Nuit Blanche. Well that was something. I feel it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t write this post feeling tired – so I am doing it now. Please excuse typos and bad syntax – I haven’t slept much.Last night Mark and I headed into Toronto for an all night street/art festival called Nuit Blanch (literally “white night’ in French). I had heard about it when we first arrived in Canada and have been looking forward to it ever since. As the date drew closer Mark was not particularly keen – especially because he has two mid-term exams the coming week and I have an essay due Monday (which I really need to finish after this blog). After a bit of arm twisting Mark decided to come to Nuit Blanch to add to the mental album of Canadian experiences.
The plan was to meet up with Canadian friends, Amy and Kelly, from our initial Toronto tour all those weeks ago. We caught a GO bus into Toronto with Kelly and her friend Leslie and ended up at Union station. Mark and I wandered around the surprisingly empty station for a while and ran down the up escalators in a massive empty building – I couldn’t stop laughing. I haven’t gone the wrong way on escalators since I was so little it was excusable, and when I did go I always went up the down – down the up is way harder!
We met up with Amy and her Wisconsin-born friend Ryan to explore the night streets. There were so many people out in Toronto and lots of cool things going on. There was a man giving away all his belongings if you let him tell you a story (sounded great but the line was too long) and re-creations of a tennis match. We walked around and amazing met up with Jeroen (from our Moose tour) amidst the packed streets of Toronto. It was amazing to just run into each other and we walked around with our Dutch friend and his posse of German-speakers. We got a free hazelnut coffee and saw a band squished into a car (instruments and all). The city had a good vibe going.
After some bad directions from me and phone calls in crowded places we met up with Ann-Christin (fellow Montreal-style bagel enthusiast) and shared a new food love of corn. Canadians can do their corn well… Good job Canada.
We wandered around and found some art and ,as can be expected by a contemporary art festival, a lot of it was disturbing. There was a street long piece entitled Still Life that took close of photos of people’s sex dolls and included boards with real quotes from websites about the dolls.
Still, my favourite quote from that exhibition was not actually part of the artwork, but rather a teenage girl passing by said “This is so weird I want to cry.” I think the artist could make a follow-up with response quotes… there would have been some good ones. Lots of the shops were open extra-late, and by midnight and barely felt late. we went into a shop called Sugar Mountain and Mark said he “felt like a kid in a candy store” -and with reason. I was particularly impressed by these unconventional but incredibly noteworthy action figures. I think more kids should have a Moses doll to play make believe scenarios with their Freud… Would make a nice alternative to Barbie.
Oh, did I mention it was bitterly bitterly cold? I was apparently 3 degrees and then there was a windchill factor of bloody freezing. I was lucky enough the be wearing a warm winter coat (thanks mum), but my face was so so cold. To try to remedy the chill we went for some Belgian-style waffles and thanks to a trainee’s mistake I got free creme. It really hit the spot and warmed me up for at least a little while even after I’d finished. The last GO bus to Hamilton was leaving and so Ann-Christin headed home – but Mark and I decided to stay for the long haul. We got seriously into exploring and checked out some art. There was a panorama weird video art piece where I predicted death and it came swiftly to the poor characters in the keep /graceful film.
We walked around the University of Toronto campus and saw all sorts of cool art. I really liked this two-part one where you stood in a confessional-style box and confessed something and it was transmitted via radio waves to the church room and sounded on pieces of ropes. The words turned into whale-like song – it was quite the ethereal experience.
It was late – probably about 2am – but there were still people about. I was getting very tired, but little events like a new artwork or spiced chai latte gave me new waves on energy.
Any excuse to get inside and out of the cold was taken, and we listened to some live music in a church. This was one of the most interesting experiences of the night for me. I have been studying Renaissance art and learning how art was primarily used by churches to display stories to the vast illiterate population. Even if it had other uses (showing wealth, patrons trying to buy salvation, ect), art was almost exclusively done for the church or at least with a religious basis. Now, this hasn’t been the case for a while – especially not since video art was around. So it was very thought-provoking to see a piece of video art acting as an altarpiece that talked about salvation, saints and life. I never really considered video art, or any contemporary art as being the new stained glass windows – but there it was with hymns being sung in the background. Maybe it was because it was so very very late, or very very early, but I thought it was amazing on so many levels. A bit weird, yes, but profound.
There was another great… installation piece?… that was the old subway line transformed into a slumber party. We walked down underground into the subway, down to the platform and then own again t the old subway. It is crazy to fathom that there is a whole trains system down there! It felt so secret and mysterious… and warm. We could hear the newer subway rushing above us.
We saw some more cool artworks, many of which were interactive. We got to speculate as to the emotion conveyed by a sculpture (I guess fear and was right) and then destroy it. That was fun, but while we were there it started to rain… which put a bit of a dampener on things – and made it even colder.
At this point it was too late to go home… so we decided to troop on through until the first bus back to Hamilton at 7am.
Breakfast time began to come (it feels weird to consider breakfast when you haven’t slept), and we went to a 24 hour breakfast restaurant. I ordered a vegetarian omelette with “Home fries’. Home fries are like potato gems – but AMAZING! Maybe everything tastes good after being awake for over 30 hours, I don’t know… but they were even good with maple syrup.
We trekked to the GO bus station again, and unfortunately missed the first one (we really enjoyed breakfast, so much so I nearly fell off my chair and pulled over the table right before the above photo). Mark and I lined up for he 7.30 bus and it was cold, misty and day. We had a nocturnal Toronto experience, and it felt odd to be leaving in the morning after arriving at night. There were so many people going home that we were worried we wouldn’t get a seat. We got the last two, I sat across the back between a snuggly couple and a guy with piercings and a mohawk and Mark sat next to a lady and some whiny teens with bleached hair. It didn’t matter where we were – we slept the whole way home.