toronto part two: it’s more burning man than basel

Toronto Part Two: Before Nuit Blanche

Nuit Blanche: You’ll need some white horse to stay up for the white night”

This phrase was one of many possible titles that I quickly scribbled while on my flight to Toronto—for a future review about Nuit Blanche, of course. That title, alongside “The Accidental Nuit Blanche: Finding Art in Unexpected and Unintended Places,” and “Our Society of Spectacles,” is flippant, purposely so, as an exercise in preparation for “When Critics Speak”, a panel discussion held in conjunction with Nuit Blanche about Nuit Blanche.  This self-critical posture taken by the organizers was just one of many panel events that consisted of the supposedly lucid voices of artists, curators, and critics.  Of course, as I was sitting on the plane ride to Toronto, pondering yet again about how much of an ill-fitting match I was for this panel—I have never been to Nuit Blanche, I have never lived in Canada, and my CV is shorter than those written by the other panelists—I imagined possible titles I could write for reviews about Nuit Blanche given the little I knew about the event.  Here’s what I knew about NB before I arrived in TO:

It’s an all-night event where artists make works displayed in Toronto’s city streets.
My friends refer to it as a night where “a million drunken tourists descend on the city.”
It’s curated.
A lot of European cities have Nuit Blanche festivals.
It’s more Burning Man than Basel.

I have worked on public art projects before, but in a museum context, not in terms of a citywide festival. Even though Brooklyn had its first NB the same night as Toronto’s 6th annual exhibition, not many correlations exist between the two events.  Chicago continually tries to reinvent its downtown district, The Loop, trying to change its urban landscape through creative capital and cultural tourism.  Looptopia was one such late-night public art event held in Chicago, but for a variety of reasons, that folded in 2008. The Art Loop Open is this year’s attempt in Chicago.

At When Critics Speak…

Of all the panelists on the “When Critics Speak” event, I was the youngest and, as I already mentioned, the most emerging—if you can use “emerging” to describe someone who is not yet able to make a living as a freelance writer and independent curator.  Prior to the panel discussion, while everyone was taking coffee or tea at The Drake, one of the festival organizers looks me straight in the eye while placing her hand on my shoulder, only to say, “Has anyone ever told you that you look like Katie Holmes?”

This woman had good intentions, but I have to participate in female-on-female aggression for a moment. I’m in my mid-20s and I know that I look like I date skinny and stylish musicians and artists, but I don’t want these qualities to diminish my ability to be taken seriously in the arts.  I’m finished with this treatment, so as of tomorrow, I am going to cut off my hair, throw away my red lipstick, stop partying, and most importantly, start wearing pants.

Toronto Part Three: When Critics Speak and Nuit Blanche

2 Responses to “toronto part two: it’s more burning man than basel”
  1. JD says:

    You don’t describe the inflection at all, and I certainly don’t know anything else about the organzier, but I could easily imagine she was hitting on you with a “compliment” like that. On the other hand, similar to your own anxieties about participating on the panel, I wonder if she were playfully cutting you down to size, suggesting that your caliber of “emerging” independent curator was more at home on Artforum’s scene and herd. Furthermore, she could have been betraying a common fear among arts professionals of all stripes that the meritocratic mode of advancement that should be the hallmark of any profession is undercut by beauty and fashionability (Dasha Zhukova being the most obvious example), and money. Hope it was a good experience overall.

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