Torontonians: I’m not the only person out there who thought Nuit Blanche was pretty boring and a little saddening, am I?
Furriners: “Nuit Blanche” is Toronto’s take on Paris’ Nuits Blanches, a much-imitated overnight public-spaces art and culture festival that the French started in Paris in 2002. Apparently in Paris it’s fantastic, miraculously great. Here, I thought that it was overcrowded, mostly boring, sporadically incomprehensible, thoroughly corporate and surprisingly expensive, but in that sense it was very true to the spirit of this overcrowded, mostly boring and surprisingly expensive corporate city.
There were some rare gems; an old stone bank done up entirely in scaled-up frilly pink lace was kind of neat. All the (you see these all over, in this city) “DIVORCE! $300” take-a-number signs (and one huge billboard) along one stretch of road had been replaced with pitch-perfect “LOBOTOMY! $300” parodies. But there were also a bunch of absolutely opaque, completely incomprehensible performance-art “pieces” and a lot of gimmicky little installations that seemed really intent on conveying some point that their authors hadn’t clearly thought either through or much of.
The rest of it seemed to be composed entirely of keeping art galleries open late. Virtually all of them didn’t even put up anything new. You just got to look at it through a mosh pit full of anonymous thirty-to-fiftysomethings, instead of by yourself.
But the corporate sponsorship! Brand recognition! Yee haw, that was everywhere; anti-art, placed all around the art in equal weight and measure, so that the human soul can remain perfectly unmoved, still between either pole. (Please note, organizers, that the French Nuits Blanches site is shockingly prettier and more elegant than your unusable flash monstrosity, and features one tiny link at the bottom saying “sponsors”, and does not have your disgusting brand-wads snuffled up and horked vigorously over every page.)
Toronto might, in our pedestrian Canadian terms, be a pretty big city but I tell you this: when the time for words has passed, it sure doesn’t know how to act like one. I was hoping for big art and big ideas. I wanted Royal De Luxe and big rabbits and, most of all, scale, but I felt like I was walking around a city that has a bucket of money, pedestrian taste and no soul.