Showing posts with label nuit blanche. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nuit blanche. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

1,616: nuit blanche 4, westbound public transit 0

Caution Art

Nuit Blanche summarizing moment: just after midnight, Sarah and I stopped by the bustling food court at Village by the Grange. Tables were filled with customers, nearly all under 30, fuelling up for the rest of the evening. The woman behind the counter at the Greek stand was in a joyful mood, knocking the tax off our hefty containers of pastitsio and souvlaki because “it was the city’s night to enjoy.”

Despite crowds and transit issues, it was a night to enjoy. The rain held off, the temperature wasn't extreme, fellow Torontonians appeared to be soaking in the atmosphere. If the art didn't grab you, the people-watching and snippets of overheard conversations did.

Inflatable Thingy at OCAD (1)

Much of our enjoyment was outside the food court on McCaul Street, which was closed off for exhibits related to AGO and OCAD. While it was busy, we didn’t feel like we were drowning in a sea of people like the disaster movie scenes we passed by to the east on the Dundas streetcar. The atmosphere was light-hearted, perhaps spurred by the mix of art students, fog machines and inflatable beings. I’ve seen or heard a long list of names applied to cloud-like creatures of Moon-een on McCaul: angels, Pillsbury Doughboys, sperm, Stay-Puft Marshmallow Men, teddy bears, etc, etc. Their charm made it difficult for many bypassers not to pose for photos in front of the inflating creatures. We also encountered a bubbly girl requesting high-fives from all—we couldn’t tell if her strong French accent was real or inspired by Peter Sellers.

The greeting we received at Village by the Grange was much warmer than those from coffee shops on Parliament Street. While many businesses catered to the crowds in the core, potential customers checking out the lower-key exhibits in Cabbagetown found doors closing around 11—a later time than normal, but hours that probably could have extended by another hour or two. Boozy-breathed patrons gave us the heads-up on closing time at Jet Fuel, while the cleaner at Starbucks tried to tell people the store was closing in five minutes. A steady stream continued to flow in.

Public Displays of Affection - Kissbots (2)

Maybe weary staff needed kissbots like those found in Riverdale Farm. All it took was a couple of claps for the kissbots to show their love.

The exhibits in Cabbagetown, which included kissbots, video cubes and illuminated spiders, were a relaxing way to ease into the night. Not having to face crowds right off the bat allowed us to get into the mood of the evening, rather than letting swarms of people immediately make us cranky and tense.

Beautiful Light: 4 LETTER WORD MACHINE - You Probably Think This Exhibit Is About You

You probably think this exhibit’s about you, don’t you? Don’t you?

Beautiful Light: 4 Letter Word Machine drew enthusiastic call backs from the crowd in Nathan Phillips Square whenever a new word flashed during our first swing-by. On trip two, the only response to the gibberish and symbols that flashed on was a lot of head-scratching. Hard to say if the crowd was fully aware of the machine’s capability to generate nearly five billion graphic combinations or if some of the “words” flashing by were DNA codes. The description provided in the program guide was straightforward compared to those for other installations, which were so overwritten in the descriptions of artistic aims that flew over the heads of 97% of the crowd that it was hard to tell if they had been written with a straight face (I suspect...hope...not, since there were some that could have been amusing parodies of such writing).

Queen Subway Platform, around 2:15 a.m.

One of the major sources of complaints about the evening was TTC service, or lack thereof after 2 a.m. Using the subway to get around? No problem. Surface routes? Oh dear...trying to catch westbound surface routes in the core was like waiting for Godot, except that we had an engaging conversation with him during one of our fruitless watches for a Red Rocket. Three attempts to head into Zone C after 3 a.m. wasted an hour of our rapidly diminishing energy.

Attempt 1: Dundas and University. No streetcars spotted. Overheard teenage girls complain about the inability of suburban guys to find their way around.

Attempt 2: Queen and University. Several eastbound streetcars passed by. Choked on cigarette smoke from others waiting in vain for westbound transit. Taxis tried to dodge a Frisbee game taking place in the middle of Queen Street. We waited...and waited...and waited. Gave up and checked out the Zone B exhibits on Bay Street.

