Monday, October 12, 2009

Nuit Blanche Toronto, 2009 - Part 2

Rescue Bubble
This one was better from a distance. I found out later that there was a man sleeping inside; I had looked inside, but hadn't seen him.

Galactic Tides by Night
Interesting stories/dialogue; I would have been willing to stop and stay a while, but there was so much more to see...

The Lost and Found Forest
This was another one that looked better in the event guide. I've seen great pics of it, though. I still don't know how to use my camera to full advantage.


Fire and Sausage: Small Mercies
Free sausages, hot chocolate, and blankets. I regret not having gotten a blanket (with "mercy" stamped on it), which might have been useful to a street person.

Live piano entertainment...

...and a poker game...

...and wood sculptures (?).

The Apology Project
Possibly my favourite installation this year. You run the gauntlet of... people in giant paper bags, who apologize to you.

Surrounded in Tears
Suspended loudspeakers broadcast 100 different recordings of people crying. Fascinating concept. Half of the recordings I heard didn't sound like crying at all.

Dance of the Cranes
Two construction cranes dance in unison. We arrived at 3:30 am to find that this was another installation with hourly performances, and we'd missed the last live performance at 3:00. Boo.

Take Shelter
Participants were invited to build shelters out of cardboard boxes and cans of food. We found cardboard strewn all over and cans in stacks or shapes of letters.

Catastrophe Theory
Another of the highlights of the night. At the entrance, some tv screens...

...and then a video...

...but the best for last: "archaeological ruin and long forgotten apocalypse, a vision of a lost ground zero from some unknown cataclysmic event".

Shopping break! Actually, an installation set inside the Liberty Village Metro supermarket.

Looking for the installation

It's in aisle 3, along with the wellness snacks.

Just go to the supermarket and look for the aisle which has security guards and people sitting on the floor at 4:00 am.

This must be art.

Fruit by the Foot, and a loudspeaker

Interesting, except that the sound of the plane precedes the shadow flying overhead by about half a minute. I think somebody needs to brush up on their physics.

Nice use of coloured light.

Nite Lites
Giant Lite Brite! Another of my favourites. Aside from looking great, everyone was having fun pulling out the "pegs" (coloured water bottles) and moving them around.

The only sour note in the night was the increasing number of yahoos causing trouble. One guy was pulling out as many pegs as possible until the artist herself stepped in and stopped him. I'm sorry I hadn't done so, but I helped put a lot of the pegs back.

dance like no one is watching
These dancers were roaming throughout all three zones, so although I'd wanted to see them, there was no way to know where to find them. I figured the chance of seeing them was next to nil. And then, as we went back to my Craig's car to move on to another area, there they were, right beside the car.

Music Inside/Out
Ok - I confess: we were really here to see the architecture of the Royal Conservatory of Music's new Koerner Hall. It was gorgeous - a true work of art, and the entire building was beautifully lit for the event. Arriving so late in the night, the musicians had gone home, but recorded music provided nice accompaniment to the lighting.

The ceiling of the hall:

Battle Royal
Wrestling in the Toronto Bus Terminal! Earlier in the night, there had been a long line-up, so we returned in the wee hours to find the crowds had gone... and so had the performers. It was funny to see travellers arriving and wondering wtf was going on.

Pwn the Wall - Graffiti Research Lab
Creating graffiti with light. Nice idea; not so original, I think. Not too too impressive.

Space Becomes the Instrument
And as the end of Nuit Blanche approached, we lined up for the first and only time. 20 minutes in line to get into Massey Hall, which was transformed into a giant instrument with piano wire strung across the theatre. The performer played the wires as the audience watched from the stage. Earlier in the night, the installation had involved more performers, but our experience with NB has been that many events wind down from about 4:00 am or even earlier. As with so many installations: in concept, great; in execution, not so much. I am glad I had a chance to see it, though.

As Could Be
Another exhibit that was too crowded early in the evening. We arrived just moments before 7:00 am, which was fine, because we only needed a minute or so to look at it.

