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Night Time is the Right Time

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So, we know we were all abuzz about summer festivals just this morning, but time is tickin’ along, and everyone’s just so busy that we thought we’d skip right ahead to autumn. This morning organizers unveiled Nuit Blanche 2009, at a suit- and camera-happy press conference at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Keen readers will recall that at the end of last year’s white night we compiled a list of recommendations for the organizers, born of love and hope that things could be made better. These suggestions included a range of measures meant to make the Nuit Blanche experience a more pleasant, less harried one, and we are delighted that the powers-that-be seemed to have paid us some heed.
Get denser we opined, tired out by the long distances we needed to travel as we wandered from one exhibit to the next. Ask and ye shall receive, for today’s announcement included the happy news that “Projects will be closer together. This will make the event more walkable and will allow people to see more projects in a shorter period of time.” We haven’t seen a map yet, but we give Nuit Blanche full marks for acknowledging the problem openly and committing to improving matters.
Ban Non-Pedestrian Traffic we begged. Crowds (especially those of the trashed, sleepless variety) and cars simply don’t get along, and if we’re going to turn Toronto over to the populace for a night then we should do so wholeheartedly. The City only gets part marks for this one: some roads will be closed (Bay from Gerrard to Front, McCaul from Grange Road to Dundas, and Liberty Street from Dufferin to Pirandello), but not nearly enough of them to fundamentally change the experience. Nonetheless, this is inching in the right direction, and we are encouraged.
Free the TTC we cried, eager to have the “free all-night contemporary art thing” as free to access as it is to enjoy. In addition to complimentary rides we called for vastly enhanced service, as the overloaded streetcars and shut-down subways put a major cramp in our style. Again, only partial credit, but another improvement we’re very happy to see: subways will run all night long from Keele to Woodbine, and from St. Clair West to Eglinton.
At this point you may, quite reasonably, be wondering about the art.


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Graffiti Research Lab’s “Neografik,” which uses an “infrared-LED equipped spraycan that allows writers to physically paint buildings and large structures with light.”


We all know that Nuit Blanche is jam-packed (though whether this is a good or bad thing remains in dispute), and this year is no different. Nuit Blanche will actually be a bit smaller this time around, reverting back to the number of projects it had in its first year (132, to be precise) rather than the more bloated subsequent editions (195 in 2007 and 155 in 2008). Since it’s still a teeny bit early for you to plan your routes, we’ll restrain ourselves to a few highlights, the most intriguing and promising of the projects curators presented this morning.

  • “Beautiful Light: Four Letter Word Machine” (D. A. Therrien). See that picture at the very top of this post? That is what happens when you suspend four seven-metre square lamp arrays above City Hall. The displays will change over the course of the night, and will include codes, DNA sequences, and “elemental words.” (We are guessing that they will not be of the four-letter variety.) Supposing the weather is clear, it will be legible for miles.
  • Rabbit” (Jeff Koons). We can only hope that this giant shiny bunny, which will be suspended in the Eaton Centre, will play nicely with the geese that are already there.
  • “Space Becomes the Instrument” (Gordon Monahan). Massey Hall is going to be turned into an enormous musical instrument: piano strings are being strung across the hall and will be played (plucked?) by live performers. Possibly the best idea for a sound installation, ever.
  • “Wild Ride” (Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan). It’s a midway on Bay Street, complete with rides (meant to evoke the rollercoaster of the marketplace) and cotton candy (meant to evoke…cotton candy?), staffed by “recently downsized businesspeople.” We’re not sure if this is an exercise in shadenfreude or comic relief, but in either case count us in.
  • “Vodka Pool” (Dan Mihaltianu). A reflecting pool made of 100%, honest-to-goodness vodka. We imagine the highlight will be the elaborate security measures that organizers need to introduce to prevent passersby from taking a dip.

Photos courtesy of the City of Toronto.

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