Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Nuit Blanche 2013 - from sundown to sunrise

Saturday was Nuit Blanche, a night where thousands of people of all ages and origins take to the streets for a night of contemporary art and spectacle, from sunset to sunrise.  With some 110 art installations both by independent artists and by artists commissioned by the city, this was one night I enjoyed as much, if not more, than my last 3 Nuit Blanche events.  Hell, we started exploring at around 8pm... and came (dragged ourselves?) back home just shy of 5am!

There were all sorts of installations, some visual, some mere occurrences, some aimed at evoking feeling, some massive, some intimate... with so many artists involved, it just makes sense that the diversity in projects would be great, exploring art from numerous points of view, like the mark of humanity on our world (the Anthropocene, or the Age of Man), or creating an inverted parade where the floats didn't move and people did interact with them, or playing with our conception of time and space...  This transformation of the city through contemporary art (whether good or bad) and with the participation of the people (whether they're in it for the art, for being out late, or for trying out something different) was incredibly energizing and exciting for me, period.

We saw so much there was no good way to write about my experience.  I came up with different strategies, all equally bad.  So here goes one of my longest posts.  With no expectation of anybody going through it all from top to bottom.  But being this blog what it is, I'm still sharing it.  As we lived it (yes, the good old chronological account).  Through a night that stretched from sundown til sunrise (almost)...

The Trappings of Power
by Robin Tinney 

This was the very first thing we saw, and it was one of my favourites.  The steel structure you see held traps (yes, traps, like the old ones used for hunting animals) and, attached to those traps, treaties signed with the aboriginals, as well as a few maps of aboriginal territories.  It was simple, it was not subtle, and that made it the more powerful and poignant to me.

by Cal Lane

To Whom it May Concern
by Travis T Freeman 

Another one of my favourites!  and so early into the night!  Hidden in a small alley behind Queen St. West, you could text a message, any kind of message, and the artist would relay that message to the empty night forest in which he was immersed, at the Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Preserve.  And only those wearing one of a couple of pairs of earphones could hear him.  I could not resist, and had him say a love message to my husband (how corny, but whatever) and another message comforting the artist in the solitude of the woods.  This was a very intimate, poetic installation (from my point of view), and I kept picturing our messages leaving the artist's shed and being gently deposited in the darkness, permeating the trees, the earthy ground, the air...    

Queen of the Parade
by Lisa Anita Wegner and Vanessa Lee Wishart

Music Box
by John Dickson 

I love automatons, especially musical ones.  From the box this automaton band came forth, playing electric guitars, drums, a trumpet...  An artistic machine coming to life.  I love these.

Paper Orbs
by Marcin Kedzior and Christine Kim

How about an installation being slowly deconstructed by visitors and spreading all over town?  Filled with origami crowns that reflected the blue light of the passage they were set in, people passing through could simply detach one of the folded crowns, unfold it, and wear it.  The idea of this piece shedding parts of itself and transforming itself into a kind of live itinerant installation seemed very cool to me.

Ferris Wheel
by Katharine Harvey

by Idea Tank Design Collective

(X)Static Clown Factory
by Ruth Spitzer and Claire Ironside

Cancer is our Story ( Overcome )
by Max Dean and Joel S. Silver

Rumbling Drumlins

Now, this one was not a piece I liked myself that much, but I did like how people reacted to this green, fuming, rumbling behemoth.  They seemed honestly intrigued, and many were touching its grass-like surface to feel the vibrations underneath (a purring?) while others pointed at antennae and lights.  Sometimes its not the art itself that matters, but what it causes in others.    

My Virtual Dream
by the Baycrest Health Sciences and the University of Toronto's Faculty of Medicine 

Monster Child
by Libby Hague

Spin the wheel, read the question out loud (mine was "Can I trust you?"), press one of four coloured buttons to activate an answer, put on headphones, hear the answer from the child monster oracle ("Of course! Of course!").  A tad fun, but tethering dangerously on the edge of lame.

There is an elephant in the truck
by Laurence Vallières 

This, I Build For You
by David R. Harper

A Quack Cure
by Lisa Hirmer

by Arthur Wrigglesworth, Mohammad Mehdi Ghiyaei and Mojtaba Samimi

by Margaux Williamson

I've experienced total, absolute, impenetrable darkness at night, so I didn't feel compelled to join the queue for putting on a blindfold.  But I did enjoy watching those wearing them.  Quite a few seemed really lost in their thoughts, as if accessing a different, peaceful place through darkness.  Thumbs up.

