There were lots of things to like about this weekend’s Nuit Blanche: unique pieces, big crowds, and plenty of creative ways to pass twelve hours. Most of all, though, it just felt different. Nuit Blanche was Toronto transformed, a restless city core that became a huge party, and a taste of how we can do an admirable job at pulling something like this off.
Most of Torontoist’s contributors spent all or part of their nights on the town: Gary Campbell spent the length of the night taking photos, Ben Harris tackled Ballroom Dancing with children, Mathew Kumar enjoyed an offbeat tour and got really offended by Sabrina Jales, Johnnie Walker made “best of” lists, Christopher Bird coped with “misbehaving” in a kiddie pool, and Kevin Bracken wondered why we can’t do this all the time.
Read on for the details of some of our staff members’ wild nights in the city that – every so often, when kindly asked to – never sleeps. Let’s hope that this Nuit Blanche is the first of many, and that the “zones” (this year limited to three particularly trendy areas in the center of Toronto) eventually extend to every part of the city.
Gary Campbell spent his night taking photos of many of the events. Most of his shots from the night are here, but those that aren’t are in his Nuit Blanche Flickr set.
Just starting the night at “Night Light”, at the Drake Hotel, 7:34 pm.
Wandering through the fog on Philosopher’s Walk, 8:45 pm.
Contemplating a swim at Hart House while a Star Wars mashup played
on the wall, 9:17 pm.
Kelly Mark’s neon installation at Bloor & Avenue, 9:46 pm.
At Into The Void, the dual-headed guitar was a welcome wake-up call, 11:32 pm.
Making things out of clay at the Gardiner Museum, 12:28 am.
Dancing turned dodgeball, 2:45 am.
Adrian Blackwell’s social sculpture (Model for Public Space) was cool, but proved too wet to sit on, 2:56 am. (Damn rain!)
“Roy & Silo’s Gay Divorce,” a thoroughly amusing opera about two gay penguins, 3:10 am.
The most artistically moving piece of the night, “Confinement of the Intellect” by Thom Sokoloski. 68 pup tents set up in the very muddy grotto of Trinity Bellwood Park, 4:34 am.
A woman sleeping [Jealous! — Ed.] in a box [Less Jealous! — Ed.] for “The Public Sleeping Performance,” at the MOCCA, 4:51 am.
A melting block of ice that spells out “Stonechild,” at the Freeze exhibit, 5:08 am.
Sunrise – 7:15 am.
– Gary Campbell
They said it couldn’t be done, and they were wrong. Hundreds of thousands of Torontonians stayed up past their bedtimes on Saturday, and it isn’t hard to imagine the same thing happening every weekend without a multi-million dollar ad campaign to urge them. With the TTC eyeing 24 hour subway service, now seems like an excellent time to start thinking seriously about a 24 hour city.
Jane Jacobs would remind us that different people need different reasons to be in a place at different times of day. Now is a good time to be asking, “Why can’t we use our new City of Toronto Act powers to extend last call until 4:00 am forever?” or “Why do certain cafés have to close at all?” These are questions to be asking not only our politicians, but our local shopkeepers as well.
Could we possibly capture the magic of Nuit Blanche and put it in the everyday (or every night)? The answer is yes, and the best thing you can do is become a 24 hour citizen — but where to begin? Perhaps “Why haven’t we seen a decent 24 hour city guide since NOW’s?” is a question we should be asking our weeklies.
Start food shopping at 3:00 am, plan events that begin at midnight, install art in strange places and make the early morning swim part of your routine. Demand 24 hour services with letters and phonecalls, and give the souls who work the graveyard shift your love.
So as you’re recovering from your Nuit Blanche hangover, ask yourself: “Why can’t we do this every night?”
– Kevin Bracken
Most Hypnotic Experience
Sitting around the edges of the Hart House pool, surrounded by tea-lights, ambient music and all your sweaty friends while watching trippy clips from 2001: A Space Odyssey spliced with psychedelica was a bit of a mindfuck. More than one person remarked on their way out that they felt as though they were being drawn towards falling into the pool against their will.
Most Down-Home Yumminess
It was totally worth the fifteen-minute wait to get the delicious lime-spiced corn on the cob they were serving up in that weird park on Cumberland. What’s builds camaraderie faster than reading “maiz” fact sheets while waiting for snacks and checking out Zanta’s orange poncho as he saunters through Yorkville?
Most Terrifying Genitalia
If you went late to see the Vagina Dentata at 401 Richmond, you could certainly be excused for wondering whether you were actually awake, or just experiencing a particularly Freudian dream. It’s not every day you get to sharpen a pencil using an electrical pencil sharpener that happens to be up someone’s vagina. Although having to pay $2 a pencil did seem a bit cheeky.
Most Adorable Thing Ever
The dancing police officers outside OCAD. What was amazing about them was that they weren’t showing off, they were just gently tangoing with skill and ease. If this is what all the police officers were like, it is seriously doubtful that crime would even exist.
– Johnnie Walker
It’s a sad fact that adults and children are generally segregated. Unless you’re a blood relation or a friend, there’s a stigma attached to being around children. This is truly a shame, because children can be so funny and surprising. Luckily, adults can sometimes be funny and surprising too.
Mammalian Diving Reflex knows this well. Ever since May – when my hair was expertly and exquisitely styled by a sixth grader at their event “Haircuts by Children” – I’ve been desperate to be a part of another event. “Ballroom Dancing” did not disappoint. Picture the McDonald’s ball pit and, well, it was nothing at all like that. Those things are just plain creepy. Here, hundreds of children and parents and adults of all stripes hurled play balls at everything in sight. There was much dramatic diving across the floor. Even the murderball was whimsical. It was stunning, and, apparently, jerk reppelent. It felt like Richmond Street on a Saturday night in bizarro world: comfortable, interesting and fun.
