It’s 4:57 a.m. Nothing went according to plan. Everything is over. People have gone home. Mere hours ago the streets of Toronto were teeming with people eager to take in a night of art in the city during Nuit Blanche. This year it featured more than 130 “free and accessible contemporary art projects”, and in due order, the event has become a major attraction for artists and dilettantes, not to mention huge crowds of people with no special knowledge of art.
One group of intrepid young enthusiasts aimed to take in everything they could with as many people as they could. It proved to be quite difficult. Andrew Bascom, a long-time Toronto resident, had enjoyed the festivities before; Tyler Silva, who commutes to Toronto for work but does not have a thorough knowledge of the city, had never been; Stephanie Francis, one of the newest residents to the city (she moved here on Thursday), did not know what to expect.
The following are just some of their surprisingly coherent and poignant impressions (long pauses admittedly omitted), after a rather long night.
Darren Savage: Well, folks, how was that?
Andrew Bascom: I thought it was great. I think the best part of the event is the scope, the scale of the event. Toronto is a big city, and the fact that they shut down such a large part of it for this is a pretty incredible thing.
Tyler Silva: I thought it was awesome. This is the first time I’ve ever gone, and I had heard stories from people telling me it was great. I went, and now I say, yeah, it was pretty awesome. But it’s still a little disappointing in a way because you can’t do everything and see it all. But there is so much stuff you gotta pick and choose. Still, what we saw was pretty cool.
Stephanie Francis: I thought it definitely felt like a community event. You know, there were so many different people down there and we were all experiencing the same things together. It was really cool going to all the different events and seeing all the different things together, with so many people, was really very cool. It’s strange that it felt like such a community.
DS: To pick up on that community feeling and joint experience: We all went down there together… nothing that we had planned went [according] to, well, plan. Concerning the event as a whole, what positive aspect can be taken from that experience?
SF: I think that no matter what you plan, it’s never going to happen like you think it will, because there is so much happening and people are going to want to do their own things. Everybody wants to go and experience what they want to experience. But [at Nuit Blanche] they have the opportunity to do that and that’s great.
TS: I still thought that we got to see a bunch of cool stuff. It doesn’t matter that we didn’t get to go as far as we wanted to, because we still had our night regardless. You know what I mean? You don’t have to do everything; the ones that we did see were very cool.
AB: It’s always cool to see the city in a different light. It’s so rare that there are that many people up this late at night walking the streets and everybody seems to be having a good time. Every year you do this you think you should have a plan and then you get down there and you realize there may be no point in making one. Having hundreds of exhibits makes it difficult to plan things. There’s three different zones, three different curators, for a reason. It’s great to feel so safe downtown, too. Yonge Street is the longest street in the world and we were just walking down it tonight with hundreds, maybe thousands, of people. That’s a pretty incredible feeling.
On that note, the event provides ample opportunities to experience a wide array of feelings and sensations. From a post-apocalyptic exhibit that made one feel as if the city was on the verge of a lockdown to one that simply provided a contained experience of getting caught in the rain (they provide you with an umbrella). Nuit Blanche excels at altering perceptions, creating atmosphere, and conveying shared experience. You quickly learn that art can be amazingly transformative. Moreover, it can take almost any form, from intimate personal exhibits to larger, more interactive ones. Nuit Blanche is one major project consisting of many minor sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. Even though the group was unable to attend the fabled food trucks, the funnel cakes smelled good and the overall experience was well worth it.
DS: What would you recommend to future attendees?
TS: Go in smaller groups. We saw how larger ones get split up. I think next time I might actually make a stricter plan and go earlier. You need to just so you can check out more things. It’s really different and it’s worth checking out.
SF: I’m very new to Toronto and it was a great way to experience the city. It’s great to learn about all the positive sides of Toronto as opposed to the negatives that you hear and sometimes experience. I would absolutely do it again and recommend everyone go. It’s different.
AB: Comfortable shoes and warm clothing. Be prepared for a long night, and it’s well worth it. Everyone should go. I really think it’s one of those things you need to do. Art is alive in this city. No matter what is happening in this city politically, art is alive and [Nuit Blanche] is a great representation of that.