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A Nuitmare on Queen Street

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8:05 p.m.: I start in Yorkville. Last year, it was full of small, neat exhibits buried within the alleys and stores. But where is the art? All I see are a mass of people crowded around the Cumberland rock, ooohing and ahing over a man hosing down the street. The Nuit Blanche guide makes no mention of this as part of an installation. I’m pretty sure this is literally just a man cleaning the rocks. – Ariel Lewis

8:50 p.m.: As I’m walking down Bloor to meet my companion for the evening (Alex Ross, Varsity Comment Editor extraordinaire), I get distracted by the virtual silhouettes projected onto the ROM’s Crystal Facade. There’s something mesmerizing about watching the animated figures strolling calmly over the sharp protrusions of the building, and I can’t help thinking that the installation temporarily justifies this ridiculous piece of architecture (yes, I’m still bitter about it). – Brigit Katz

9:07 p.m.: We get into a line in front of the Bata Shoe Museum, wanting to see what the Nuit Blanche programme describes as “massive illuminated origami spheres that transform the Bata Shoe Museum into a unique urban garden.” The line moves suspiciously quickly, probably because it turns out that the urban garden is pretty sparse and at 5 foot 3, I’m considerably taller than the so-called “massive” spheres. – BK

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8:55 p.m.: While Agnes Winter’s Monument to Smile is endearing, flashing pictures of smiling people from around the world onto the front of Holt Renfrew while Charlie Chaplin’s melodic “Smile” plays in the background ultimately makes the same impact as a Kodak commercial. – AL

9:15 p.m.: I make my way over to University and Bloor only to find that the few installations in this “hot spot” require a good thirty minutes of waiting in line. Time to reroute. – AL

9:25 p.m.: We start walking back up Bloor to see the light installation at the Royal Conservatory of Music. In front of Varsity Stadium, there’s a crowd gathering around a Mercedes Benz filled with rubber ducks. We head towards it, thinking that it’s some sort of post-modern comment on consumerism, but it’s actually just an ad for what promises to be a terrible romantic comedy starring Katherine Heigl. – BK

9:45 p.m.: I’m mentally and physically preparing myself for the night ahead by ingesting a giant meal and a lot of nice beer. Surely, this will help me get into the spirit of Nuit Blanche, or at least keep me mildly satisfied hunger-wise as I get more and more frustrated with everything else. – Alex Nursall

9:50 p.m.: Wait a second, I hate crowds. Shit. – AN

9: 50 p.m.: When we arrive at Hart House, there’s a line shuffling slowly into the Reading Room on the main floor. We decide to join, thinking that the exhibit inside is going to be some sort of extension of the gallery of musicians that lines the walls of the hallway. As it turns out, the featured attraction is a homage to the 1977 performance, “Imponderabilia,” in which gallery patrons were asked to walk through a narrow doorway flanked by two completely naked people. I’m not particularly thrilled at the prospect of being sandwiched between two naked women, no matter how briefly, but the line is moving irrevocably forward, so I just avert my eyes and try to avoid assaulting them with my purse. It’s a large purse though, and I’m not so sure I succeeded. – BK

9:57 p.m.: We wander towards Ice Shack, a small wooden hut built on blocks of ice in Hart House’s courtyard and one of my favourite installations of the night. We’re invited inside the shack to catch fish from a hole carved into one of the ice blocks (and by “catch” I mean grab a fish from a pile of dead Smelt with our bare hands) and then a guy in a sailor’s cap roasts them over a small pan of coals. I thoroughly enjoyed this one because it was in no way trying to make some earth-shatteringly profound statement about the nature of life and art. It just sought to give people a chance to get a little dirty and schmooze around an open fire of fish. What more could a person want? – BK

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10:20 p.m.: What’s going on here? After walking 8 blocks down Yonge from Charles to College I’ve seen one exhibit that was a cheap Lady Gaga impersonation and turned out to be an advertising gimmick for a leather fetish store. Where is the art and where are the hotdogs? Art, cheap hotdogs and people that are way too drunk are key elements in a proper Nuit Blanche. Thus far I’ve found only one of the three. – AL

