Nuit Blanching

Highlights from this year's all night art party


An early Thanksgiving that pushed this year’s Nuit Blanche up to the last weekend in September meant mild weather, and threatened rains pretty much held off. The fact that curated programming mostly happened in the area around Yonge south of Gerrard meant the downtown was rammed, but multiple street closures let pedestrians and streetcars through while keeping cars out. (How about trying this year-round during the congested rush hour?)

Videos in the still-under-construction Nathan Phillips Square tried for spectacle, but the highlight was Museum Of The End Of The World, Janine Marchessault and Michael Prokopow’s projects in the eerie, dimly lit empty parking garage under City Hall. A large portion of the lot went to Douglas Coupland’s Museum Of The Rapture, which included enigmatic signage about Michigan (maybe because it’s the site of the U.S. auto industry), a car wreck, items abandoned by those pulled up to heaven and live performers portraying traumatized, uncomprehending souls left behind.

Thomas Blanchard’s photographs of seeds inside mirrored tube were accompanied by booming noises, perhaps a comment on science gone wrong Jean Michel Crettaz and Mark David Hosale’s Quasar was a luminous neural network in the darkness Sarah Beck’s Postcard’s From The End were dioramas of natural disasters, plus her Dirty Loonie, a machine that repeatedly dunked a taxidermy loon into a barrel of oil, was an almost too painful evocation of our petro-dollar.

Iris Häussler’s Ou Topos, the trailer of a radiation-obsessed loner, felt as if the character had just abandoned it, and people were fascinated by two vitrines that held artifacts connected with the project, museum-like displays so out of place in the weird parking environment.

Oddly, people politely viewed the first two channels of Dana Claxton’s The Uplifting, which were in sharp focus, but regarded the blurry third video as a background to stand in front of and be photographed by their friends, a relentless activity of many NB-goers everywhere.

I thought it might be restful to spend some time in council chambers listening to Slavoj Zizek, but following the Slovenian philosopher, cultural critic and communist’s wide-ranging musings demanded mental acuity. And who knew a symposium would be so popular? Many people were turned away and had to watch a video feed outdoors.

Zizek touched on paradoxical aspects of modern life like how the supposed end of privacy in the internet age is instead a destruction of public life, the erosion of free will, morality and democracy under capitalism and the conservatism of pornography and of Hollywood’s depictions of sexuality. He had harsh words for leftist concerns like multiculturalism and the anti-sexual harassment campaign, and it’s hard to say whether he is hopeful about the future. He definitely feels we’re in a time of massive change.

At the AGO, Heather Goodchild’s Make It, Make It Again was a multi-performer factory floor in which uniformed workers sewed clothing and turned pottery to a pulsating sound, a kind of weird, cult-like, old-fashioned workshop decorated by banners reading “I’d rather be working.” As Zizek implied for many aspects of cultural life, Goodchild and company seemed to suggest that work itself as we conceive it is a figment of the past.

Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky’s All Night Convenience generated long lineups, and people carrying their lantern “merchandise” spread interest in the project throughout town.

I started my night around 8 pm at the Drake, hoping to see Daniel Barrow’s projection work in the hotel windows. Much as I love Barrow’s work, after spending an hour waiting for it, I had to move on. If you saw it, let me know how it went. I finished up around 4 am at Trisha Brown Dance Company’s Plane. Publicity photos gave the impression that the dancers would have to jump onto the screen, but it was actually covered with a grid of perforations that the three dancers used as hand- and leg-holds to slowly change positions as the film was projected over them. By this point, anything that allowed you to sit down on a bench where there were no screaming teenagers seemed pretty great.

See more photos from Nuit Blanche 2012.

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