And with that, off to bed. The sum of experiences was greater than the parts. Looking forward to next year.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Nuit Blanche Toronto, 2009 - Part 1

Toronto's 4th annual Nuit Blanche - the "all-night contemporary art thing" - was all about enjoying ourselves. It was about people getting out, enjoying the crowds, taking advantage of street closures and things open late, being with friends, and sharing laughs. It was less about being an art critic - some of the art installations are not even close to being "art" as far as I'm concerned - and more about just getting out there and seeing what artists are doing. A number of reviews which appeared the day after noted the fact that this event is growing significantly every year, and that for many it is simply about having a great night on the town. This has become one of the most popular annual events in TO. I certainly wouldn't miss it.

We began the evening right below my condo, at the National Ballet School. Upon walking in, we found that the installation involved performances taking place once an hour. This doesn't serve the public well during Nuit Blanche, with a steady stream of spectators wandering in all night. This set the stage for the rest of our night: avoid line-ups and waiting. So, onward...

(Click on any photo to enlarge.)

Ryerson University
Light up the Night

Ryerson's contributions consisted of a number of installations falling under this single title.

A 3-story slide show

Our Ryerson favourite: an interactive screen, with photo-negative images projected onto the wall behind. If you look closely at the photos, you can see there is a slight delay between the action in front of the screen and the projection above.

Fashion show...

... ? ...

...and a weird band.

The Sonic Fun House
An aural equivalent of fun house mirrors and slides. The title and video say it all.

The Reflecting Pool & Ancient of Days
Video/sound installation on the Canadian Tire billboard. Viewers were encouraged to view the video from each of three corners of the intersection of Bay/Dundas on small bleachers glowing with coloured light.

Nothing much is discernable in this pic, but it wasn't much more exciting in person. We moved on.

Ice Queen: Glacial Retreat Dress Tent
One of those exhibits which looks so much better in the event guide...

Speed Shift
Not thrilling, but this kind of thing should definitely be permanent. It would be a welcome addition in this walkway, between Canadian Tire, Ryerson, and Eaton Centre.

Rabbit Balloon
What is it about Eaton Centre and balloons? It's becoming a Nuit Blanche tradition. This was impressive in scale, anyway. It's holding a carrot, but from the right angle it looks like it's giving you the finger.

Random ghosts
We were on the way to see Ghost Chorus - Dirge for Dead Slang but ran into friends who said it was lame. So we went elsewhere, but not before we spotted these ghosts walking along with the crowd. During Nuit Blanche, you become very blasé about sightings like this.

4 Letter Word Machine
Impressive in its scale, but the unfortunate thing about this installation was that all anyone could think about was how great Project Blinkenlights was last year. In this case, location was everything, and it doomed the piece from the start. Nice try, though.
(Music in the video was from a guerilla performance right below us. I guess getting in on the act is not a bad thing, although it shouldn't detract from other installations.)

Hey Dave!
Dave is the guy with the long hair and glasses, sitting just below centre in this pic. The Nuit Blanche guide says: "Come make face to face contact by saying hello to Dave!"
Or don't. There was, of course, a long line-up to say hi, so we moved on.

Celebrities on Bay St.!

Two giant, black letters propped up on a flatbed (slightly visible on the left side of the street in the middle of the pic). The lighting on the building at the end of the street was more interesting.

Curiosity got the better of me: I was drawn to this exhibit because the event guide indicated that the artist was unwilling to describe the work. I can respect that from an artist. But then you see this, and in your mind the answer to "Why the secrecy?" becomes, "Because it's lame?"

Giant, black letters don't photograph well at night, but at least I got a pic of Jason.

Bay Adelaide Centre Courtyard
Taking a break in between exhibits. This courtyard is quite nice, and must be one of the most nicely lit at night.

Light Installation - Bay Adelaide Centre
Not part of Nuit Blanche - but it should have been. Few people have seen this piece since the Centre opened recently, and you need to stay and watch it for a few minutes to see the subtle and slow changes in the lighting, which are really quite beautiful.