10:25 p.m.: I’m up at the Jewish Community Centre where the Invention in Three Parts for Toy Piano is playing. The contemporary pianist in me thinks this is kind of cool, but the other large swath of my being has noticed that the Second Cup in the JCC has twice as many people at it than the actual exhibit. The insanely crowded coffee shops will be a running theme for the rest of the night. – AN

10:31 p.m.: There’s something going on at the Bata Shoe Museum, but the line-up looks like something out of one of the circles of hell. If I’m going to wait this long for something, I would at least like to have an orgasm by the end of it. I doubt this will deliver. Moving on… – AN

10:33 p.m.: There’s a soccer scrimmage happening over at Varsity Stadium, and there are people milling around the fence on Bloor St. going, “Is this an exhibit? Is this art?” Not even an hour in and I already want to punch everyone in the face. THIS IS NOT ART, IT IS PEOPLE PLAYING SOCCER, KEEP MOVING DAMMIT. – AN

10:35 p.m.: The Orgasm Energy Chart installation is based on the survey forms that General Ideas sent out in the 70s, asking people to record a month’s worth of orgasms on a chart. Instead of displaying the original questionnaire, the artists are having people draw on the forms and hanging them on the walls of a small room in the University of Toronto Arts Collective building. As I’m mulling over what the installation is meant to represent, a bearded guy asks me with a grin, “Wanna draw a picture?” As I’m taking one of the blank survey forms from him, I catch sight of a little girl, sitting at a table in the middle of the room and drawing a pink bunny right under the “Orgasm Energy Chart” heading on her own form. It’s definitely time to leave. – BK

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10:47 p.m.: There are pictures of random animals flashing across those big orange road signs at the corner of Bloor and University. Frankly, I think this is a much better use of these signs in comparison to what they’re normally used for, which is distracting me while I drive when big glowing “DON’T PUT YOUR BABY ON THE ROOF” messages flash at my car. You know what? Screw the pointless messages — let’s just have all of them flash sharks or something from now on. – AN

10:48 p.m.: In stark contrast to all that nudity and orgasm talk, we next head over to Trinity Chapel, which is hosting an installation called Procedures in a Time of Plague. It’s an enticing premise that severely disappoints by using plastic hands attached to remote control cars to represent the impossibility of human contact during times of epidemic. – BK

10:57 p.m.: The Monument to Smile up on the Holt Renfrew building is actually kind of interesting, although the song playing along with it draws fingernails down the chalkboard of my soul. Every time I think I’m about to get into the experience, the singer would start screaming, “SSSSSSSSSSSMMMMMMIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILLLLEEEE” and I’d find myself whipped back to crankiness so fast my teeth hurt. – AN

10:59 p.m.: Someone has just texted that “matthew fox makes baby jesus cry” to the Odd Spaces installation on Scotiabank. I hope the people in Karachi appreciate that. – AN

11:00 p.m.: For the most part, the goods for sale in the Nuit Market are the same cheap goods you can find in any dingy basement mall that’s fully stocked in knock-off brands and questionable-looking beef patties. However, it’s wedged in a narrow and winding alley, decorated beautifully with a string of green lights and well-equipped with vendors who want to haggle. This installation surprisingly pulls off a cool, black market vibe. – AL

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11:15 p.m.: At the Miles Nadal centre, we walk into a dark auditorium, where oversized, technicoloured sheet music hangs from the ceiling. Music being played by a cellist in a room down the hall echoes eerily in the background, while three figures, dressed entirely in black, plonk on the keys of toy pianos. Every few minutes, they silently get up, switch spots and start playing again. It’s bizarrely captivating, although I can’t shake the feeling that at any moment, one of the musicians is going to turn around and possess my soul. – BK

11: 17 p.m.: Ahh, and then there are the exhibits where you nod along and think silently to yourself, “I don’t get it. Why is she throwing rocks?” – AL

11:21 p.m.: I get to Cumberland just in time to see the final performance of Kent Monkman’s Iskootão, which ends up being the highlight of my night. This makes up for the fact that I missed my chance to see Cher in concert this summer. Also, I want his dress. – AN

