Nuit Blanche, a noun that means “a sleepless night.” In Toronto, it means an all-night art festival that takes place over the course of one night (“One
Night Only” anybody?), from dusk to dawn, in the downtown core of the city. Sponsored by Scotiabank, it is an opportunity for new and established artists to showcase their work to the public.
In its 10th year, one can expect that the installations are more amazing than previous years and that the festival would be run smoothly. What I found was the complete opposite. To be fair, the festival did start at 7pm and I did not arrive until about 11pm. I also did not get to see most of the installations, so I am only speaking on my experience from the small portion that I managed to see.
In previous years, the festival was well organized and the installations were exciting to see. This year I expected no less. However, the minute I stepped onto the street across from Dundas Square, I could sense that it was going to be a long exhausting night. Instead of art lovers and people who wanted to be more cultured (there were still those people around), the streets were filled with young people who were either drunk, high, or both. The vibe of the crowd was mostly, “oh look I’m at an art festival, I’m sooooooo cultured.” When you see a random guy walking down the street with a pylon cone stuck on his head (is he stupid into not thinking that he may suffocate??), people more preoccupied with taking selfies than the exhibits, along with news that (surpise!) Dundas Square was a hell hole with utter lack of respect for the safety of others and the police officers who have pledged to keep our city safe (two stabbings, slashing, imitation gun, woman trampled on, someone being shoved onto the subway track, mob ganging up on police officers, bottles being thrown at police officers’ heads), yeah, you know that something is terribly wrong and definitely NOT what Nuit Blanche was originally meant to be. Instead it is a big WTF???
Oh and the art. I understand that art is subjective, but seriously, this year sucked. Yes, yes, I know, you probably will say that I did not venture around the city enough to get a true feel of all of the installations, but for me, if I can’t be at least inspired to go and attempt to see more exhibits, the art sucks. Even looking at the pictures and videos of the other exhibits, I do not regret not going to see them in person. For one, who’s bright idea was it to have a bunch of people in winter gear roll around in the middle of the street and claim that it’s supposed to represent a human glacier?? Or have people lie on the floor of a semi-truck and pretend to draw things with a pen. Or even better yet, plant giant blocks of compressed garbage and display it in City Hall. Oh wait, that may have been the best interpretation and representation yet, now that I think about it. My first stop of the night was OCAD, where, it being an art school, should have been a location with though provoking intriguing art. Instead, there was a long line up and an air of “let’s display random pictures and call it art and have people line up outside in the freezing cold and pretend that they are art experts when they see our installation.” I much rather have lined up for the AGO and gone into their modern and contemporary exhibits and done the same thing.
In the aftermath of Nuit Blanche and the backlash of the events that unfolded, it is no surprise that Scotiabank has decided to withdraw its sponsorship, along with multiple other establishments and companies. What started out as a celebration of contemporary art turned into night of hell, headache and something that may have undone the image that the leaders of our city have worked so hard to achieve. All I can say is that the funding for this debacle is better used in the funding of art programs for schools and to support the struggling art community. And for those who are reading this and have somehow made it to this point, if you truly wish to become more cultured and not the stereotypical pretending to one with art person, go to the AGO (http://www.ago.net) or McMichael Canadian Art Collection (http://www.mcmichael.com), or any art gallery for that matter. GO SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL ART GALLERIES!
Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, thanks for a great 10 years, but it’s time for a change. I hope not to see you next year and I hope that the millions of dollars invested is put into good use elsewhere.
Yours truly, MsAngieLau