Nuit Blanche: Installment the First

It looks like I’m just going to have to get used to the fact that every once in a while my laptop will need a vacation from my apparently toxic presence.

A few weeks ago I was sure it was dead – not just “oh here we go with it’s quarterly crash, better set aside a few hours this weekend to reformat it”, but full on “holy crap, reformat isn’t even an option on the startup menu anymore – and is that the blue screen of death? OH CRAP EVEN THE BLUE SCREEN CANT LOAD!!!NOOOOO!!!STOP MAKING THAT NOISE!!!” sort of dead. So off it went to my geekiest friend for her professional opinion. It seemed a lost cause, a victim of my apparent EMP genetics as well as succumbing to hard usage – too many long,  motherboard-fryingly hot hours of webcamming and multitasking is more than this little thing was built for. The verdict? “It just sort of works when it wants to now.”

Well apparently it wants to now, having taken a few weeks off. But rest assured I will never buy a new laptop again – a year max is apparently all I can squeeze out of these things. So for now I’ll web when I can, avoid leaving it on overnight, and await the next inevitable tantrum. If I disappear again, you’ll know this machine has suffered a swift, Office Space-esque death at the hands of whatever blunt instrument is most handy.

Anyways! Here’s what I’ve been meaning to talk about all this time, but instead may as well have been hanging out in a soggy, webless cardboard box.

Nuit Blanche! Yes, it (was) that time of year again when Toronto busts out with its free, all-night, contemporary art ‘thing’. Birthed in either Paris, St. Petersburg or Berlin (apparently there’s still somewhat of a bitchfest over its origins), it has spread to the worlds cultural centres as a means of artistic expression, both individually and en masse, themed social gathering, and urban identification. In layman’s terms: look how cool we are.

Last year was an unplanned, last minute tagging along to a series of fantastic albeit sometimes inexplicable installments, with poor caffeination/sleep logistics resulting in an early night. Anytime prior to midnight is a poor showing for an event lasting until sunrise, and frankly I was annoyed at myself for lack of planning.

This year was different! I went on my own, plotted ahead and mapped my course, determined to catch everything from the Inuit film festival at the Habourfront Centre to the peep show tent in the Casa Loma stables. Unfortunately the whole shebang is now so popular that many of the exhibits had lineups over an hour long. And so, I was forced to whittle in the moment, having to quickly choose between secret waterfall gardens and giant bouncy wedding cakes, post-apocalyptic tribal installments and giant pools of vodka. In the end some choices were good, some choices were blah, but I’ll let you decide for yourselves with a look at what I saw and a list of what I missed.

Here’s the first dose, just steps away from my door and through the annex, on my way to the subway through the core. Filled with museums, institutions, and galleries, my own back yard made for an interesting start.

First up! ‘Through a Glass Darkly’ at St. Thomas Anglican Church featured an interesting co-display of religious environment and song, set to the background of Galilean artifact, intended to draw visitors into the dynamic between science and soul. Or something like that.

Next we had ‘Where Have You Been In These Shoes?’, a collaboration with Diaspora Dialogues at the Bata Shoe Museum. Basically you got to walk in, have pictures taken of your shoes, tell random passerby a story about where you’ve been in them, and have on the spot poetry created by dialogue artists to share your experiences with the crowd. The display grew as the night progressed and more participants added their shoes and stories to the collection.

‘Music Inside Out’ was a ton of fun. Crowds wandered through the ornate entrance to the Royal Conservatory of Music, down the lush gardens to the newly added Telus Centre for Performing Arts, contrasting the old world look of the original building with the modern glass structure lit up in neon for Nuit Blanche.

There were a number of installations here, but my favourite was the haunted piano. It was nothing highly advertised, no signs pointed the way, just an unobtrusive volunteer who would tug at your sleeve as  you passed an elevator, inviting you to go on up – by yourself of course – to take a look. The elevator doors opened to an empty rotunda, a dark ballroom at the end of the hall with eerie music floating quietly, and you had to walk alone through the room to see the keys operating themselves in a disjointed, arythmic song.

Next up was the Institute for Contemporary Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum. The ROM recently underwent a somewhat controversial addition of a crawling, crystalline structure to the more traditional architecture of the main building. Many think it an eyesore, but I happen to like it.

The lineup, however, was not so enjoyable. At least the surroundings outside and on the way in were entertaining.

The installment here was a display of photos from the years of Vanity Fair 1913 – 2008, opened to the public with waived admission for the nights event. It was nice, but not worth the hour long lineup – I had more fun outside than inside! I didn’t personally take any pictures of the photos themselves because it seemed discouraged, but here’s a look from others’ points of view.

image from blogto.com

image from styleblog.ca

Since I spent so much time here, I decided to skip the ‘Overture to Parallel Nippon’ at the Japan Foundation across the street. Apparently it was some sort of architecture fest mixed with sound and visual, and it seemed like quite a party from across the street. But as for me, I headed down into the subway at this point, at the renovated Museum station, southbound for the downtown core.

Next up – City Hall, Yonge Street, the Financial District, and the busiest hours of the night!

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