Attempt 3: King and Bay. Plenty of eastbound buses, occasional eastbound streetcar. Zilch going west. We waited...and get the picture. Abandoned idea to go to Zone C, headed towards Union Station.

Solutions for next year: beef up service on Dundas as a alternate route? Close Queen Street to all but pedestrians and transit (or just leave it open to pedestrians and leave the transit to Dundas, King and Harbourfront)?

Witches' Cradles (2)

Curling up in a sense-depriving witches’ cradle was so tempting...until I wondered if they would have turned me into a pod person, a human/insect hybrid, or one of the mutations William Hurt underwent in Altered States.

10 Scents

After a final stop that helped me determine which Glade air freshener to pick up on my next grocery run (sorry 10 Scents, but I didn’t think of Alice in Wonderland when wandering in and out of your scented porta-potties—with little time to ponder the contents of each can and a brain heading towards sleep, the mind tended to focus on the obvious), we hopped on the subway and called it a day just after 5 a.m. Not a peep was heard from fellow exhausted passengers. The city had been theirs and it was time to bid it adieu for the rest of the morning.


Looking for more? Besides the links posted previously, check out coverage from the Globe and Mail, Spacing, and the Star. - JB

Monday, October 05, 2009

1,614: unheralded nuit blanche projects department

Shoe Comparison

What do your shoes say about the state of the economy and those who have benefitted or suffered from the recent economic malaise? Are fresh shoes a sign of hope and progress? Do well-worn shoes indicate degrees of comfort with one's position or a sign of incipient poverty? To communicate the differences between economic conditions and perceptions in Canada and the United States, shoes used in this performance art piece were acquired at shopping centres in Niagara Falls, New York and Toronto, Ontario. Participants will be encouraged to sit next to fake green plants to contemplate the theoretical artificiality of economic and monetary concepts.

Performed between 4 and 5 A.M. at Brookfield Place in Zone B, October 4, 2009

In Reality: the energy boost provided by heaping helpings of Greek food at midnight had faded by the time I snapped pictures of our shoes during a rest break. Sarah had invested in a comfy pair of walking shoes earlier in the day, which paid off during our Nuit Blanche wanderings.

A full report and selection of links about the evening is forthcoming—in the meantime, enjoy some photos, notes from the night, and suggestions for improvement. - JB

Friday, October 10, 2008

1,427: the morning after the nuit before

The Morning After the Nuit Before (1)
A quiet information tent next to OCAD, waiting for a long rest.

The Morning After the Nuit Before (1)
Across town on Roncesvalles, Sunday reading for those barely making it out of bed...if they went to sleep at all.

Photos taken October 5, 2008 - JB

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

1,426: nuit notes

For the second year in a row, I tested my endurance during Nuit Blanche. Unlike last year, the other events over the weekend came before, not after, the all-night event. The morning was spent putting the finishing touches on an article, followed by a fantastic round of dim sum out by the airport with the monthly dining group. I tried to nap in the afternoon but only managed to spent 90 minutes in Dreamland. The challenge was to see how deep into the night I would last.

Judging from the reactions I've seen so far around the web, it looks like my big mistake was not drifting far into Zone C. I almost made it at the end of the night, but fatigue derailed those plans. I also remembered my trek through that zone last year, a miserable experience I didn't feel like repeating. C'est la vie. Despite a few duds along the way and less energy, I enjoyed this year's edition more than last year's, helped by elements not directly related to the works on display.


Nuit Blanche Cabbagetown: Project Beacon Nuit Blanche Cabbagetown: An Appropriate Work to Read

Though I contemplated starting in C and working my way east, Cabbagetown wound up being my first stop. Though only listed under one generic entry in the guide, the exhibits in Cabbagetown felt like a Nuit Blanche of its own. There was a strong sense of neighbourhood at work: many in the sparse crowd knew each other (I ran into a high school classmate), Parliament Street was closed off, vendors were out selling goodies other than street meat and local authors read Hugh Garner's novel about the neighbourhood. Think downsized, artier version of summer street fests. The relaxed atmosphere made it a good spot to ease into the night. Perhaps small neighbourhood clusters and a few large scale installations downtown could be a method of programming in the future.

Spiked Cabbage (2)
The cabbage lanterns were a cute touch.

