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It is certain to say that I was somewhat under whelmed with Nuit Blanche this year. To be fair I only had time to view the offerings in Zone A and B. What started out as an event in Paris many years ago has traversed the ocean and arrived in Toronto four years ago. I remember volunteering at Hart House the first year and noting how magical the event transpired. It really was art focused that first attempt with themed installations and relevant artists focused on bringing a convergence of art and dialogue to a curious public. This year the night felt like it was really pushing the boundaries of what art is, and what the un-initiated viewer might really perceive as art. 

Forget about battling the wrestlers in Battle Royal by Shaun El C. Leonardo at the Bay St. Bus Terminal (although it was hilarious to see the blindfolded young men from the audience tentatively stepping around the ring) you really had to battle the crowds of people and line-ups at many venues. Part frat party, part family picnic it in fact felt like a glorified tourist attraction with the hordes rushing from site to site just to see how much they could view in one evening. With heads bowed downwards on their smart phones and maps in hand, it was a test to navigate the sidewalk crowds. With Bay St. closed from Dundas to Front it certainly helped with crowd control but the quality along that strip left a lot to be desired. If a carnival ride stationed outside of First Canadian Place is “art” well then that is a stretch.

 Love him or hate him, the culture buster of the art world, Jeff Koons was a standout with his monumental inflated silver Rabbit Balloon hovering over the entrance of Sears in the Eaton Centre. It was very attention grabbing to see children and adults alike lying on the ground looking up at that fifty-foot animal. The Wiccan duo Fastwurms brought us Skry-Pod (although skrying is a form of divination that involves gazing into a reflective service) in the Sheraton Centre that involved free Tarot readings amongst the waterfall tableau of the hotel. Attired in stereotypical witch’s costumes the pair divined the future of two citizens at a time by candlelight. Staying within the theme, Witches Cradles by the Centre For Tactical Magic saw individuals suspended in a cloth cocoon, sensory deprived above the floor of the Allen Lambert Atrium at BCE Place. It was an eerie feeling with the quietness of the scene combined with the pulsing lighting throughout the space. In fact the aura throughout Zone A and B took on a quite supernatural sense with the offerings on display such as just described along with Katie-Bethune Leaman’s Ghost Chorus and the ethereal music emanating from the speakers at City Hall to accompany D.A. Therrien’s 4 Letter Word Machine

Other less notable pieces were Santiago Sierra’s NO which consisted of a large tilted ten-foot tall model of yes, the word “no” on a flat bed truck. I wasn’t the only person with the same under-whelmed feeling with this exhibit. As I was walking away from the site, I heard a woman say, “What are we looking at…you’ve got to be kidding.” Respire by Anna Friz also failed to impress with the multitude of noiseless radio receivers suspended from the ceiling of the lobby of 100 Yonge St. 

In this world of instant everything and the needless luxury of a throwaway society I guess I also have a problem with the idea of instant artists producing instant art. This year’s Nuit Blanche was more amusing then stimulating or provoking. The ideas were especially conceptual and really only existed in the strictest sense of the term in the artists’ heads. Perhaps we should move away from the model of art as spectacle for events such as Nuit Blanche and concentrate on an art as a means to educate and to stimulate a dialogue between citizens. Engaging schools, youth and community centers may be one avenue to explore, which might bring the notion of art being more accessible to the public.

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