The night of October 1 was awash with Facebook updates. Nuit blank, nuit bland, nuit blah. For an event that has become entrenched in Toronto culture, it gets a surprisingly bad rap. Though attendance at Nuit Blanche seems to increase every year, dissatisfaction increases with it.

With a poet, a comic, and a critic, The Varsity layered up and hit the town to figure what, if anything, can go awry on a Toronto-wide white night.

The Critic

by Simon Frank

8:45 pm I leave my apartment and start walking towards Hart House, always a fair bet for decent if not mind-blowing exhibits on Nuit Blanche. Around King’s College circle, drum and bass beats begin to thump in the distance, and I gradually approach what can only be called a rave truck. There are absolutely no takers in the call for dancing and I feel an intense sense of foreboding.

9:00 pm As expected, Hart House sort of delivers on its promise. There’s a selection of quality video art by Hannah Wilke and others, but it’s a bit overshadowed by the absorb-everything-no-reflection-required nature of the night. More fitting is the display in the courtyard devoted to the farming and consumption of crickets. Free samples of fried cricket are surprisingly palatable.

9:10 pm Walking through Queens Park, it’s hard to miss the “Feast of Trimalchio” by Russian collective AES+F. Arranged in a circle, screens display digital animation/film projections of preparations for a highly bizarre party. Apparently it’s in homage to the Satyricon and a commentary on extreme opulence. The message seems to get lost a bit, but visually, the piece is very impressive. Definitely a highlight so far, and not a complete waste of advanced technology.

9:20 pm I continue to the Victoria College quad, catching Karen Henderson’s “Slow Falls Rising,” a projection of reversed video footage of the Niagara Falls. It’s breathtaking, though funny to compare with the hockey game being watched in the residence common room a few metres away.

10:10 pm Masses of ravers gather around Avenue and Bloor. If, like me, you have an aversion to cargo-pocketed pants, it’s incredibly uncomfortable. Eventually, the rave truck reappears and draws them away. Phew. I much prefer the head-lamped, white-jacketed joggers that begin to weave their way through Yorkville.

10:50 pm Meet up with some friends and head to the “Struggling Cities” exhibit at the Japan Foundation. On a map of global cities, Toronto is listed as “Tront,” perhaps working against the festival’s the ambitions.

11:20 pm I’m remembering one of the unchanging features of Nuit Blanche: arguing with friends about what to do. Some friends of mine are far more excited about the re-opening of the Green Room than any of the art. I decide to rest awhile and then head west. This is beginning to feel like a board game.

12:30 am After a long walk and witnessing some of the first abhorrent drunken behaviour of the night, I reach “The Happiness Project: In the House” at Oz Studios on Ossington. The collection of installations builds off of an album where Charles Spearin interviewed his neighbors about happiness. Despite my ambivalence to all things Broken Social Scene, I’m actually impressed. There are a few decent sound pieces, visitors’ faces are incorporated into projected animations, and the space is lively but not overcrowded.

1:00 am It’s getting increasingly hard to tell the difference between art space, clubs, and a strangely popular eyeglass shop. On the up side, I hear the sonorous strains of my favorite street musician, “the ethno-doom busker,” who’s been MIA since the spring. He’s playing an amplified log-like stringed instrument. Weirdly, he doesn’t seem to be asking for money, selling CDs, or doing any self-promotion: the purest of artists.

3:00 am After running the gauntlet along Queen from Dufferin to Spadina, my companions and I end up at the Toronto Underground Cinema, catching a few renditions of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” conveniently being performed all night. It actually just smells like popcorn. I try to decide whether my 12-year-old self would be pleased or repulsed, but I’ve already remembered what leftovers I have in the fridge. It’s time to go home.

alt text

The Poet

by Bernarda Gospic, Tom Cardoso & Erene Stergiopoulos

10:00 pm
Hart House at Nuit Blanche
Was so fucking boring, man
No claps, just crickets

10:04 pm
Wasted LCDs
With confusing images
Please show me Simpsons

10:15 pm
Silly green igloo
You reek of booze and feces
Yearning spring meadow

10:22 pm
Queen’s Park steed statue
Installation idea:
Licking brass horse balls

10:30 pm
Moving picture show
Beethoven, oh so moving
Consumes all present

11 pm
Long walk down McCaul
Promiseless and so boring
My feet feel like pain

11:12 pm
A fucking line up?
Are you fucking kidding me?
Fuck fuck fucking fuck.

11:18 pm
Long walk to Dundas
I am not impressed by this
OCAD, you can’t art

11:39 pm
Nathan Phillips Square
So much money wasted here
There’s nothing to see

11:50 pm
Fire truck zooms down Queen
“Something always catches fire”
says drunk, with “fucking”

12:00 am
Yonge St. congested
Man loses control of cart
Pedestrian down

While walking down Yonge St., we realize there is nothing but advertisements lighting up the entire area. It’s crowded as hell and I see a man with a garbage golf cart drive uncontrollably into a throng of people occupying the road. Next thing you know, he runs over a man. A few Good Samaritans run over to lift the cart and free him. What the fuck? Thank goodness he was okay.

alt text

The Comic

by Murad Hemmadi

8:30 pm Walking through Queen’s Park, I can’t tell whether the people brushing past me are looking for artistic communion, or my wallet.

8:31pm Doesn’t SCOTIABANK Nuit Blanche defeat the purpose of this hipster event? The Wall St. protestors would not approve.

9:00 pm Nuit Blanche was clearly intended as a provocation to Rob Ford. An artistic event that causes road closures — heresy!

10:05 pm Hiking across College St. I can’t tell which of these pylons are art installations and which are meant for traffic.

11:00 pm At Nathan Phillips Square there is a seriously underwhelming light and sound show — I have to produce all the sound myself.

11:15 pm If I wanted to see these many people crowded together, I would have stayed in India.

12:00 am At the Eaton Centre it’s just like Comic-Con for art nerds — all the way down to the Day-Glo lightsabers.

12:10 am There’s a certain irony in the fact that the art-hunting hordes have trampled all over the works of regular street artists around Dundas Square.