The movement is barely visible in this video - light too bright and colours too subtle for the camera.

Sounding Space
A great participatory installation. The entire Scotia Plaza north courtyard was transformed into a giant instrument. Benches and stone blocks and tiles were engineered to react to movement, the results played over speakers.

Wild Ride
We loved this one. What better commentary on the economy than amusement rides right outside the bank towers? Note the signs.

I would have a garbage can like this in my home if I could.

How to Win the Lottery
Advice on how to win lotteries - lecture, demos, and workshops. We stayed a few minutes - long enough to get really bored. Art?

Monopoly with Real Money
First staged in 1973. Not sure how this is art, but I find the idea entertaining. The players are all local celebrities, all at that level of fame such that a few of the names or faces (but not both) were slightly familiar. Unfortunately, we passed by between games and couldn't wait. I loved the guy dressed as the Monopoly logo.

RBC Tower Lighting
Not part of Nuit Blanche, but a nice addition of colour to the night. New building - I hadn't seen this at night before.

Gone Indian
The artist is actually the woman who is holding up the red bags of pennies to the sky. The ground was littered with brand new pennies, even beyond the crowd watching, which was huge. A statement about the bank towers sitting on First Nations land.

Witches' Cradles
A sensory deprivation experiment. Participants sit on the blanket which is then pulled up around them, tied at the top, and suspended above the ground. With the crowds of people before midnight, the wait was probably hours long (3 or 4 people at a time).

Lighting the Calatrava Atrium
This was not part of Nuit Blanche either, but I hadn't seen it before. I don't know if the lighting is permanent, but it is a great nighttime effect for this gorgeous atrium.

Imminent Departure
Great use of Union Station.

Vodka Pool
I guess I shouldn't complain about art being participatory, but I think this one would have been better without the coins thrown into it. It ain't a water fountain.

DIY art installation
This guy had apparently just climbed atop a construction scaffold, and was sitting motionless alongside the passersby on Bay St. He was more interesting than the bronzed Elvis regularly seen at Dundas Sq., and was drawing quite a crowd.

Wasted Breath
"Sentient rubbish"? Hardly. The concept of "breathing" garbage bags sounded so cool, but the entire pile was very slowly inflating as I walked by, breathing as one unit. It was like watching an air mattress inflate. I understand it would have been a huge undertaking to switch to rigging each bag with an independent breathing mechanism, but for me the result was disappointing.

On to Cabbagetown...

Gateway Project

I was delighted to see the effect of light and shadow in this shot.

Very cool, lit-up, giant insects...

Same artist:

Also untitled
Run the bike tires through the paint...

...and create your masterpiece.

Dinner time at Sweet Creamery!
1:00 am

This was the high point of the night for me. You can't go 12 hours without eating, and restaurants are slowly catching on to the fact that there is money to be made with crowds of people wandering around all night. The truth is, the crowds are largely gone by about 4:00 am, and from that point people will want coffee, maybe a snack, and by 7:00 am, breakfast. But somewhere around midnight - 2:00 am is dinner time. My friends kept their gelateria and bakery open, and luckily, they had just introduced their fall/winter menu, including grilled panini, soup, and a drink. If I hadn't been in a rush to get back out to the art, I would have stayed for gelato, pastry, or a waffle with ice cream. But after a nice meal, we needed to see how many more exhibits we would be able to get to before dawn.

(Sweet Creamery also got into the spirit of the night by showing Fellini films at the back of the store. Fellini and panini!)

These baked goods are true works of art - I ain't kiddin':

Chocolate Truffles, Lemon Meringue Tarts

Chocolate-Caramel-Macadamia Tarts, Pear or Raspberry Tarts

Apple Pie Tarts, Pumpkin Tarts, Tres Leche (3-milk) Cupcakes

Betty - the vintage Hot Chocolate Machine

No watery, powdered, hot chocolate mix! This is the real thing - very rich.

Continue to Part 2...