Continuing in the fine tradition of years past, the MONDOarts department dispatched four writers to cover this year’s Nuit Blanche and their escapades during said event. Enjoy!
By Kerry Freek
Photos by Donna Endacott
Thank god for the coffee wheel at Hart House. While reminiscent of a medieval torture device, its operators graciously provided iced caffeinated treats for weary travellers, though for our little group, it gave a decent kickstart.
We essentially began our night here, just a few steps away from Cry School Yearbook. Thinking ahead, I’d booked an early appointment (more time to wear goth makeup), and it proved to be one of the best things we saw/did all night. What a pleasure to see one of the artist’s former professors beaming in white face makeup, blackened eyes, and a charming bowler hat. “This was great!” he said as he merrily continued his journey.
After Hart House, making our way through the streets (especially anything downtown) proved difficult. We saw, on our way to the Toronto Reference Library, a multi-talented didgeridoo player and some people sculpting with clay at the Gardiner Museum, and a poster exhibit (and the well-stocked library) at the Japan Foundation. Inside the TRF, what seemed like hours later, my begothed eyes were happy to watch two older ladies and a pair of twin girls wearing matching vests learning the Hustle in the front row of a giant dance floor. Grand!
After these few stops (including one to get a veggie burger), however, things started to go downhill. We tried to see the Battle Royal — no dice. Attempted a few other installations — uh-uh. Too many people.
The only thing that kept us going was a Foreigner song we’d heard earlier at Craft Burger.
That is, until we reached the ghosts in the garden. How nice to stand outside a circle of sheeted people, wondering what and why they were singing. This was only place (aside from the squishy chairs in the NFB theatre) where I wanted to stay for more than five minutes. But the show went on, and I turned my attention to observing people, not art.
Nathan Phillips Square provided a great example. The sheer volume and molasses-like movement of the crowd was overwhelming. Not something one experiences everyday. It was kind of like that scene from Amelie (yeah, yeah — it’s delightful, shut up) wherein the narrator tells us that our beloved main character likes to watch the faces in the audience rather than the film. As the throngs waited to recognize each new brightly lit four-letter word, we saw their eyes grow soft and heard a chorus of “Ooohhs” and “Aaahhhs” rise into the air to meet the installation. It was like fireworks — still impressive, no matter how many times you’ve seen them.
And King Street was something else. I’m not talking about any planned art exhibit, but the regular Friday/Saturday night hubbub. Not one for clubs, I’m never down at that end of town around that time. But boy, what a spectacle. This exhibition led us to 401 Richmond and a short break from the partygoers.
I expected more from 401, to be honest. You’d think a building filled with galleries and creative minds would have gone for the gusto — but nope. Sad. We did see one beautiful performance piece, though. A girl, kneeling in a freight elevator, carefully dabbed mascara onto her eyelashes, then approached a large piece of paper and blinked on it. Maybe by this point I was searching for meaning, but the act just seemed so intimate, and it won me over. By the time we arrived, the sheet was filled with rows and rows of little butterfly kisses. It looked like sheet music, or the output from an oscilloscope. That was around one o’clock, and our group disintegrated into a tired glob — most of us went home without broaching Liberty Village or Parkdale.
“More like Nuit Bland,” has been a popular refrain these past few days. But I think the key is to leave your house with a clear mind and a fun, small group. Give yourself time to linger, and don’t expect to be wowed. Just let it happen. And go to bed whenever you feel tired.