Hey Luminato (Please Like Me for Me)
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Hey Luminato (Please Like Me for Me)

Photo of the Montreal edition of Mille Femmes from Galerie [sas]‘s Picasa album.
Consider the first editions of Toronto’s two major multidisciplinary arts festivals: Nuit Blanche 2006 was a stunning success, a magical playground that revived the spirit of the blackout and provided a moving conclusion to Let’s All Hate Toronto; Luminato 2007 was a mixed bag of highfalutin performances not attended by anyone you know (with the exception of the George F. Walker plays), along with a dazzling light show and some cool sculptural installations in three downtown buildings—Christopher Hume called it “more a businessperson’s notion of what an arts festival should be than the thing itself” and a “top-down exercise in arts manipulation, an attempt to impose a festival on the city because it’s good for us and the bottom line.”
Nuit Blanche 2007 suffered a sophomore jinx, with many people agreeing that it was too overcrowded and corporatized, kind of a city-wide Taste of the Danforth. But then Nuit Blanche couldn’t have gone anywhere but down. Luminato, on the other hand, hasn’t set an impossibly high standard for itself, and, as such, its second edition could conceivably improve upon the first. But very little of the programming for Luminato 2008 (June 6-15), announced at a press conference at the Jane Mallett Theatre Wednesday afternoon, gives cause for confidence that the organizers are interested in creating a more “organic” festival, to use Hume’s term.

2007_12_6LondonStreetscapes.jpgHere are the pieces that give us hope:

  • Mille Femmes, by French artist Pierre Maraval, will be a photo exhibition at BCE Place consisting of “one thousand portraits of women active in arts and culture in Toronto,” five hundred of them emerging, five hundred established.
  • StreetScape, in partnership with the AGO, will turn blank walls around the city into “monumental canvasses for street art….graffiti writers, street art poster-makers, wall-painters, and boundary-pushing multimedia artists.”

Here are the events that dash some of that hope:

  • Queen West Celebration: “After Yorkville’s summer of love, Toronto’s artist scene moved south to Queen Street West. The 1970s saw the birth of an era best know for New Wave and Punk music, a movement centred on Queen West’s iconic music venues, Grange Park, and the Ontario College of Art and Design. Join Luminato as we celebrate the original era of Queen West cool through music, style, and visual art.”
    Because of course there’s no contemporary music or culture on Queen that could use some institutional support. This, and last year’s hippie trip in Yorkville, are reminiscent of that curious phenomenon whereby colonizers romanticize and pine for those “uncontaminated” indigenous cultures which they themselves have destroyed. “Queen West is the natural successor to Yorkville,” proclaimed Luminato CEO Janice Price.
  • Light on Your Feet: “Stretch your legs and dance Light on Your Feet over a series of evenings at Yonge-Dundas Square. The public square will transform into a huge open-air dance hall, where live bands will take the beat to the street, celebrating different musical genres each night. Early-evening lessons in fancy footwork will be offered, making these the ultimate dance parties for all ages and skill levels.”
    In her explanation, Price referenced swing, big band, and flamenco. Not that we’re necessarily calling for indie-pop and house music, but this sounds a lot like the Sunday evening concerts at Mel Lastman Square—and at least there you’re not boxed in by video ads.

Thankfully, more programming will be announced over the coming months as it’s confirmed (including a likely collaboration with the Toronto International Film Festival Group), and so it’s still very possible that Lumina2 could shape up to be a festival that’s relevant to a greater segment of the people who live in this city. And as long as they shy away from hawking us bank cards, they’ll still have a big leg up on Nuit Blanche 2.
Photo of London street art courtesy of Luminato.