Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Nuit Blanche

I've always enjoyed exploring, especially urban places, and I vowed this year to be the year when I got out to explore the city. Through a combination of sticking to that vow and some assignments that required exploring (as I began to write this, the professor who has assigned all of those assignments was chatting to me about Nuit Blanche) I think its fair to say that I've done a lot of walking this term.

I'm not really interested in modern art, but my interest in Nuit Blanche came from a social experiment. What would it be like to walk the streets of Toronto from dusk till dawn?

My night began at Bay station, meeting Chris, a classmate and close friend. I had to buy a day pass, and due to high sales at the downtown stations, we went to Chester to find one - mainly because I had never been to Chester before.

Back at Bay, we met the final member of our trio - Denise, another classmate. We picked up a program, and each of us picked an art installation to start with. Chris chose Untitled (Box Project # 2), 2007 (A-11). We wondered if Chris chose the cubes, or if they chose him.

"Three boxes restlessly mimic the most basic of human activity. While one box may shake slightly, another may stay still for a period of time, only to frustratingly try to inflate itself. Outside of these basic functions, I wonder what defines us as human."

Next came my first choice, Diamonds in the Sky (A-12). My choice was the installation most frequently used to market the festival, and while very pretty, it was not exactly as advertised.

"A long, glistening string of bright, white lights seems to hang from the heavens, taller than surrounding buildings. Moved gently by the wind, the lights have an ephemeral shimmer to them as they sway back and forth."

Next came Denise choice, Event Horizon (A-8). It was art on a massive scale, and was very interesting, but was ultimately anti-climactic.

"King's College Circle is the scene of a mysterious spectacle. The audience witnesses emergency vehicles assembled. Sirens are heard as smoke billows from the grassy field. As a single file line forms that leads to a large white tent, the mood is subdued. The curious crowd wants to see the cause of the commotion. Heavenly music plays. One by one the crowd enters the tent and is witness to an unfolding intergalactic miracle."

After this, we tried to see Ghost Station (A-9), but the lineup was an hour long. We decided to head down Queen West from University, eventually reaching Trinity-Bellwoods Park and seeing Fluorescent Dome (C-15).

"Situated on the edge of Trinity Bellwoods Park, a luminous fluorescent dome serves as a beacon for the city. Universal in form and origin, it resonates in a dynamic equilibrium; unifying cultural difference through a non-hierarchical structure."

We continued west to Dovercourt, then walked up to Bloor to see Denise home. It was 4 am when we left her apartment, and Chris and I headed to Christie Station and got on an eastbound train to Bay. The line to get into Lower Bay had completely cleared, and we descended those mythical stairs to see Ghost Station (A-9).

"Lower Bay Station, Toronto's ghost station, is used as a vessel to contain sounds that are within and below the threshold of human hearing - infrasound and tactile sound - where sound is felt rather than heard. Low frequencies created by cars and subways are contributors to the cacophony of infrasonic noise that exists deep below the rumbling of the city. These tactile sounds have also been associated with paranormal activity and ghost sightings."

After spending some time in the station, we headed towards OCAD. It was after 5am by this time, but there was still a lively crowd. We reached Chinatown by the time the first Dundas and Spadina streetcars were running, and we reached Ryerson at 6am to catch the misting toilets in the Devonian pond on campus (B-40b).

The sun was starting to come up as we decided to call it a night.

Transit was a mess, mainly because the all night subways were only running every 15 minutes and the sheer volume of pedestrians stalled regular routes and special shuttles caught behind right- and left-turning traffic. Also, most restaurants closed at their normal times - they would have made a killing had they stayed open. Finally, with installations as far west as Roncesvalles, as far east as Carlaw, and as far north as St. Clair, the festival was just too spread out.

But despite those criticism, Nuit Blanche was an outstanding experience. The city was alive for one night, and despite the hangover-like feeling I had for the rest of the weekend, it was an experience I cannot wait to repeat.

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