Night Swim – Trinity Community Recreation Centre
Remember that camping trip or vacation when you quietly stole out to a secluded lake or pool for a moonlight dip? How naughty and clandestine it felt? Imagine that scene, then add DJs, lights, lifeguards, two hundred caffeine-powered, bathing-suited hipsters, and a steady procession of fully-dressed strangers walking by at random to gawk at your half-nakedness, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what Night Swim was like.
The brainchild of Christie Pearson, who co-curated an art project involving the city’s wading pools last July, the aim of Night Swim-other than soaking feet worn out by traipsing from exhibit to exhibit-was to recreate the atmosphere of the ancient Roman baths. And they did, replacing the senators and togas with throngs of indie kids sporting their swimming duds. Many lined up for more than an hour to splash while being serenaded by DJ sets from the blikes of ambient knob-twiddler Tim Hecker, Polmo Polpo, Keith Fullerton Whitman, and Sickness Crew. Swimmers gazed up at room-length mirrors and alternated between warm and cold pools until 7 a.m.
Of course, getting an eyeful of sissy workout-challenged art kids donning speedos is not everyone’s idea of a good time-one green-faced bather even confessed that the sight of so much pale gooseflesh was making him sick. But though the music was patchy at times, and most of us could have used a sit-up or two, witnessing a Toronto community pool being taken over by music and art made for a memorable night indeed. -S.B.
Dark Hart – Hart House, University of Toronto
A few (very slow) steps to the left once inside the doors of Hart House led me to the Dark Forest: a room lit up in green, and full of fake Christmas trees. Inside stood a bar and sandwich station, as well as a few stations where you could view television sets. The giant, white “Disco Sauna” was an interesting idea, but the tent overheated the entire room around it-already packed with a few too many arty beer drinkers making their rounds on the Nuit Blanche circuit. In addition to the canned sardine-style atmosphere, what had once been a wonderful (and free) sandwich and candy station had, by midnight, been completely decimated with seven hours of darkness still to go. The Justina Barnicke Gallery also opened its doors to the public. Selected art from the Salah J. Bachir Collection was displayed on one wall, and across the room the same works were merged into an animated, and entertaining, sequence on a side screen. -A.S.
Revolutionary Song / Chanson a Mourir – 1171 Queen Street West
In my favourite installation of the night, artist Istvan Kantor took over what appeared to be an abandoned parking lot and turned it into a full-on “Neoist” rally. A giant video screen played two music videos-“Revolutionary Song” had Kantor singing, with subtitles, about the Hungarian Revolution, the rise of “hippie scum,” and his plan to escape getting a haircut by causing a violent uprising in Paris. “Chanson,” which followed, amounted to a drinking song about death. This was made all the more entertaining by costumed revolutionaries marching around the lot in front of the screen waving flags, and burning wood in an oil barrel. Plus, you have to respect any work of art that includes drunken girls hanging out on a couch supported 15 feet in the air by a makeshift stage. -J.G.
Garden of Light – The Lester B. Pearson Garden for Peace and Understanding
Vic’s “Garden for Peace and Understanding” (a wonderful place at any time, by the way) was enchanted for Nuit Blanche with the addition of glowing water lilies. A remarkably calming piece, Garden of Light was the perfect comedown after hours trying to wrap one’s head around contemporary art. There’s really nothing more simple and beautiful than floating water lilies in a garden built for peace. -J.G.
The Toronto Performance Transit System – Various Locations
One of a few casualties at the festival (the others being some performance artists who just couldn’t keep going for all twelve hours), the TPTS was supposed to be a series of free buses taking Blanchers from zone to zone, the unique aspect being the inclusion of performance artists riding the buses and interacting with the passengers. The only problem? After over 30 minutes of waiting, we finally gave up, only to discover later in the night that the “system” had inexplicably shut down early (a wildcat strike, maybe?). Also worth noting: the zone-to-zone buses that were supposed to operate all night ran irregularly, and when waiting for the OCAD bus at the designated “Nuit Blanche” stop, the driver drove right past me, pulling over a block ahead, directly in front of one of the exhibits! Turns out no one told him where to stop, and the volunteers who were supposed to be working the bus stops never showed up. Definitely something to improve on next year! -J.G.
Dream House: Window on Music – Canadian Music Centre
This installation was good for only one thing: finding out where the Canadian Music Centre is located (20 St. Joseph Street). While a printed summary described artist David Ogborn’s intention to create a “dream-instrument,” in reality the show amounted to a painfully un-artistic open house for the CMC. Clips of music did play, but it was incidental background noise in an otherwise boring office building. “Oooo… archives!” -J.G.
Cracked, Not Broken – Camera Bar and Theatre
Some things you just cannot script. This was clearly evident while at filmmaker/U of T professor Atom Egoyan’s Camera Bar. The main lounge is separated from the actual screening room by a sound-proofed door, but I could follow the movie, albeit with no sound, on a small screen at the bar. The documentary film, by Paul Perrier, follows the life of Lisa, a 37-year-old crack addict who turns to the glamourous world of street prostitution to get her daily fix. Just as I walked in, Lisa, onscreen, was prepping to shoot up heroin at 3 p.m., and the music playing at the bar switched to Jack Johnson’s “Gone Going.” You just can’t write moments like that. -J.G.
