White Night (2)

“But I haven’t seen any art!”

A snatch of conversation overheard more than once during Toronto’s Nuit Blanche.

I think one of the best things about this annual all-nighter is that it reminds one of how artificial boundaries are.

What captivated us was the sense of a city street party for over a million people, the reconnection with childlike joy and wonder, and, in the better installations, a sense of seeing the world through fresh eyes. Maybe not high art, but fulfilling at least something of artistic purpose as I define it.

I think joy, in this context, is rooted in the excitement of the unexpected, in wonder and, perhaps most of all, in conectedness.

Highlights?

  • Small installations by the Artists Cooperative of Canada at Spadina Museum, a garden walk reminiscent of magical prep-school ghost walks (with the bonus of Casa Loma and the view across the night city)
  • The hypnotic calm of a forest of lights and white, feather-fronds in the Atrium of the Royal Conservatory, itself a glorious blend of old and new (Philip Beesley’s Aurora) – video coming soon!  I already know and love the Conservatory’s fabulous Koerner Hall, where a solitary ghostly pianist took to the stage . . .

  • Spotlights (of unknown origin) picking up night clouds as if in some giant night-club as we stood in one of many line-ups (queues)
  • Flaming Pine Cone sculptures outside Campbell house – simple, mesmerizing, beautiful (I want one!)
  • The surprising delicacy of Auto Lamp, a white van punctured by brilliant light, shimmering light-flakes across the buildings at Yonge and Queen

  • CRUZE Remix, a definition defying combination of car show room, multiple projections screens, driving track through moving patterns of intelligent light inspiring live mixing of music  and video, a hand-painted car – this more than anything else made me question my need for definitions and boundaries as commercial promotion and spectacle intertwined!

It is easy to be cynical and dismissive – there are always critics. But, as well as enjoying the spectacle, we relished the unwaveringly amiable crowd (even when crushed tighter than sardines on the subway at 3 a.m.) Our evening was  not darkened by drunkenness or anti-social behaviour; I have read that, with bars unusually open until 4am, eventually a point is reached, but, in the seven hours or so we were on the streets, we saw almost none.

If culture is the glue that holds a society together, then without doubt Nuit Blanche is a significant cultural event – I felt truly part of an amazing city in a way I have not experienced anywhere else. It may or may not be ‘art’; but its weird and wonderful happenings do possess a positive power to bring people together, to inspire and illuminate. Toronto would be the poorer without its White Night.

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