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Nuit Blanche Night Shift

An intrepid reporter of ours made his way to Toronto to celebrate the free all night art festival on Oct.4-5th, Frenchly named 'Nuit Blanche 2008'. A week late, he's finally submitted his work...

(note: despite this being an 'arts review', we have decided that pictures are for suckers. actually, we sniffed through the internet and couldn't find any good ones. Put on your imagination caps, folks...)


11:31pm – October 4 – Go Train

Here I am on the way to night white, as the translation implies. More high than drunk, but definitely both. An unusual random play list on the iPod that I’m not that fond of. Bush, Aaron Copland, Phish, Dave Matthews covering ‘Long Black Veil’ with Emmylou Harris, ‘Daytripper’, Van Halen, Eeels. Blah.


11.49pm –Go Train

Only midnight or so. Long night ahead of me. 6:43 is the train back to Jokeville. Left a lovely little get together to make my way downtown. For lights, murals, and zombies. Reading ol’ reliable Fear and Loathing. Forcing my flopping soul into the sense of adventure.


11:55pm – Go Train

Passing St. Joseph. Reading about Dr. Gonzo and Duke crashing the Drug Convention. Edgy for no reason. Such is life. And Ryan Adams blows. I may need a coffee earlier than I first anticipated. I plan to abandon bike – sorry, leave bike – at union while I explore the financial district.


1:25am – October 5 – Distillery District.

Okay, plans changed and they changed fast…

Horror thing at union is packed. Crazy, forty minute line. I plan to revisit it on my way out, leave my bike near the VIA train concourse entrance, and head over to the BCE place. There are many photographs, but then they always have exhibits like that there. Actually, according to the guidebook, this doesn’t seem to be an official nuit blanche exhibit. Quick, call the hip police! Still, a ton of people are looking at prize winning photographs from the past year.

An official exhibit, a series of photos showing Toronto at night is outside. The weather is lovely, but the pictures are pointless. I am in Toronto at night. Why am I looking at straightforward, unaltered photos of it?

Walking to Berzcy Park, I find Larry McDowell hanging around blindfolded in half a room, chained to a chair. He’s gonna be here all night, ladies and gentleman!

Saw a man covered in food at St Lawrence market. Apparently I missed a sushi show. The best is overlooking the empty St Lawrence market. All the little booths and shops are quiet, and don’t seem to smell like they should. It looks quiet, despite being attached to all night art soiree.

Got a coffee and cookie at second cup, chugged down while heading to Distillery, then realized I was walking when I could be peddling. Backtracked (which I hate doing) and got my bike from Union.

In the Distill, there was plenty of people who looked hip, but I have no idea if that’s enough to really be hip anymore.

Plenty of commercial galleries open here, with many rooms where the artist’s work open upstairs sometimes containing said artist.

I’m immersed in everyday symbols paintings and secrets hanging from balloons (‘I want a penis for a day’) and I’m not sure what to feel. High, drunk, and wired on coffee makes first impressions hard to decipherer. Outside there is an alley dressed up as an attic. Murals of duotone everywhere.

Condos surround us at all times. I wonder if that’s the main populace at this venue. Kind of glad I’m heading to Yonge Dundas soon.

A tiredness is infecting me. Perhaps it’s affecting my enthusiasm so far. I can’t run on the chant of ‘free art’ all night. Some of it should gut punch me a bit.


1:48am – DiSTILLery

The Arta Gallery is excellent. The soft jazz flowing through the speakers helps the friendly pastel atmosphere of the paintings, many made by Bedriska Uzdilova. And empty. Finally it’s getting whittled down to the diehards and insomniacs. The drunk yelling in the PROOF gallery – ‘you’ve only been gay sixteen months!’ – got old fast.

A gallery I do not know the name of – EMA? – had some Tool/10,000 Days art by Alex Grey. Plus some apocalyptic-religio-social-hindu-gas-mask-rebirth-cycle super painting. Didn’t see a kitchen sink.

In the Thompson Landry gallery: Pricing of the art in some galleries - $4600 to $22,800 – seems to be forcing me to judge art solely in monetary terms. Would I be willing to put that on my wall for five certain figures? I guess it’s moot since I don’t have that kind of money to spend on art, let alone anything.

This series of paintings were intense and chaotic, always with a central character: a woman’s spirit face hovering above what would be a witch’s brew, but is instead colourful chaos.

Maybe I am naďve for ignoring the fact that art is a business. The sexy black and white nudes in PROOF were $950, after all. That’s an expensive whack off.


1:59am – One final walk through the Distillery. There are more taxis here than bikes. A shame.


2:40am – Convocation Hall, U of T

Biked to Yonge Dundas, parked just off Gould at Dalhousie. The square is packed with animated clubbers, tired artsies, and an underwhelming spotlight. Most people do a stupid dance when they’re targeted. One guy runs as if in the middle of a jail break. It’s hard to get excited about it when there are more info tents than art here and people hawking free movie tickets. More people are watching a ten foot unicyclist on the southwest corner. It feels like the usual sub-par events they usually hold at Yonge-Dundas.

