by carl wilson

Nuit Blech: Call It a Sophomore Slump


Computer snafus have kept Zoilus at a lower boil than intended the past week, but tons of action is to come this week - concerts in Toronto with Pere Ubu and Veda Hille, and then off to Pop Montreal. But first, a brief word about the weekend past.

Nuit Blanche was a disappointment for me this year, mainly because of how much was overlooked in following up last year's quite successful debut: There seems to have been surprisingly little anticipation that the crowd numbers would grow from last year's already high figures, with the result that until about 2 a.m. it was frustratingly difficult to get near most of the more intriguing projects, or even just to get down the sidewalks without being crushed. The fact that streets were not closed for this event that brings hundreds of thousands of people out is ridiculous. But beyond that, there was a laxness to the curation: a lot of the art was half baked. There were very few works that dealt well with both the "public-space" and the "art" sides of the equation, and the level of ambition on display was often disappointingly low. My colleague Sarah Milroy makes a similar critique in today's Globe, making several suggestions for potential improvements (although also missing a few points I think - if Noboru Tsubaki didn't expect people to climb on his giant inflatable locust in the middle of a football field, for instance, it would have been very naive - although of course that's the art world for you, often. In any case its climbability was one of the few points in its favour).

A few highlights for me included Public Recordings' Open Field Study, which benefited by being outside the "zones" and having space to work with, in which the mysterious rites of the flocks of dancers with hand-cranked radios (beautiful score by Eric Craven of A Silver Mt Zion and other Constellation bands and Toronto sound artist Anna Friz) seemed like emergent patterns, like droplets condensing into human clouds and then dispersing again, and interacting with the denizens of the park (punk kids, drunken cyclists, etc) in amusing and curious ways. Also the Theatre of Ephemeral Music at the Music Gallery was wonderful - the benches in the church arranged in a rough circle that created an intimacy in the dimmed room, as many excellent Toronto musicians improvised in shifts along an atmospheric axis, with the sound processed into an enveloping blanket - you could even lie on the floor to listen. It was a real oasis in the madness of the night. (I wasn't particularly impressed with the visuals that were generated to accompany the music, which were like "a glorified screen saver," as one friend put it; they added to the overall effect but not as much as they could.)

Though I'm biased by friendship in this case, Misha Glouberman's 15-minute "Terrible Noises for Beautiful People" workshops were perfect, a particularly gentle, refreshing version of the sound work Misha's been doing with his "School of Learning," and it's thrilling to think that more than a thousand people got to experience that work in one night. I had a great time seeing Kids on TV in the Works & Emergency Services Building, although I always have a great time seeing Kids on TV. And I was sorry to miss Darren O'Donnell's "Night School," where teachers (real-life teachers) slow-danced with spectators to R&B; jams and the like, as well as some of the pieces Milroy mentions in her review, such as Ann Hamilton's "listening choir" and "White Line Light" by Carsten Nicolai & Olaf Bender of the German Raster-Noton art-music nexus. But the effort involved in fighting one's way through to these gems was absurd. And there was entirely too much emphasis on Scotiabank branding experiences going on as well (the space in Trinity Bellwoods Park was mostly wasted on tacky bullcrap, as was the blocked-off street space in front of the ROM).

Nuit Blanche has a lot to work out if it's going to fulfill its promise; however, it also has a lot of resources to work with. Here's hoping. But as it was, as one friend put it afterwards, "I'm left longing for the days when art was for a small private elite."

Via Toronto | Posted by zoilus on Monday, October 01 at 12:41 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (2)




Did you come to the Opening/Ending reception of Rirkrit Tiravanija's show at OCAD on Sep 29, when the brickwall was broken down?

You had written a nice essay about Rirkrit at his lecture, so I'm interested to know what you think when the mystic artwork/exhibition finally revealed.

Posted by gnocchi on October 3, 2007 10:27 PM




I agree with you that this year was certainly not as successful as the first. I was one of the few troopers from last year who indulged from 7 to 7, and managed to tackle all corners of the city.

This year, however, my highlights were similar to yours - the Music Gallery was a certain oasis, the Terrible Noises for Beautiful People was a wonderful experience, the limp locust was sadly deflating (pardon me), and I missed most of any deeper meaning on Queen West because of the thick crowds obliterating access to doorways. Hart House at U of T was AMAZING, however. There were many video installations within their Nightschool series that were funny, thought provoking and bothered to tip art on it's head - like the video about painting your own portrait that was enacted on a woman's own face... and the "teaching the alphabet to a house plant" video that bordered on the ridiculous, the funk dancing doc, or the "slow dance with teachers" which had real teachers who asked innocents such as myself to dance on the required X to slow jams. The Emergency Recruitment Centre was interesting but tried to be more serious than it was. (I was asked what my personal emergency was and was given a look when I said "bad hair days.")

The Cloudscape screen on the roof of the Eaton Centre Atrium was a nice repos while lying on the fake grass...

They do need to shut the streets down perhaps, and I wished I had made it out to the musical chairs in the distillery but it was quite simply, too far to go....

Posted by curlybecs on October 1, 2007 10:37 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson