…And the Withering Insults that Drove Us Onward
At Nuit Blanche 2007, one year ago, there was an exhibit slated to appear in Toronto's Kensington Market called Assbook. As near as we could interpret from the curator's description, the artist planned to set up a photocopy machine and have audience members photocopy their posteriors for posterity, binding them into a collection: The Assbook.
Because it sounded irreverent (and because we thought we might get to see some skin) we scoured Kensington Market for Assbook, but the exhibit was nowhere to be found. We're still not sure if the artist backed out or if the Nuit Blanche organizers pulled the plug on the exhibit, but for whatever reason, Assbook never happened.
Since then, any time there's an exhibit we can't locate, or one that is misleading (based on the curator's description), or one that's just plain bad, we term it an assbook and subject it to the acid wit of our crew of art connoisseurs.
Nuit Blanche 2008: Full of Assbooks
Let me preface this by saying that the group of friends that joins us for NB every year has no illusions about the artistic efforts on display in Toronto. Oh sure, We're always very excited after reading grandiose curatorial descriptions promising wonderful and eloquent exhibits, but we've been attending this all-night art event long enough to know that the exhibits rarely live up to the hype. Yes, there are some that do, but it's no secret that you need to wade through a lot of crap to find the awe-inspiring.
Assbooks abound. But don't for a moment think that's a bad thing. There's more to Nuit Blanche than art. If there wasn't, the whole endeavour would have failed in the first year!
- There's the simple fact that you're out on the streets of Toronto much much later than you would ever normally be. We didn't get home until 5am this year.You get tired and cranky, but it's an experience that brings you closer to the friends you share it with.
There's the fact that you're hopped up on drugs. In our case it was caffeine, but it was plain to see that alcohol was a big drug of choice this year. And our noses made it abundantly clear that weed was a big fan favorite too. Whatever your poison, altered states always add to the fun.
- Most importantly, there's the company you keep – in our case, a crack team of humorists, spewing barbed insults and directing their quick wit at every lackluster piece of crap that gets touted as artwork. What fun!
Yes, NB is less about art and more about making light of it. Still, we can appreciate the interesting exhibits:
With House of Leaves, the artist tore thousands of pages from trashy romance novels and taped them to an outdoor hallway, inviting participants to walk through. I have no idea what it was supposed to mean, but it was pretty in its own way; making the hallway appear warmer, or at least more interesting. I suppose in the end it's not much different from wallpaper. 3-Dimensional wallpaper.
- Projekt Blinkinlights was impressive just for the technicality of it. The front of Toronto's City Hall was turned into a giant dot matrix display, with lamps in each office window turning on and off to let the artists play a giant game of Pong. This video is sideways, but you get the idea:
The Horrorridor – a set of six projection screens set up in an unused portion of Union Station showing clips of actors screaming in rage, fear, and pain – was probably the most disturbing exhibit this year. Despite the fact these were all recognizable actors from Hollywood films and TV shows – and despite the fact that I knew they were just acting – being immersed in these sights and sounds actually had an impact on my emotional state. Which is great, especially given that this exhibit could have just been silly.
But for every worthwhile exhibit, there were multiple bombs. I'm not going to run through them all, but there was one that was particularly disappointing. Zombies in Condoland was supposed to take place in a park area surrounded by four large condos. People dressed as zombies were simply supposed to wander the park, I assumed as a comment on how our society is tranquilized and complacent. Should have been as easy as pie to coordinate, but by the time we arrived about halfway through the evening, there were only about a dozen zombies and the artist was trying to corral them for the start of the performance. There's something strange about someone in a zombie outfit yelling at other zombies with a megaphone to "Please congregate by the fountain!" It could have been wonderful, but lacked the organizational skill necessary to pull it off.
Unless… Wait! Maybe WE were supposed to be the zombies, gawking at this catastrophe of an exhibit… Naw. That would just be lame.
And to Finish?
Last year, you'll recall, we finished our evening at Lamport stadium, where we helped inflate a gigantic locust – the surprise highlight of the evening. Lamport delivered this year's surprise highlight as well. The curator promised dozens of sports team mascots working all night to entertain the crowds. After so long on the field (we arrived at 4am) we hoped to see mascots that had turned grumpy and lazy, but when we arrived they were clearly tired, but still going strong. It was so great to be among the crowd just listening to sports-event music and watching the mascots strut their stuff.
I don't know if it was art, but It was uplifting, and it was the best way to finish the night.