Friday, October 8, 2010

Our Nuit Blanche

End Game by Max Streicher

Deb: We are so lucky in Toronto to have this wonderful Art Festival called Nuit Blanche, which literally means White Night, All Nighter, Sleepless Night (in French), or Light Night, which is my favourite name for it. Paris, Berlin and St. Petersburg still duke it out as to who actually founded Nuit Blanche. Clearly none of these cities has a functioning calendar! All I know is that Toronto was inspired by this wonderful Light Night and now we have our very own Nuit Blanche in its fifth year!  It is a wonderous event for the urban explorer that goes from 7pm to 7am on one lucky October day. The city is jam-packed with hundreds if not thousands of art installations of every kind.

Barb and I have been Blanching together for four straight years now and it has become one of the highlights of our year. The latest we have ever made it to was 2:30am and we were thrilled ... I, who am usually in bed by 11. We have always vowed that although we might not make it all night (as if!) we would focus on what we saw and not what we didn’t see and as a result it has been an unusual, magical, stimulating experience.

Stefanie's creation in her set
Photo by Michele
This year included a special exciting feature. Barb’s lovely and talented daughters were involved in a fashion installation. Stefanie, a budding fashion designer, was selected to compete in a very select collection competition as one of the Ten Most Promising Designers, the theme of which was Belle Epoque. And Michele shot a film and several photographs to enhance the installation that housed Steffi’s modern, ethereal, romantic collection. We started our night at 6pm with Stef, and then moved on to the “official” installations around the city.

Auto Lamp by Kim Adams
When I started writing this Nuit “Blogue”, I was going to talk about the fact that after we got into the body of the night, we were a tad disappointed in this year’s effort. But I have changed my mind. I have decided to stay true to the feeling of Nuit Blanche and the fact that anything can happen, from the tiniest sound to the largest light installation. I also love the fact that there are official installations and fringe installations so you can get a taste of everything from successful world-renowned artists to the young artist with a vision making his or her statement. It is not the grandeur that I need judge, it’s how it touches our hearts and tickles our senses. So in that way, it did not disappoint at all this year, as I was still moved and titillated, and in awe. What I love the most about Nuit Blanche at any time is that it does not take itself too seriously. It has a great sense of humour and irony.

But for me, the best part of Nuit Blanche will never change. It will remain the same from year to year. And that thing that I adore, that I revel in, is the fact that our city becomes ART. The transformation for one special night that is Toronto in glorious sexy movement. Toronto the Good, Hogtown, comes alive and brings with it its citizens in all their unique global colours and traditions, and trots them out in a peaceful, exciting, moving event lasting just one Light Night. The audience as art.
Deb and Luke in front of Arrivals/Departures
by Michael Fernandes

Barbara: Funnily, Deb, I had a similar experience—first I was disappointed in this year’s event, which in the past has had so many incredibly magical moments that I vibrated with it for days afterward. And this year, there only seemed to be a few such experiences. And then I realized: this year, I was so wrapped up in Stefanie’s big moment that most of our evening was spent with her (both before and after her event) that I didn’t see nearly as many installations as I usually do. So, at first I realized my magic was really about sharing with my daughters their creative glory.
Proud Mom and Stefanie
Then I realized there was another magic experience: I ended up spending the evening primarily with my husband. You see, because this event is so precious to me, I have been loathe to share the night with too many people. You know how it is: for each extra person tagging along, there’s extra time catering to their needs (real or perceived) and less time just reveling in the art slash experience. Deb has been my perfect Artner-in-crime (couldn’t resist). She and I move symbiotically through the night and never complain about any of it, never hold each other up, and always seem to want to linger for the same amount of time. And of all the other people I could share the night with, I had the worst, most baddest feeling about sharing it with my husband (sorry, sweetie). Because I was so sure that if he of all people went with us, he would just spend the night whining about lines, crowds, bad art, bad breath, bad karma––no, stop me, not fair. Because he was an AWESOME Nuit Blanche partner. Hiking the city with me while everyone else left early, one by one, for various excellent reasons. He hung in there to the bitter (but relatively early) end (we had to get back to Stef to help tear down her set at 1am). And he was a real trouper. I had completely underestimated his stamina. And we had a bit a sweet romantic revelry. Even if we only had the chance to dabble for just a few short hours of Nuit Blanche when I usually get to explore for a huge 6-7 hours. This was an unexpected treat—where I learned the art of not underestimating the people I love.