Up on college park, zombies are heavily outnumbered by people just milling around. Warning of the possibility of being filmed is unwarranted and illusion breaking. At least warn that people might be attacked by zombies…

These were the two heavily promoted events in popular areas of the city. Maybe they could never live up to the hype.

Walked along college, saw ‘blue sea sheet’ but titled waterfall at the corner of University. A large group of people to wade through.

Tried to get a beer at O’Grady’s because it was open, but told by the bartender that they weren’t serving.

So walking into the heart of U of T, I hope for a more private affair, especially since I’m going to burn one down here first before heading to Hart House.

I’m not too worried about missing the zombies and spotlight. I have to pass back down that way to get my bike.


3:00am – University College

Got high at the old stomping grounds. Passed a limousine, and wondered if this was they type of event best covered by long car. Seems a bit over the top.

Quiet here. One with nature. Hoping for less people in the next couple hours.

May need coffee soon. Or a piss.

I am aware they are basically opposite functions.


3:38am – Faculty of Music

More jazz! Perhaps a theme of the night? In the bowels of U of T’s music building, hearing a wonderfully upbeat quartet at almost 4 in the AM.

It was…excellent?...just coming here and ‘finding’ this place (you had to walk down several stairways, follow cheap signs). Sure, it’s an event listed in the guidebook, but with less people it feels more authentic than Yonge Dundas.

Hart House was packed and that hurt it. A helicopter-flying-around-a-bed film in one room (everyone applauded when it ended), and a close encounters music/light in the Antarctic film in another.

Saw a good friend manning the chips and ice cream table outside in the building quadrangle. Shot the shit, bid farewell when he had customers. I went to the other side of the quad and bought two red stripe beers for $10. Finally some brew!

Went to another Hart House gallery. One room had a canoe filled with building blocks. The other had a mattress with two people on it surrounded by an audio visual octagon showing naked people running around and dancing in the forest, which I’m guessing is to represent their dreams. It was a wonderful effect, but remind me not to camping with the artist.

Out on the back campus grounds Atom Egoyan throws his hat into the ring. It’s a black and white mural photograph of suburban houses with the living room windows replaced with televisions, a person in each one having arguments with the house beside them. And hey! Is that Margaret Atwood in the one on the far left? It’s cacophony of sound and anger. Everyone has a story is what this tells me. And most of them are pissed, but still boring. Such is suburban life.

At this point, I wonder if I’ll have time to get to West Queen West West West. I have to go to Bloor then Bay then College then Yonge Dundas to get my bike. I’ll play it by ear. I can always pick up the train at the Exhibition station.


4:27 – A new Tim Hortons at Wellesley and Bay

A small double-double and a stale cheese croissant. I went to the ROM, with the Chen crystal decked out with rave lighting. The actual exhibits were on the third floor, requiring a two story climb! At four in the morning! Cartoonish pictures of famous Canadian slaughters through history by those sexy redcoats (and apparently the we/the Brits slaughtered a bunch of angels), and footage of a woman blowing balloons (boo) and taping large amounts of construction paper to her head (yay!). I don’t know if it was the exhibits, or the time of night, but there were a lot of confused, unimpressed people at the ROM.

It’s a good thing they didn’t go to Yorkville. They would have burned the place down. It was empty and the galleries were closed. I found the post office exhibit, but it was a mystery to me. They are going to send me my own postcard later tonight? Some time in the future? Do I have to be where I write on the postcard at a certain time? I don’t get it for a host of good reasons (the time, the weed, the booze…). I can’t think normally, only abstractly, which is supposed to be perfect for modern art.

Ate a banana while wearing my top hat.

Peed in an alley near a dumpster in Yorkville. Just my way of fighting the power, Chuck D style. I’ve been listening to my iPod on and off, mostly the high concept weirdness of Animal Collective. I dumb it down a couple notches and put on 70’s Aerosmith.

Looks like I’ll have to cut out Queen-Mississauga altogether and finish off at AGO/OCAD.


5:18am – Horse race exhibit beside AGO

High again, having smoked a roach on Dalhousie near my bike. Exactly when a party at the condo building there was being let out. Hey everyone! Look at me! Smoking drugs!

Anyway, when I left Timmy’s I head to the Wellesley government buildings to see the big stack of books arranged artistically. It had already fallen victim to malice or gravity, as a larger section of books had fallen to the floor, the rest of it arranged neatly in a closed shaped that wasn’t quite a circle. The fallen pile was left untouched, and actually made the entire thing slightly more interesting.

Walking down Bay I made my way to College Park again, and perfect! Only zombies left, and these ones are really trying, since they’re being filmed creeping around via slow moving golf cart (obeying bullhorned orders from someone on the vehicle – ‘okay zombies, this is it! Now!’). I slip on the gas mask I’ve been keeping in my back pack and then add the top hat. Prepared I go wandering around the filming area, trying to approach the zombies in a mix of awe and fearlessness. Some zombies look, some even kind of approach me before lurching back to the pack. Eventually I circle around the herd still ‘acting’, and pass by a cameraman on foot, and locking eyes with me he motions for me to please get out of the way. I oblige (good thing, too. If I didn’t catch his gesture, I would have attempted to cross right in front of the main camera on the golf cart).

