. I'm not sure they "transformed" the museum into a "unique urban garden", but, they were pretty. The museum itself was also offering free admission. The staff however were a bit supercilious. They instructed people to commence in the basement and progress up four flights of stairs, utterly oblivious to the fact that many may only be interested in Nuit Blanche exhibits and not their permanent collection. Also, the guard who commanded us to wait by the exit to avoid being trampled by the few people calmly entering the adject door was a bit much.
We had a brief break, to get the car, refreshment, more clothes and repair the two pairs of stockings I was wearing for warmth (the holey toes had become torture/toe-strangulation devices), then we braved traffic and crowds and drove down to Ryerson University in the heart of Zone B. I was keen to see Ning Ning billed as "an interactive swarm of LED fireflies that reacts to both stillness and motion" of the crowd and allegedly "respond to the ebb and flow of passing crowds with improvised displays of imitation bioluminescence." As you may have guessed, they had me at "bioluminescence". Sadly, this appeared to be strings of green Christmas lights in a window with no visible response to audience movement despite a great deal of engagement and effort. Nor did it remind me of fireflies. No photo: too dull to record.
So, since we were there I wanted to go see Just because you can feel it doesn’t mean it’s there, 2010 'cause there'd be fire! in Dundas Square! But, I guess it was over. Anyhow, by the time we were there there was no evidence whatsoever of this piece, and we could only deduce that it was some sort of wankerish conceptual piece. Though, there are photos of fire on the website, so I guess they just ran out of wood? They might have posted a sign or something, because the guide book reads, "The fire burns from sundown to sun up." and there was decidedly NO FIRE. So we peered at the nearby hut built for Allegory for a Rock Opera, 2010, which in absence of the performer and music, appeared to be a small room with pink insulation wall and pebbles and a record on the floor. I spoted some abandonned shoes, which says something about the nature of the crowds (young, drunk, inappropriately dressed, for the most part, in this neighbourhood). But, I did like some people I presume were engaged in performance art, like the guys in the red and blue bodysuits, and the brides and grooms we saw in a few places.
I wanted to see the elephant SHEBA, so we made a detour to the Distillery District. The guide promised "Her fully cast bronze body completed in the lacy, spider-web, splashing technique known to be Gabrielle Horvath's signature bronze casting style" but there was just head, trunk, tusks, and shoulder. It's a lovely sculpture, but it was not a "fully cast bronze body". While in the Distillery, we enjoyed the dancers in green and white, saw the projection of Burning Buddha and wandered through the Way-Station (North Migration), an envisioned post-climate-change-enduced-apocalyptic societal collapse and human migration to Northern Ontario. It was interesting (and less establishment than the invited exhibits). It was sort of a small tent city of 'refugees', complete with performance artists preeching, teaching, or sitting quietly in their 'abodes' or shrines. The audience was encouraged to leave items. I like the imagery; a mix of refugee camps and very homey and contemporarily hip images playing on quilts, old-fashioned floral print fabric, strings of fabric penant flags, and doilies and traditional crafts connoting home and warmth, likewise the signs of nature, like branches or antlers, mixed with pop culture (Ronald MacDonald head). All of the many galleries were also open and filled with visitors.
We got back in the car in an effort to get near Nathan Philips Square. I'm glad I suggested walking by the illuminated van, Auto Lamp, 2009, because it was a thing of surprising beauty. Pierced with some many holes of various sizes it seemed like lace, the rotating van on Yonge St, south of Queen covered the buildings with hundreds of trails of rotating, varied, circles of light. It was quite magical, and free for all to enjoy without a queue. This was unique in that it exceeded expectations. (I did not really capture the projected light on the walls, so you'll have to take my word for it.)
On our way to City Hall, we passed The Bus House, one of three bus shelters transformed into homes. This one I believe was supposed to represent "child's idealistic universe" and be welcoming and fun, but it made me think of homelessness, despite the childlike exuberance. There were a mysterious troupe of young men nearby in spectacular knit sweaters, one of whom I caught in this photo.
We topped off our night with Daniel Lanois's collaborative, multimedia Later That Night At The Drive-In, 2010 which was spectacular. There were huge pyramids and rectangles onto which video works were projected; fields of colour, rapidly changing abstract animations, films in which vintage photos were manipulated, to the soundtrack of Lanois' music. These screens were doubled with their reflection in the reflection pool.
As I photographed the scene, by the side of the reflecting pool, a teenage girl purposely jumped into my shot and waved her arms, so I paused with a wry smile. Then she commanded, "Take my picture! Take my picture!"
She grabbed her friend and dragged her in front of me and shouted, "Take our picture"
"Yeah, no thanks. That's not going to happen." She lunged at me aggressively. Then she got all up in my face and said, "Oh, she's not feeling it," and she proceeded to jump at RJH and try and get in his face, whereupon, I lost my patience and said firmly, "Would you like to go swimming young lady?" at which point she wisely disappeared. The funny thing is, as a press photographer, RJH was pretty immune to anyone obnoxiously jumping in his face to annoy him in attempt to ruin a photo (and nonetheless seemed to think my response was awesome). Soon after, the projected images showed the band, rather than more abstract images, so we tried to get closer to the band-stand. Amazingly, this was pretty easy. The band-stand was weird - low set with a rising ramp for the crowd, so that only the front couple of rows could actually see the band. However, there was a large mirrored panel above which reflected both the sound and the band, those on the couch, and a belly-dancer (in Native-inspired clothes... well, bra). The performers were also projected onto screens all around us. We were able to get up to the fourth row and enjoy the live performance! It was a great way to cap the night.