So, Deb, like you, I was able to find my way back to realizing the magic of the evening. And, even if this sounds strange to some people, I too really REALLY enjoy the energy that radiates from hundreds of thousands of people thronging together.

As Nuit Blanche is so specific to a few areas, I wonder if any of you enjoy festivals with similar energy, or if this kind of thing goes completely against your grain?


  1. Wow- this sounds so amazing! Truly, what a magical idea.
    I live in Los Angeles, where we have nothing like this! Although I too should not complain, and look at the fact that if I could get my butt out there more often, this city is filled with artists of every type, and there is so much to experience.
    But all in one night- HOW FAB!

  2. Nuthin like that out here in the boonies! But I shore enjoyed yore pickachers.

  3. That's so cool! It's like the band lock-in for adults.

  4. This is sounds great. In Houston they have "The Art Car Parade" that last all day and well into the night. You should see some of the vehicles they come up with. Your Auto Lamp reminded me of this.
    In the small towns around Houston they have Night outs. Where all the shops and galleries are open to early in the morning.
    But I can't think of anything that goes all night long.
    Maybe in Austin, I know my brother is constantly going to different festivals. Of course it is a big college town, so maybe there.

  5. Hey I just found the link to the Art Car Parade. Check out these cars.
    What will they think of next?

  6. WOW, Stephanie!!! I am in awe that someone so young has so much poise, confidence, skill, and TALENT!!! Wow, wow, wow. BRAVA! BRAVA!

  7. Your Sleepless Night sounds divine! A palette of diversified art treasures among the stars and lights and especially with your daughters. YaY Fun!!
    I want to attend a Nuit Blanche somewhere.

  8. It is a wonderful night -- funny thing is, half the challenge for any of these things is getting up and going, right? But what a payoff if you do.

    And, Kate, didn't you have your own music festivities not so long ago? Even if it's not exactly Nuit Blanche, definitely seemed like Light Days!

    TJL, LOVE the Art Car Parade! Thanks for the link.

    Rigel and Kathleen, thanks for the good wishes for Stef -- she is all those things Rigel mentions. Blows us away on a daily basis.

  9. thanks guys for sharing this with us and for all your lovely comments. It is worth the trip and a smart hotel. And Katrinka you have Light Night every night in the country with the fireflies, stars and crickets. line ups!

  10. It IS gorgeous here, especially the past week's weather ... I don't want to come indoors at all during the day, and have to force myself in at night. Are you out here these days, or where? Hard to keep track of you.

  11. And Barb, there is plenty going on around here, as you remarked -- it's just that art exhibits and theatre are not easily accessed without a two-hour drive. Right now it's fall suppers starting up (these take place in community halls -- they cook fowl of course and all the old ladies make the fixins and the place is jampacked with people every time) and American hunters in their camouflauge outfits are on the streets (I feel sorry for the geese so I don't encourage them, but apparently they're bringing $ with them so are good for the local economy; they'll never be permitted to hunt on our land though). There are school plays throughout the year but I've been to a few of those that were so horrid I've never been able to force myself to return unless my own kids were part of it. There is also a community theatre group that is new ... I will have to check into it one of these days. I'm a horrible perfectionist, apparently -- by cracky, if you sing a flat note once in a while do not get up on stage, and if you don't have an experienced director please don't make me sit through two hours of amateur drama! I'm terrible that way. I know it's not a good way to be. I *hate* sitting in an audience when someone sings a flat note -- I literally cringe! Anyway, what were we talking about before I digressed...?

  12. That sounds like a wonderful festival. And I particularly like how Deb puts it - 'the city becomes ART'.



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