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Nuit Blanche 2010: Nothing Artsy about being Artless

Auto Lamp, Nuit Blanche 2010, Toronto

The idea of hanging out all night at an arts fest that takes place only under the cover of darkness inspires novelty. Or, so it would appear. However, Nuit Blanche only seems to get progressively worse each year and inspires nothing but insipid interest for what passes for art these days.

A good excuse to get-together with friends and to give in to the colourful character that lives under your skin, Nuit Blanche brought forth crowds of people, perhaps more than last year, on  October 2nd right after sundown. I hit the party in Zone A near the Royal Ontario Museum with friends and friends of friends- as is often the case- close to eight-thirty. The long lines and half an hour waiting time for many of the commissioned (in other words, usually the exhibits worth catching) works discouraged us from moving forward. Yet, exhibits like the “Monument to Smile” by Agnes Winter on the Holt Renfrew store on Bloor Street did not require line-ups and attendees like yours truly could click from a safe distance. A giant projection of faces of Torontonians clicked by OCAD students, this exhibit had people milling in front of it, pointing out funny faces.

Monument to Smile, Nuit Blanche 2010, Toronto

However, many of the “art” on display were disappointing, like the LED light activated by movement and stillness- “Ning Ning” – on Bond Street. It was frustratingly similar to an exhibit that had been done in the past.

Part of the Bus House Collective, Nuit Blanche 2010, Toronto

A defaced bus stop near the old city hall- part of the “Bus House Collective”- garnered criticism from Torontonians. As overheard: “Destroying public property is no excuse for art!” The comment may have been discouraging for an increasing disillusionment of an event that I had looked forward to all year if it hadn’t been for the concert in Nathan Phillips Square. The loud rock music, coupled with multiple giant screens with projections of the performance, transformed the space into a haven for music lovers who wanted nothing more than to relax; and in some cases, smoke up (yes, there was a pot party too. In fact, several ones.), make out, and enjoy the music in the process. The magic in the air was palpable and only the urgency to catch more exhibits (and possibly discover similar gems) pulled my senses in another direction.

Later that Night at the Drive-In, Nathan Phillips Square, Nuit Blanche 2010, Toronto

Our walk took us to a swinging guitar coupled with loud gongs amidst huge screens of moving images. Playing a guitar that was non-static garnered attention for its unusual idea. Although, I have to admit the gongs were quite annoying.

Next, a huge bonfire in a corner of Dundas Square was a gratifying testimony to our inner selves who are quietly mourning the summer gone by. The crowd around the bonfire re-enacted what can be said of summer camping trips with group singing around the fire. Marshmallows were absent.

Just because you can feel it, doesn't mean it's there, Nuit Blanche 2010, Toronto

On another corner of Dundas Square, there was an open air opera that should be applauded for its attempt at theatre in the middle of sniggering crowds. Walking further south along Yonge Street, a perforated white van- “Auto Lamp”- lit from within by multiple bulbs greeted my group. As one of my friends put it, it was “pretty”, if not fresh. And that, in the long night of artless art, is a compliment.

The night ended with us walking further into Zone C at Yonge and King and catching the eerily blown up clown faces caught between two buildings on Yonge Street. Aptly named “Coulrophobia”, or fear of clowns, the images tapped into my horrific memories of Stephen King’s “It” at age ten, and at the same time, made my night worthwhile. If it wasn’t for the clowns, I would be planning to stay at home next year.

Endgame (Coulrophobia), Nuit Blanche 2010, Toronto

Photographs: Copyright Sanchari Sur

An edited version was published in South Asian Generation Next on 6th October 2010.

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