Nothing is better
by Negative Industries 

Now this was another of the highlights of the night.   A true performance.  War.  Toil.  Environment.  An amazing edition of sound and image.  Inside a church.  One would say there is some Einstein on the Beach influence.  Anyhow, we sat for quite a while there, listening, watching.  This was one great break from the walking and the crowds.

by Kagame Murray 

The (Re)Generator Project
by Chinedu Ukabam and Gabrielle Lasporte

Clothesline Canopy
by Sherri Newman, Tara Gaskin, Kristiana Schuhmann, Zack Eisenstein, Selen Levi, Megan Carroll, Sam Bruegger and William Vachon  

This was one of those installations that acquired a wholly different level with a slight and random interaction from the public.  At the end of the event, the socks were going to be donated to charity, for homeless people.  And right there, while I looked at it, a youngish homeless guy came out from within it, sat down, and started putting on a pair of socks he had snatched from the installation.   No comment.

by Bruno Billio

Familia was one of those installations that was so beautiful by itself that little mattered what the artist's message was, frankly speaking.   A cascade of dinner chairs falling (ok, held together by cables) from the ceiling of the church, down to just inches from a wavy mirrored surface.  The effect of both worlds almost touching, one a somewhat deformed version of the other, was amazing.   This was simply beautiful.   

by Pascale Marthine Tayou

The rose is without why
by Boris Achour

My husband and me like text installations.  I guess our intimate relation with word and languages plays a role.  And this time it was a 17th century German poem, "The Rose is without why, it blooms because it blooms", in big, fluorescent lights along Nathan Philips Square.  Another isle of calm (if only a mental isle) in a sea of movement.     

Forever Bicycles
by Ai Weiwei

The Little People
by Workparty

This was just too cute.  A demonstration by toys!  But the inspiration behind it was not so cute, as the original one was done by Russian activists who were forbidden from staging a real demonstration.

by David Hoffos

A cheap trick (a few black surfaces onto which images were projected), a simple story (people around a campfire), and still a total transformation of the space... Eerie, magic, hypnotic...  

The Anthropocene
by Caledonia Dance Curry

Night Shift
by Brendan Fernandes

I don't know, I myself liked this one a lot.  The dancers performed from dusk until dawn, shredding and piling up golden confetti in anticipation of the arrival of the sun king.   Pretty poetic, especially the gruelling performance by the dancers, like real vassals of a king that will care nothing for all their work and just momentarily rave about all that gold confetti... 

The Arctic Trilogy
by Janet Biggs

Yes, another favourite of mine.  We saw only one part of the trilogy, about a woman who works in a coal mine in the arctic.  The artificial light underground, the noises of the machines she uses to transport herself and to work, the otherworldly subterranean passages and spaces... interspersed with clips of a dance performance by a single artist and masterfully transitioning from the music of the dance to the noise of the machines...   

by Simon Frank

It's a shame the photo didn't come out good.  That guy in the middle is artist Simon Frank who, at the beginning of the event, started covering himself with the hooked seeds (burrs) of the Burdock plant, apparently related to some Scottish ritual.  By the time we started exploring Nuit Blanche, it seems he was already done covering himself from head to toe and had started wandering.  We caught him by chance here, on Bay St., between Adelaide and King, escorted by two tall men handing pins.  And what did the pins say?  Free Land.  An interesting message, when you take into account the Scottish element of the performance...

Mariner 9
by Kelly Richardson

by John Notten

I almost skipped this one!  I mean, it was just a small "shrine".  Until I realized it had been built out of carved out garbage bins!  And it transformed before me.  And once inside, believe it or not, it was... well, beautiful!  I can't imagine how much work went into its design to make it a simple, yet peaceful and beautiful space, softly lit, and even conducive to losing yourself in it a bit.

Pink Punch v.2
by Polymetis, Michaela MacLeod, Nicholas Croft

Silent Films with LIVE Instrumental Accompaniment
by Shane Smith and Aliza Ma

And for the next to last piece of the night, we saw a short film (there were different ones at different times, al at the TIFF Bell Lightbox) was various clips of Amsterdam in the 20's, edited with great sensibility, and in many cases showing reflections of people, houses and places in puddles of rain water, in the shiny fender of cars, or in windows.  Accompanied by someone playing a keyboard.  A sort of poetry in motion, inspired by water and rain.  Obviously, I couldn't take a photo or a clip of the film, so all I could do was take a photo of the event's info card (same thing with the next one).

VHS Fever Dreams
by Collin Geddes, Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski 

Edited from numerous VHS videos, including ads, music clips, cartoons, movies and TV shows, we entered a bizarre world that had been part of our lives somehow but which seemed incredibly distant and strange through our 2013 vision... From the absurd, to the completely inappropriate, to the goofy, to the simply "what-were-they-smoking-when-they-made-this!?", this was one weird trip to the past, and the end of our night.

From there, it was just a thankfully very short walk home.   What a night!  and that's meant in the best of senses.  And we actually saw some four other projects, but I found those too uninteresting even for a memento pic.  But did I mention we managed to grab a bite of our favourite Canadian street food, Beaver Tails? (a kind of flat pastry, my non-Canadian readers, I'm still vegan, and Canadians are not THAT weird, LOL)

A very good, though long, night indeed.

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