Nuit Blanche Cabbagetown: Carousel
I pulled up a gym mat and caught a mix of dance and improvised music at the 509 Dance studio. Spectators were spared the spectacle of seeing my two left feet dragged onto the floor.

Nuit Blanche Cabbagetown: The Poet Tree
Who says poems don't grow on trees?


Next stop was Maple Leaf Gardens. The long line moved quickly, with most people happy to see a glimpse of the inside of the old hockey template. The official exhibition felt like an afterthought; the real attraction was the venue. The Gardens has rarely been opened to the public since the Leafs moved out, including an underwhelming Doors Open there a few years ago. Many seats are still in place, as is the centre ice scoreboard. Conversion back to a hockey arena is easier to visualize than Loblaws' on-again, off-again plans for a superstore.

Gold Seats
The true art was overhearing the fond memories of the crowd. Parents showed their teens where they sat. Fans bemoaned the Harold Ballard era. Photographers tried to sneak past guards to snap girlfriends sitting in one of the few remaining gold seats. I thought of Dad's tales of watching junior hockey with his grandfather in the 1950s and the tale of my grandmother seeing the first game at the Gardens.

1999 Cougrrr Still Promoted in Maple Leaf Gardens
Advertising from the late 90s was still visible. Access to the the washrooms opened more of the ground floor than Doors Open did, revealing well-preserved team store and reception areas.


The crowds appeared in earnest on Yonge Street. Negotiating room around the crowd? Fuhgeddaboutit. Many were flowing in and out of the park next to College Park to see if any zombies were about. There was a horde but it looked healthy, if a little confused about what was going on.

Lighting the Sam The Record Man Sign for the Last Time (2)
Nuit Blanche also marked the curtain call for the Sam the Record Man sign. The neon landmark was lit for the last time before Ryerson University expands onto the site. Shutterbugs lined Yonge Street to take their final shots. As with Maple Leaf Gardens, nostalgia ruled most of the conversations I overheard.


After a quick glimpse of the blue jello mould in the Eaton Centre, I wandered over to City Hall to check out Stereoscope. The building was transformed into a large pixelboard, which was easier to immortalize with a short video than fuzzy pictures.

The towers were engaged in a Pong match. The upper ramp of City Hall was open, so I wandered up to get a closer look. The views of Nathan Phillips Square and the surrounding buildings were wonderful.

Old City Hall from New City Hall Upper Deck
A lovely view of Old City Hall.

Business Class
The longest stop in the Financial District was Business Class, which allowed participants to enjoy the wonders of modern airline check-in procedures. Picking Memphis as my destination was not a wise one, as it led to a hands-against-the-wall security frisking with a plastic lightsaber.

Around Union Station the effects of the long night were becoming apparent in others. A group of twentysomethings mulling outside the station uttered the strangest soundbite of the evening:

My friend is from Mexico! He needs $3 to get his family out of El Mexicoville!

I won't receive any rebates from the El Mexicoville Rescue Fund on my 2008 tax return.

In the bowels of the station was a long line for Horroridor, two screens of famous movie screams, mostly under gory circumstances. Cut away too early from the melting Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark, especially the one that looked like Dad (he was razzed about the resemblance when the movie came out and was one of the reasons he enjoyed it).


On the subway ride up to St. Patrick, two goofs decided to perform a combination of slam dancing and acrobatics using the handrails in the car. One landed squarely on his head around Osgoode. The other passengers glanced for a moment, then resumed whatever they had been doing.


Cinematheque Ontario ran silent comedies all night with live piano accompaniment. Perfect excuse to rest my feet. I arrived in time for the curtain to rise on Max Linder's Seven Years Bad Luck (1921). Unlike half the audience I managed to stay awake, but my energy level wouldn't last long.

Lineup Inside OCAD, 4:25 A.M.
4:25 A.M. and there were still lineups like this one at OCAD.

I finally ran out of steam around 5. The temptation of an Ossington bus was too much to resist. The jetlag will take a few days to work itself out.

Full photo set. - JB

Thursday, October 04, 2007


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 looked like somebody 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.


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.

Other views on the evening:
BlogTO (1) (2)
Globe and Mail (1) (2)
Naked Knit Girl
Toronto Star

All photos taken September 29-30, 2007 - JB