Monday, October 7, 2013

We gave up Tango for Nuit Blanche

 Toronto is beautiful - City Hall all lit up for Nuit Blanche

....well, only for one night.  Man Yung was not happy though, he'd rather dance.  "I don't have any expectations about the 'art' on display, and it would be too crowded to see anything!"  he said.

"This year, we have to go - I insist!  Every year we Tango instead of going to Nuit Blanche - it's the eighth year, surely we can give up Tango for one Saturday night ONCE!  And I'm not saying we are going to 'savor' art because I don't have very high expectations either - I just want to experience what the atmosphere of Nuit Blanche in Toronto is like."

So off we headed to Nuit Blanche.  We went during peak hours, so we got to experience what it was like 1) being stuck in a traffic jam going to the city centre and 2) driving around for forty-five minutes looking for a parking space, finally parking like, twenty blocks from the event, and 3) walking slowly with great effort and difficulty towards Nathan Phillips Square against a crowd of people streaming the opposite direction ("See, told you there was nothing to look at - all the people are already going home!" said Man Yung).

"Haven't seen so many people out so late at night for a long time!" I said.

In Hong Kong, apparently, this is a nightly occurrence because it's more densely populated and there's more night life.  "Reminds me of the Hong Kong night markets like on Temple Street, Lady Street and the now long defunct Dai Dat Dei." said Man Yung. "Here in Nuit Blanche, you have non-official performers everywhere setting up stalls and speakers and putting on shows, performances, singing, etc. and crowds gathering to watch.  I remember going to Dai Dat Dei and experiencing similar entertainment - but even more amusing, like Cantonese opera performances, acrobats, and strongmen smashing cinder blocks on their chests with sledgehammers and bending spears with their throats. Not to mention really great Dai Pai Dong food!  Here you only get corn on the cob ("BUT IT'S OBSCENELY HUGE BUTTERED UP CORN ON THE COB," I said, staring at a lady who was looking lasciviously at her enormous stick of 'corn'), hot dogs and tiny donuts the size of oreo cookies at a FREAKING EXPENSIVE $5.00 per DOZEN!  And you have to line up for over half an hour to buy food. Doesn't really compare, sorry."

"Oh well, just look at this as the North American equivalent of Dai Dat Dei - since it's not like I can travel back to all those fun times that you had when you were young," I said.  "Let's give Nuit Blanche a chance shall we?"

This is what we saw:

Unmanned cars circling in the dry skating rink in "Crash Cars".  I really kept on waiting for them to crash.  I was to be disappointed - car destruction wasn't part of the art installation.

Ai Wei Wei's "Forever Bicycles" sculpture.  I was disappointed that they weren't functioning bicycles but just metal in the shape of bicycles.  Man Yung was disappointed that there wasn't more reference to Tienanmen Square Massacre. 


More crowds.  Looking at the lights (an artwork called "A rose is without why") we are nearly blinded.

We escape to the Peace Garden on the podium roof.  We wouldn't go there usually at night or during the day but because there were people everywhere we felt safe.

Fantastic view of the Toronto skyline from the podium roof - people, people everywhere, including the guy in the red jacket dancing a merry jig.

"Clothesline Canopy".  We were amazed that they used so many clean socks. "It would be more realistic if they used worn-out socks, socks with holes, and socks with indelible dirty patches," said Man Yung.  "But then people would be kind of reluctant to 'interact' with the artwork, I think," I said.

Man Yung is also amazed that I managed to ruin the photo by making sure there was a sock shadow across Man Yung's face.

This mountain of fabric is actually the "Parade Queen's" butt.  Man Yung wanted to take a photo of the security guard but I argued that it was not "artistic" (I think the guard was there making sure no-one took a peek under Parade Queen's skirt because you don't know what she/he/it would be hiding under there.  Maybe a HUGE CORN ON THE COB?????).

The "Ferris Wheel" was kind of small.  Reminded Man Yung of the neon "Fish, Lobster, Crab" signs outside many Toronto chinese restaurants.

Even though Man Yung is known to dance for five hours at a milonga without stopping, just two and a half hours of walking made him totally exhausted ("But it was very draining fighting against the crowd most of that time!" he explained) and we went home.

We didn't see a lot of the art on display at Nuit Blanche so we can't comment on the whole thing, but what we did see we didn't find all that extraordinary.  We like, however, seeing so many people of all different ages, races and backgrounds coming out and enjoying the night in a safe*, peaceful, joyful, optimistic, hopeful atmosphere, and local businesses getting a boost from all that increased activity downtown. However, we aren't planning to go again soon - it was a little too much 'crowd' and not quite enough 'art' for us!  ** ***

* Safe - mostly.  Unfortunately, someone did get stabbed and killed at Nuit Blanche - the newspapers say it was part of dispute that started at a impromptu rave party in the festival area. 

** Yes, we are all complainy about the art at Nuit Blanche - and you know we are complainy about Tango too.  Martha and Manolo are better people than we are - they always say, "So long people are dancing Tango, it will be ok!" and they are forgiving most of the stuff that would get the Evil Eye from us. I guess the "art" equivalent is "So long people are promoting and producing art, it will be ok!"

*** Man Yung almost got into a fist fight with a Tanguera about differing views on Ai Wei Wei's artwork at the Sunday night milonga after Nuit Blanche!  Ok, I exaggerate, there were "raised voices" and "deadly looks" and no actual punching.  And it turned out they weren't even talking about the same thing - she was talking about Ai Wei Wei's exhibition at the AGO, and he was actually talking about the beekeepers meditating at the AGO during Nuit Blanche. Doh!


Agy said...

Looks exciting but the crowds (and that buttery corn cob!) would have turned me off. I really think you need some peace and quiet to appreciate art. Ai Weiwei did an art piece in Singapore just recently and shipped out a thousand cans of baby milk formula just to do it.

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Agy,

We agree, Nuit Blanche wasn't much of an art appreciation experience, it was more like a "Look at all the people! Eating corn on the cob!" experience. Once is probably more than enough for us - we were totally drained afterwards.

Ai Wei Wei seems to have his celebrity quotient skyrocket recently, a friend of ours also enjoyed his exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario. We didn't go because his art is not quite our cup of tea.

Thanks for commenting!

Irene and Man Yung

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