11:36 p.m.: At Yonge and Dundas Square a massive bonfire blazes, there is a silent contact dance performance that bystanders are welcome to join, a man is walking on stilts, and an atrocious band is playing Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So.” I feel like this scene sums up the manifesto behind Nuit Blanche: random, unadulterated acts of art in all shapes and forms- for better or for worse. – AL

11:45 p.m.: We decide to double back and brave the line that leads into the ROM. Just as we get to the front, some guy cuts in front of us, but we decide to let it slide because he’s wearing a cap with a glowing, plastic brain attached to it. Don’t want to mess with that. – BK

11:45 p.m.: Fuck it, I’m getting a coffee. It’s time to brave the packed Starbucks up on Bloor. I’m half tempted to just start dropping elbows so that I can get through the line in less than five hours. – AN

11:52 p.m.: When we finally do get into the ROM, we’re treated to XXIX, a video installation that harmonizes footage of 29 singers, singing in 29 different languages. It’s fascinating to see how seamlessly the performances fuse together, despite the wide discrepancy in languages. This is the first installation of the night that I genuinely enjoy without any trace of bemusement. – BK

11:59 p.m.: There’s a huge line waiting to get into an exhibit by a contemporary African artist. A staff member sees me looking at it perplexedly, and whispers, “Don’t bother waiting, it’s here until January.” On our way out of the museum, we see Brain Guy bypassing the line and sauntering happily towards the entrance to the exhibit. I’m willing to bet that he got right in. – BK

11:08 p.m.: There’s a couple of guys on bikes going down Harbord yelling, “Where’s the art? Where can we find art?” Someone on the street suggests Hart House and the naked ladies within, and the bikers respond with, “We already saw the naked ladies! Now what we want is more naked ladies!” At least they have a game plan for the night, in comparison to the rest of the aimless crowd that’s milling around, texting and complaining about the cold. – AN

11:09 p.m.: There’s an ice hut at Hart House. Dammit, now I really want smoked salmon. – AN

11:13 p.m.: I’m inside the room for the One at a Time exhibition at Hart House. The person in front of me in line is probably 10-years-old, and she’s jogging over towards the two nude women standing at the door. I’m not entirely sure how to feel right now, partly because of the young kid whom I think just took a nipple to the eye, and partly because the woman working the entrance made me surrender my coffee. I feel kind of uncomfortable as I squeeze between the guards at the door, mostly because I’m trying to avoid whacking one of them in the tits with my camera. – AN

11:42 p.m.: Later That Night at the Drive-In has attracted pretty much every stoned kid on Queen St., and they are all lying on the ground around the screens listening to the trippy guitar music. Is this what the 60’s were like? I’d ponder that further, but moments after arriving someone bikes directly into me. Holy fuck, my knees hurt. Stupid goddamn cyclists biking in the dark. – AN

11:54 p.m.: After hobbling away from City Hall, I come across what can only be described as a Game Boy rave. Drunk teens spin around to the bleepy-bloopy music, while one obnoxious guy yells, “PLAY DUBSTEP!” over and over as though repetition will cause the music to magically change. – AN

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12:07 a.m.: Kim Adams’ Auto Lamp, a Dodge Ram with light shining through an intricate design of holes in the van, is placed in the middle of the road just off the Young and Queen intersection, shining like a disco ball onto the buildings and streets. Fantastic. – AL

12:13 a.m.: Erik Satie’s Vexations is definitely the highlight of my night. Two pianists play Vexations and when they finish with their sheet music it is carried over to two origami folders sitting at a long table, who fold the blue coloured papers into flowers. This happens 840 times, or at least until the sun rises. The imagery of the folded paper flowers is gorgeous alone, but set within the architecture of the grand, arcing Brookfield Place, this installation was visually stunning. – AL

12:14 a.m.: Kim Adam’s Auto Lamp is actually pretty cool. I have nothing else to say about this piece, aside from the fact that I don’t think I’d ever let her near my car. – AN

12:20 a.m.: A collage of smiling portraits is being projected onto the facade of the Holt Renfrew Centre to the tune of the musical theme “Smile”. As Alex Ross puts it, it’s so saccharine it could give a person diabetes. Also, installation’s attempt to invoke a broader sense of humanity is somewhat offset by the $2,000 pea coat being showcased in the store’s window display. – BK

