Thursday, October 04, 2007

white night white heat

Nine-and-a-half hours on my feet - my key statistic for this year's Nuit Blanche.
I missed last year's inagural edition, so I don't have the same sense of letdown that marks many accounts of the evening. My overall impression was that even if the art was a mixed bag, it was still a good opportunity to wander around the city in a nighttime party atmosphere and observe the reactions of others, at least until a combination of sore legs and non-existent streetcar service kicked in. One thing's for sure: crowds were definitely interested in checking out what was on view.

Survival kit:
* Notepad, to mark down where I was, in case I didn't get around to writing this post unitl Christmas
* Official Program, to provide rough ideas of where to go
* Multi-pocketed corduroy jacket, to hold the first two items
* TTC day pass
* Camera

Cumberland Crowd (2)
9:15 PM: Hopped off the subway at Bloor and began my evening in Yorkville. My jaw dropped at the sea of humanity covering Cumberland St. A long line stretched from the far western entrance of Bay subway station to Bellair St, almost touching Bloor. I'm guessing most were curious for a glimpse of Lower Bay station, which was being used for an installation. I scampered up the boulder next to the station to survey the landscape. A few foolhardy drivers tried to make their way along the street, which led to Wayne's World-esque cries of "Game Off!" along Hazleton. Decided to leave this exhibit for later and wander in and out of nearby galleries. The only line I joined headed into Heliconian Hall for secular confessions (what mine was shall remain a mystery...).

Apples in the Night
10:35 PM: A few businesses took advantage of the crowds. The Cookbook Store offered up samples of apples and apple-based goodies. Around the corner, films were projected above a fashion boutique. I tended to enjoy many of the unofficial tie-ins throughout the evening.

Bride and Carcass (1)
11:07 PM: Church St was closed off south of Wellesley for Nightless City, described as a "red light district" but more of an excuse to close the street down (if only other streets had been able to do so...). I arrived in time for a performance art piece, where a woman in a bridal dress caressed an animal carcass. "She's rolling around with a dead animal...that's gross!" piped several onlookers, which piqued my curiousity (along with a feeling, not confirmed, that the artist resembled someone I went to university with).

Metropolis 2007
11:37 PM: These boxes (Metropolis) along St. Thomas St reminded me of the sensory-deprivation tanks from Altered States. Intended to suggest how architecture could provide refuge against overwhelming forces, I thought back to either the singing boxes on Monty Python or Pete Seeger's Little Boxes. A few teens had fun asking the artist a steady stream of questions over a walkie-talkie, trying to determine which box they were in (hint: the one hanging on the left was structurally unsound to support a human being).

Artist at Work
12:15 AM: Artist at work at the Gardiner. On the one hand, it was nice that the full collection was open for browsing, unlike other participating institutions (hi AGO!). On the other hand, approaching the staircases or seeing what the musicians on the top floor looked like were next to impossible. Needing to escape the crowd, I enjoyed the hurdy gurdy man playing in the outside entrance plaza. Music does soothe the savage beast.

Event Horizon (1)
1:05 AM: After checking out the teacher's dance (good slow dance music choices, such as Isaac Hayes' version of Walk On By) in Hart House, I headed towards the fog rising from King's College Circle. Event Horizon portrayed the coverage of a UFO crash in the middle of U of T, complete with faux news coverage. There was a swift-moving line to check out a tent containing what emerged from the crash, which divided web opinion - cute or a silly letdown? You be the judge.

ThunderEgg Alley (3)
1:45 AM: Finally reached Zone B, where my first stop was ThunderEgg Alley: A Dumpster Diver's Paradise, found at the end of a dead-end street. A comment on consumer waste, a city dumpster was transformd into a cheap hotel with all of the trimmings: a concierge, room service, boutiques and a spa (pictured above). I managed not to fall off the side of the dumpster or drop my camera when I climbed up to look in at the deluxe guest room. One of the more enjoyable installations of the night.

31 Baldwin Street to Beverley and Cecil Streets (1) End of the Party Party (1)
2:00 AM (left): A project from Brooklyn moved the contents of a home from Baldwin Village to the corner of Beverley and Cecil. When I arrived, the artists were talking to a security guard to search for a person in an altered state of consciousness who walked off with pieces of the installation. My legs were starting to tire, which made the living room portion look oh-so-comforting. I wandered into the building behind the installation, the Polish Combatants' Association, which had an interesting display of WWII Polish army uniforms and paraphenalia.

