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Nuit Blanche

Bruce and I made a foray into Nuit Blanche last night. Whoever had this idea (did it start in Paris?) is a visionary – the entire city turned over for a night into a giant artfest. Bruce had the best line; whenever we saw something that looked vaguely interesting, “Is that art?” he’d say. “Have we found some art?”

We started right here in Cabbagetown, where there were various happenings on Parliament Street between Carlton and Winchester, closed for the evening. There was bicycle art, kids and adults running their bike wheels through a trough of colour and then riding, weaving as much as possible, over a huge sheet of paper. “That’s how I think modern art is actually made,” snorted Bruce, and we speculated that they’d sell the resulting canvases of tire-track squiggles for thousands.
Gina from up the street had created a sound-and-slide show on the wall of the liquor store; we sat in the parking lot watching as powerful images of the First World War – a bombed-out Frenchwoman sitting on a park bench with her cow on a leash – clicked by with a reading of letters from the time. Our local representative George Smitherman, whether he’s running for mayor or not, had turned his riding office into party central, with a cross-section of my diverse neighbours – Sri Lankans, Jamaicans, middle-class WASPs, homeless men and women – eating pizza and cake and looking at murals and paintings created by neighbourhood schoolchildren and First Nations people. So far, we thought as we headed off towards downtown, so good for Nuit Blanche.
We got off the subway at Dundas along with thousands of others; I’ve never seen the downtown core so jammed. Famed American Jeff Koon’s gigantesque silver bunny balloon with carrot we found floating near the ceiling in the Eaton’s Centre – amusing, but what did it MEAN? “I like the geese more,” said Bruce about the work of Canadian artist Michael Snow, a flock of Canada geese flying above the capitalist fray of the mall, and so did I.
And at City Hall we watched the “4 letter word machine” by D. Therrien, an American artist, which had F A T E in very bright lights suspended above the crowd. We waited for the giant letters to change – weren’t they supposed to be changing rapidly? And when eventually they did – anti-climactically, to F A E – everyone cheered and clapped.
One of the best things about the night was the easy friendliness of the good-natured crowd, strangers chatting with strangers. As we got into the elevator to see an installation at City Hall, a man getting off said, “You’ll find it scintillating. Scintillating.” He laughed, and his wife smacked him on the shoulder. We thanked him and indeed it was, as he’d implied, less than scintillating, though an interesting idea – someone had filmed a corner very near here, in Regent’s Park, for an entire day, rotating around and around, and the day was being shown in fast motion by a projector revolving around the chambers of City Hall. It was fun to see my neighbourhood wheeling by, but more fun to see where the portentous room where the decisions affecting our city are made.
Though the afternoon had included a violent thunderstorm, the evening was dry but cold, so we began to meander home up Bay Street. We were going to see the installation inside Trinity Church but there was a long line-up, and the same for the blindfolded wrestling match in the Greyhound bus terminal, though that looked like a lot of fun. Films were being projected on various building walls, including the Canadian Tire store, which was open. Helpfully, many stores had remained open, so you could consume some goods along with your art.
The city had sponsored events far and wide, including a midway in the financial district and a huge Monopoly game with real money. If you were organised – apparently you could track the night with various electronic devices, far too high-tech for us – you could see most of the night’s offerings before they closed down at 7 a.m. Bruce and I ended our night back in the ‘hood at Riverdale Park, where someone had set up a twinkling enclave filled with kissbotts – little robots made of popsicle sticks with big lipsticked lips – and a tunnel where a strange creature with fiery eyes lurked, and then we saw a cube covered with projected films down Riverdale hill.
As we were making our way there, I could see large fuzzy shapes inside the fence at Riverdale Farm. Though it looked like Dusty the donkey and the Clydesdale horses, I found it very strange – they are always inside the stable at night, and now they were against the fence in the cow pen rather than their own for some reason, and utterly motionless, like … like statues, I realised. “It’s art!” I cried. “Someone has created furry sculptures of the animals, and they’re so realistic no one has noticed.”
However, when we got close, we saw that the sculptures were in fact Dusty the donkey and his two Clydesdale friends Dolly and Rooster, who were in the cow pen at night, for some reason, and remarkably still. But very real. Still, they looked like art to me.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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