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Nuit Plat

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.

4 Comments | Skip to comment form

  1. Adam

    I’d tend to agree. My personal favorite in the “lack of scale” category was this.

    I’d hardly call 3 strings of Christmas lights (barely) held aloft by 20 or so helium balloons, a monumental piece of art. Especially since they kept having to take the thing down to fix intermitant power outages. Me thinks they spent more time coming up with the “String of Diamonds Imagined” photo on the website then they did actually planning the installation.

    All that being said, it was a beautiful night to take to the streets, and I did really like this one.

    So, while I agree with you in principle, I still had fun.

  2. beltzner

    This year’s Nuit Blanche was certainly less magical than last year’s, and I wonder if that might not have something to do with the fact that there were far more people who seemed to be out this year looking for all-night parties, and far fewer exhibits that really played with the idea of merging art with public (or private) spaces.

    Those exhibits that did seemed to fail; the “alien” landing outside the ROM, the “String of Diamonds” DIY Home-Depot project, and even the Graffiti Research Lab was disappointing, just projecting onto the side of a trailer instead of onto a building-high screen.

    I didn’t manage to get to the dumpster hotel or the lower Bay station exhibits, but heard that they were both excellent. The chocolate stag thing was cute, but the concept wasn’t well completed; a chocolate feast would have been better, I think. Thrill the World’s performances at the Distillery, OTOH, were fantatsic, and I did like the projected aquarium exhibit, though I had to go a long way for it.

    I hope that landowners in the city begin to realize how interesting this event can be, if they let people make use of some of the more interesting architectural features of the city and merge them with interesting artistic expressions. Think of what could be done in Dundas Square, for example.

  3. DCFC

    The deer vs. wolf exhibit. Stand in line for 20 minutes. Show a film of a very small white room. Turd covered the floors, for authenticity. Have many high def cameras. Insert a deer. Bring in the wolf. Oh this is going to be messy, and here I thought art was often boring! Lights, cameras, ACTION! Audience please be silent now or you might miss it. Ok, Action! Good camera work. Ok, the wolf is licking its lips, awesome. Action! What the, he’s not lying down is he? Rolling over!! Now, sleeping!? Honey, what is this life insurance commercial I’m watching that you call art? Get deer-life life insurance and in life the wolf goes to nappy land? Yes I know, calm down, I’m sure something interesting will happen… what do you mean that’s the whole film!? I hate you wolf! I hate you nature, you’re always so unfair.

  4. Alex Rootham

    On the lobotomy art – see Wooster:
    http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/wooster/~3/164716675/fauxreels_cheap_lobotomy.html