Feeling slightly rejected, I remove my mask and go back down to Yonge Dundas square, which is practically empty. Within seconds I’m caught in the spotlight. I stretch, remove my top hat, and lie down, my backpack as my pillow, pretending to go to sleep. The spotlight stays on me for quiet awhile, and I must confess, I was surprised how comfortable the vent grates were (probably because of my tiredness). When it finally leaves, I get up and get bike, first stopping to blaze.

Now I’m here, having biked to the AGO, listening to Clinic and watching people do their own animation on the side of a wall by operating an old-time projector by using an exercise bike (that’s positioned in such a way that it looks like you’re shadow is riding the animated horse shadow on the wall).

Cool and fun. Finally.

Lots more people here than I would expect.


5:38am – OCAD Galleries

As soon as you step inside under the giant pencil case, you see the ‘machine pumped beauty’ exhibit. Instead of a head on a mannequin wearing a dress, there’s something that pumps like a very slow piston. I yawn, and it’s not ‘cause it 5:30 in the morning.

But there is the find of the night here at the Ontario College of Art and Design. The title is like a prison number: ’08-09-27 – 081004’ (clearly the period it took to create). It’s a half painting-half installation piece on sale for $3500. The painting is a series of cut up photos semi covered by multicoloured graffiti monsters. A pile of wreckage spills out onto the floor below. Three people were involved, but it seems to be the brainchild of Nathan Enkel, who also did smaller paintings across the hall on the same theme of graffiti monsters invading more pastoral works of art (a howling wolf under the moon light is defaced so it looks like he is throwing up maggot monsters).

Good stuff. I don’t even mind the price tags this time.


6:10am – Back at Union, on a traffic island in the middle of front street

After OCAD, I stepped outside and rode the animation bike. I wore my top hat over the sound effect headphones, waved it over my head as if on a bucking bronco. Great success, even though it started to fall off and I had to hold onto it in one hand for the rest of my turn.

Retrieving my functional bike, I realized I haven’t utilized it as well as I could have. Sometimes I kept it parked a long way from where I ended up walking. Oh well, that’s what next year’s for. I’ll make it all the way to Queen-Calgary one day.

Back at Union, I locked the bike up again, confirmed my train time and then went to house of horridor. Two large screens with about eight smaller screens on each, all showing quick snippets of horror films, one side showing gals screaming, the other showing the types of things gals in horror films would scream at.

It’s loud, screechy, and although I recognized half the movies and rolled my eyes most of the time, it’s pretty loud and intense, certainly an overload of the senses after a whole night.

I felt sorry for the security guards for this particular exhibit. I was done with this after about three minutes, and they’ve been here all night. It showed. They looked tired, numb and catatonic. Sweet dreams, fellas.


6:41am – Train

On da locomotive, rather exhausted. I decided against waiting in the station’s main concourse after five minutes of being surrounded of tired suburban hipsters like myself and walked over to much smaller an empty York Street platform entrance.

And lo and behold, it’s final exhibit for me and the first in the guidebook. It takes over the entire waiting corridor parallel to York Street. A large black and white (mostly) mural hung above, very stark and strong painting swoops suggests ice at one end and atoms at the other (perhaps a quick re-telling of the history of the Inuit? Would make sense as this is the first artistic collaboration between an Inuit and non-Inuit, so says the guidebook). It was impressive, but being over fifty feet long and twelve feet wide, it certainly wouldn’t fit in my bathroom.

Much to my surprise, the sun isn’t even up at 6:43 when the train departs. The dawn is just about to break. I’m the only one in my car, save for the odd employee walking by.


6:54am – Train

The dawn is a warm orange with long streaks of cloud hiding behind the still lit up Toronto skyline.

Wish I brought a camera.


7:11am – Train

Just read the ending again of Fear and Loathing. It inadvertently opened and closed this entire trip. But the more I think about it in terms of me mimicking Raoul Duke, the more I roll my eyes.

And as much as I say, ‘it wasn’t supposed to seem like that, I’m not trying to emulate or compare myself or this night to anyone or anything’, it’ll always kind of be on my mind whenever I think about the last eight hours or so.

It’s not a matter off forgetting, but un-thinking.

So. It’s all over. It was worth it. Sketchy at some points in terms it was going to pay off considering the distances covered by foot. Glad I got some beer out of it, and that the j’s worked.

Sun is officially up. The sky is still pinkish with blue clouds.

Looking back (already?), it was a good experience overall. The art wasn’t always tops, but really, the art was only half the story. It was the overall atmosphere and concept of the night journey that made sure no aspect of the exploring was completely regrettable (except Yorkville. Boooo!).

Yes, I say, good for me. Nuit Blanche was a success. Even with the zombie blow off (at least I got to wear the gas mask).

Nice to see the clubbers thin out and disappear by four. Less is, ahem, more.

…time to exit the train…station approaching…



'Sorry, I thought something different was happening.' - a friend