If I were ten years old, Mammalian Diving Reflex would be my favorite thing in the world. As it stands, It’s just my favorite thing in Toronto.
– Ben Harris
Dave’s Totally Toronto Special Guided Tours vs. Adam’s The Real Totally Toronto Special Guided Tours
Convinced by the guide book promise of the infamous “Up-Side-Down CN Tower™”, I chose Dave’s tour, and we have to say, I chose right. It was obviously way better than Adam’s tour, that shmuck.
Seriously, the Adam and Dave tour was a brilliant “living play” as the two film-makers and artists faced off against each other to be the first tour to explain certain (ludicrous) facts to the point of forcing us all to run between landmarks; As the tours happened simultaneously on different sides of John St., the rivalry was obvious and hilarious. Of course, possibly not as hilarious as the people of Toronto south of Queen St. who had no idea what was going on, mistaking us all for genuine tourists (even after hearing us being told that the CHUM City building has a dragon buried underneath it.) Ending with a hilarious “Fact-off” underneath the Skydome, this was a fantastic event. Well, Dave’s was. Adam’s clearly sucked.
Position Yourself in a Network of Possibilities
This outdoor dancefloor near Osgoode station was utterly fantastic when the whims of the artist’s MP3 player didn’t turn against the crowd; Torontoist had the terrific bad luck to turn up just before the player decided to (unavoidably, unskippably) play about an hour of improvised jazz, which cleared roughly a three mile radius (other than me, who swore to never let the Jazz win.) Artist Samuel Roy-Bois is a grade-A jackass for not cleaning up his playlist to ensure it was all danceable. Still, this was good enough we almost wished it was always there.
Bedtime Tales: Fables and Fantasies
The Toronto Heliconian club is a fantastic venue, and it was wonderful to get inside out of the rain into such a nice space (plus a roaring fire!) but the event wasn’t really thought through; Torontoist hit the event at around 2:30 under the promise that there would be hot cocoa and cookies, but the hall was simply too large and too crowded for that to come true (admittedly because the servers contented themselves by simply serving the 20 or so people nearest to their door repeatedly). We could have just about stood that had we not, bereft of hot cocoa or cookies, forced to sit through, and we don’t say this lightly,
The worst stand-up in our entire lives.
We came for bedtime stories and got stand-up? It was almost cute when Sabrina Jalees came out and got several cheap pops from the crowd by reminding us how cool it is to live in a city that can do something like Nuit Blanche; it wasn’t when she performed a bait and switch and dropped her story book to perform the worst, most awful and frankly racist comedy we’ve heard basically ever.
Sabrina, we understand you are half Pakistani half Swiss! This is exciting! But it does not shock us! We live in Toronto! We are not shocked that you are a Muslim, either! We are shocked, however, when you trot out the lazy standards of the “ethnic comedian”; “My crazy grandma is so ethnic…” or “here’s an impression of my dad that if anyone else did it would be sickeningly racist…” and “here are the things I had to deal with growing up, because no one else was lonely or hated…”
Also! You destroy your moral high ground when you say how racist your dad is about Spanish people, and then you do an impression of a Spanish woman that was worse than one that Señor Wences would do. At least Señor Wences was Spanish, eh, probably the same kind of excuse you have for your hideous act?
Rant over. To recap – We’re sure that the rest of this night was good, but we happened to come during the worst half-hour, clearly. And it’s a beautiful building.
The Drake Hotel
The Drake were charging $10 to get in. This would (normally) be fine as the majority of their Nuit Blanche art was occurring outside, but they were advertising what was going on inside as a Nuit Blanche event too. Considering Nuit Blanche is a “a free all-night contemporary art thing”, that wasn’t entirely in the spirt of the night, eh?
For shame, Drake!
– Mathew Kumar
My roommate and I first went to see if we could get into Night Swim, the all-night conversion of Trinity Bellwoods Pool into a “Roman bathhouse experience.” But there was a hell of a line, so we decided to come back later.
At the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Art, one artist’s exhibit was entitled “24 Hour Three Stooges” – a series of Three Stooges shorts, slowed down to maybe 1/10th speed and projected onto a large white wall in the outdoors. (Hearing Curly do his squeaky growl at that speed is like hearing a whale fart.) We turned around back when we got to the Drake Hotel, and passed by two performance artists dressed in 1930s clothing and offering wheatgrass to passers-by. (At least I hope they were performance artists.) We passed by the all-night melting ice sculpture (which was interesting) and made our way back to Night Swim. This time the line was nearly nonexistent (although it formed up twice as long maybe five minutes after we got there, so I guess we were lucky) and went inside. They weren’t allowing cameras inside, presumably for privacy reasons, but it wasn’t a big deal, thanks to it just being, well, a swimming pool with mirrored silver fabric hanging overhead to act as a sort of mirror, and they had some coloured lights and DJs playing sound art. Not as impressive as one would hope.
By this point in the evening – about four AM – the toddler pool that had been converted into a calidarium had been shut down due to people “misbehaving”, as a lifeguard put it rather ominously. (Unsurprisingly, the Night Swim was filled with raver wannabes who heard that there would be DJs there and figured it would be a party. A lot of them exited complaining that the DJs were playing atonal music) So it was just people having fun in the pool and people watching in the bleachers. We had suits, but decided to go check out the scene from the bleachers first, and I’m glad we did, because the bleachers were creepy – the vast majority of people in them were just staring. Absorbing the people playing around in the pool like – well, like it was an art piece. Which it was, I suppose, but you can chat about it, you know?
– Christopher Bird
If you’ve got a story to share from Nuit Blanche, we’d love to hear it here – or, if you’re of the “pictures are worth a thousand words” camp, show us some shots you got in our Flickr photo pool.