12:44 am: Seriously, is this the best the Ontario College of ART and DESIGN could come up with? The space outside the college that was always a host for loud, interactive art projects is now (deservedly) dead, while three creepy dancing bobble head caricatures that look like they came from a text 1-800 commercial are projected onto the side of the building. Underwhelming doesn’t begin to describe this installation, this is the least effective use of space I’ve seen yet. – AL

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12:50 a.m.: We follow a line into the Church of the Redeemer at Avenue Road and Bloor, where there’s a display of paintings by an artist named Samuel Crowther. The pieces have an exotic appeal to them and stunningly detailed with intricate patterns. It’s nice to finally see some art that’s pleasing in a purely aesthetic sense. – BK

12:54 a.m.: For the third time tonight a massive crowd gathers to play drums and dance in the middle of the street, this time outside the AGO; these impromptu parties are what keep this all night affair lively and in good spirits (the alcohol may help as well). – AL

1:11 a.m.: While I am not entirely whelmed by the film installation in the back east wing room in Hart House, which consists of a man stating facts and following them up with “true, false,” it is always nice to bask in the warmth of the Hart House fireplaces the few times a year they’re lit. – AL

1:19 a.m.: Uh… so it appears that Olivia Boudreau’s Box is just some videos playing in a minivan. You know what? I feel like I should’ve just kept drinking before I left. Maybe if I was hammered, I would find this interesting. – AN

1:25 a.m.: I guess I’m getting too old for this all night scavenger hunt. I’m done. – AL

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1:29 a.m.: Continuing on the trend of contemporary piano, Erik Satie’s Vexations has both an incomprehensible score and origami. This is awesome! By “awesome,” I mean “I’ve been drinking sherry out of a flask for the past 20 minutes.” – AN

1:34 a.m.: There’s a big twisty sound sculpture on Bay Street. that has about 15 tipsy hipsters yelling into it. I wander over to a tube and make a sound like a wookie into it. Some guy in an expensive baseball cap goes leaping back from the sound. My work here is done. – AN

1:52 a.m.: Can I just note that Yonge Street is DISGUSTING? There is garbage everywhere. I hate people. – AN

2:20 a.m.: Alright, one last thing. There is a birthday party happening up on Yonge, and I decide to join in as there is cake involved, and I am hungry, tired, and so done with this night. For our “party,” we are celebrating Tamara and Cathy’s birthdays. We sing them “Happy Birthday” once, which is immediately followed by some guy in the crowd asking us to sing it again. “Happy birthday to yooooooou,” he croons. “Happy birthday to SING YOU MOTHERFUCKERS.” I enjoy a slice of cold grocery store cake. I’m fucking freezing. – AN

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2:30 a.m.: After wandering amidst increasingly rowdy crowds of people for what seems like ages, we finally reach Nathan Phillips Square, where Daniel Lanois is giving a multi-media performance. There’s not really much to say about the show, except that it features Daniel Lanois. Sure, he’s a great musician, but for a show that promises a “multi-channel, multi-screen media experience,” the visual component is pretty lack lustre and doesn’t do anything to augment Lanois’ performance. Truthfully, I would be happy to catch a glimpse of the artist himself, but all I can see is the top of his head reflected in a giant mirror set over the stage. – BK

3:00 a.m.: You know what? Nuts to this. Sorry Nuit Blanche, but I’m tired, cold, and unimpressed. I don’t even think it’ll be worth it to try again next year. Every year, I keep on letting you back in – even when you hurt me – and every year you sleep with my sister. So you know what? I’m moving on to bigger, better things. Next year, I’m going to have a beer, get to bed at a reasonable hour, and forget about all this petty bullshit. But thanks for the cake, though. At least you tried. – AN

3:20 a.m.: A small, but excited crowd is gathered at the corner of Yonge and Dundas. Apparently, someone has lifted up a sewer grate and now people are leaning over the sewer and taking pictures. – BK

3:39 a.m.: We try to take a bus into the Distillery District, but realize they aren’t running anymore. We’re both too tired to walk, so we decide to head back home. It was a fun night, although when I get into a cab, the driver asks me if I’ve been eating fish. – BK