2:20 AM (right): Next stop was the Art Gallery of Ontario. Unlike the Gardiner, it was not wide open, which would have been appropriate given the theme was "goodbye party" (next week, it shuts completely for eight months to finish its current expansion). Instead of a last glimpse at the Henry Moores for awhile, an area was set up for passers-by to write goodbye cards. Another room was reserved for a DJed party, complete with screens showing a yule log video, but not much appeared to be happening, so I moved on. I poked my head into Cinematheque Ontario to check out 1916's Les Vampires, accompanied by a live pianist. Unfortunately, it was standing room only, so, again, I moved on.

Video Games!
2:37 AM: Free video games in Grange Park. There wasn't a lineup, so I was able for play a couple of rounds of a racing game. A chance to rest and have a little fun at the same time, especially since the games were at my level (racing, pinball, Ms. Pac-Man).

After this, I wandered towards Zone C. I was starting to feel a little worn, but figured there would be enough ahead keep my brain distracted.

3:00 AM: Walking along Queen West, the Nuit crowd mixed with those emerging from bars and clubs. Not quite the ocean of people I saw in Yorkville (you could squeeze onto the sidewalk), but still busier than a regular Saturday night. I considered hopping on a streetcar to Trinity-Bellwoods, but all appeared to be headed east. Near Spadina, I saw a white limo door open. Out came a steady stream of spew.

3:05 AM: Overheard at Queen and Augusta - "I'm freakin' out, don't you f**kin' understand? I need to smoke!" Guess the crowd and withdrawl were a bad mix. Observing the stream of bypassers was entertaining, with no one sounding too aggressively blitzed. For several blocks I walked behind a group decked out in contrasting neon flapper wigs, bright wings and goth clothing.

Flourescent Dome The Late Great Pom-Pom Exchange
3:23 AM (left): Reached Trinity-Bellwoods park. Not much was happening by this point, other than a few silly summer camp-style tents and plenty of Scotiabank-related booths (the latter would definitely fall among the evening's items that raised the ire of this piece - I'm good at tuning such corporate advertising out). It felt as if there had been activities earlier which had wound down. Fluorescent Dome was intended to serve as "a beacon for the city", but the only signal I got was that I should have gone back to Zones A and B.

3:50something AM (right): I carried on westward, popping into the occasional crowded gallery. Weariness started to tell on bypassers, some showing the same lack of enthusiasm about this zone that I felt. One exception was a jam-packed Knit Cafe, where a crowd was busy making pom-poms.

Scoops for Barbapapa and Barbamama
3:50something AM: Ah, Barbapapa. Had nothing to do with Nuit, but what the hey?

I attempted to check out a workshop at Mercer Union, but missed the session by a few minutes and didn't feel like waiting 25 minutes for the next one. I headed down to King, hoping to catch a streetcar and avoid jams on Queen. Bad move - no service on King during the 4 o'clock hour, so I kept walking, to the detriment of my feet (I know, I should have flagged a taxi, but I had a day pass to use up, darn it!). Wound my way back up to Queen to catch a streetcar at Trinity-Bellwoods. After 10 minutes of waiting, I moved on, figuring I'd catch on car at another stop. I made it, very slowly, to Osgoode station without seeing a single eastbound car (at three westbound cars passed me).

I nearly let out an unearthly sound when I sat down in the subway.

The Ghost Station (1) The Ghost Station (2)
5:25 AM: Using the last of my strength, I headed back to my starting point to see if there was still a lineup to get into Lower Bay, aka The Ghost Station.

Nope.

I headed down, the first time I had ever been in the fabled station/filming location. Two cars were stopped, with rattling sounds all around, made more effective when a train rumbled above. I like how the eerie glow of the car number turned out in the picture on the right.

My final stop was at the Toronto Reference Library. I paid no attention to the displays, making a beeline for a set. I didn't even mind that they were running Ghost for the weary souls. I stayed for half-an-hour, then headed home.

Sunrise in Leaside
6:40 AM: The home stretch. The sky moving from black to blue. Good morning Leaside! I had survived the night, worn and weary.

Only six hours until I got up for Word on the Street!

Full photo set of the evening.

All photos taken September 29-30, 2007

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