Roy & Silo’s Gay Divorce – Harrison Baths and Swimming Pool
One of the most intriguing and original works of the evening, John Greyson and David Wall’s Gay Divorce turned the Harrison Baths into an off-beat narrative about the amorous adventures of Roy and Silo, two real-life gay penguins that live at New York’s Central Park Zoo. Different videos played in each room which told their amazing tale of eloping to Niagara Falls, escaping from a naked lawyer, and their subsequent wedding sponsored by Penguin Books. The swimming pool was filled with 50 balloon penguins of different sizes, which when lit-up was quite the sight to behold. The only question that remains is: were the two guys changing in the men’s room part of the exhibit, or just a couple of really embarrassed pool regulars? -J.G.
The Apotheosis of the Shadow – Bata Shoe Museum, 327 Bloor Street West
Interactivity was a recurring theme at Nuit Blanche, and Italian innovator Mario Martinelli’s Apotheosis definitely kept with the overarching spirit of things. A camera and a green screen digitally captured the shadows of posing Blanchers. You can see the results for yourself at www.mariomartinelli.it (just click on “meeting”) -J.G.
Four Car Washes / Four Video Artists – Queens Car Wash
Normally a car wash is the last place one wants to be at two o’clock in the morning, but during Nuit Blanche the Queens Car Wash was transformed into a lively video installation exhibition. Screening rooms were set up in each stall featuring works from video artists Dana Claxton, Sara Diamond, Shelley Niro, and Richard Fung. Although each artist’s work was featured in a different stall, the examination of identity and community was a common theme between each project. The mixture of personal subject matter and public space was an interesting (but common) concept, and the results were definitely mixed. Some of the videos focused more on dialogue and narration than visual style and the cavernous acoustics of the car wash made it hard to discern what exactly was being said. Richard Fung’s languidly paced documentary about his mother especially suffered, since it relied heavily on talking heads. The curators should have chosen more visually dynamic selections to avoid this issue. Dana Claxton’s short videos were the only excellent pieces as they contained lots of interesting and abstract imagery. Her video “I Want to Know Why” was particularly striking due to its deconstruction of mainstream First Nations iconography and a voiceover screaming about various injustices inflicted on the Native community. -K.M.
Morse Alphabet Soup – MaRS Centre
Quebec artist Diane Landry was responsible for the shadowy projections of various rotating objects on the wall outside the MaRS building. In my time there, I saw the entire alphabet (from a stencil sheet, I assume), a baby, a small chair, and a pop bottle. All I could think about while watching the shadow of a baby spinning round and round was how I was going to keep such a creepy image from invading my nightmares. -J.G.
Confinement of the Intellect – Trinity-Bellwoods Park
This perturbing exhibit from Torontonian Thom Sokoloski featured 68 small tents set up inside Trinity-Bellwoods park, each containing a scrap of paper, a cardboard box, or some other aspect of a different narrative about individual mental patients. While I didn’t get to see all of them, what I saw was depressing, disturbing, and somehow fitting for six in the morning during Nuit Blanche. My favourite was the tent that invited you to rip cloth from an article of clothing and attach it to other pieces of cloth strung up in the middle of the room; a piece of paper told the story of a woman who would take pieces of other people’s thrown away clothes and sew them together to create new outfits for herself. -J.G.
Fog in Toronto #71624 – Philosopher’s Walk
Fog in Toronto was pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a section of Philosopher’s Walk was filled with artificial water fog and illuminated with coloured lights. According to Japanese artist and creator Fujiko Nakaya, the Fog was intended to reveal “the relationship between artificial and natural, things and being.” The aesthetic effect of seeing Philosopher’s Walk covered in fog was truly stunning. The power of this piece was diminished later in the evening, with hundreds of people taking in the spectacle, (and consequently inhaling the fog) but it was still a breathtaking sight to behold in its prime. -S.M.
Loomings / To a Watery Grave – University College Quad
Loomings was an audio installation of the first few minutes of the classic aquaphobia-inducing film Jaws. It was intended to create a sense of foreboding before entering curator Andrew Hunter’s second exhibit, To a Watery Grave. Located in the University of Toronto Art Centre, To a Watery Grave was a thoughtful collection of art which explored the deadliness of water. Though Loomings didn’t quite achieve its desired hair-raising effect, To a Watery Grave certainly did. -S.M.
The Suit Hugs Everyone
Mostly, individual hugs were given by a 6’7″ tall paunchy being in a wool suit who sported the proverbial paper-bag-over-the-head. The love was witnessed by a semicircle of about 50 at any one time with one video camera filming all the action. It was like visiting Santa Claus at the mall, but in the middle of a brick circle in October. Most people approached non-threateningly from the front, and the people he embraced longest, shockingly shaking them up and down and side to side, were twenty-somethings. One elated girl came away from the hugging suit wittily rejoicing, “I am a part of art!” -J.C.
Hydraulophone – Edward Johnson Building
A musical performance featuring the hydraulophone! Water running through a tube is forced out through a series of holes along the top, forming what sonically amounts to a keyboard. Plugging a hole with your finger causes the tube to vibrate, and a microphone picks up the pitch, which sounds an awful lot like an electric organ. Chords are made possible by plugging multiple holes at the same time. Currently on display at the Ontario Science Centre, the hydraulophone was made to play some notatable songs including “Fade out Fade out,” “Little Star,” and “Baa Baa Sheople.” Video of this unique contraption is (as are all things) available for your procrastination pleasure on youTube. -J.G. & J.C.