toronto part trois: what’s a nuit blanche?

A nuit blanche is nothing to complain about. During “When Critics Speak,” the critics’ panel I spoke on at The Drake Hotel, one of the audience members addressed how many of the curators at Nuit were dissatisfied with the lack of critical attention paid to the exhibition by critics. Maybe a review or three in the local papers, and of course, C Magazine has published substantive, thoughtful essays on Toronto’s all night lights.

I have compiled a list of curatorial issues that can be explored in greater depth by anyone willing to confront the many turbulent subjects underlying any art exhibition held in public space with a limited temporal trajectory:

1) How are various publics constructed? I am thinking in terms of Foucault’s panopticon where vision physically constructs our relationships to others. What type of community arises from a heightened visibility of others in the city, out late at night? Is this “watching of others” a significant means to understanding others in the city or is mere acknowledgement just a superficial gazing of the city around us? I would agree that it is more than “mere acknowledgement,” thinking of my own experiences with living in a city. I believe that the small, everyday interactions that I experience, say, while taking the subway, give me a greater sense of knowing who lives in my city in comparison to making only solitary drives in a car to and from work.  Even though Nuit Blanche has set records with the millions of people in attendance, looking is still not as powerful a tool as conversation in order to discover the lives of a city’s many inhabitants.

2) One question that arose during “When Critics Speak” was in regards to whether the festival should be curated at all – because the curated zones were too far apart, or maybe because it’s such a drunken late night festival that people wouldn’t even have the patience to think about what they were looking at, I’m not really sure of a good reason for that comment. This is the wrong question to ask because curating happens whether or not it is actually called “curating.” Any decisions or editorial perspective that goes into the selection and exhibition of artists is curating, even if it goes by any other name. I never want to hear this type of question again.

3) How is curating in the public sphere different from curating inside a museum or gallery?

4) Why is the attendance by those in the artworld less than by other groups?

5) Does the festival need to include so many spectacular works, i.e. installations of LED lights, outdoor projections, and anything else that glowed in the dark night?

Image: Still from Day for Night by Dave Dyment. It was one of my favorite works at Nuit Blanche 2010.

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One Response to “toronto part trois: what’s a nuit blanche?”
  1. JD says:

    Speculating on how publics are created is a tricky business; imagining connections is all well and good until they become real, fraught with the expectations and the limitations of actual interaction. I was at a shitty bar on a random wednesday, thinking what a strange mix there was, and then the karaoke machine got pumping. Suddenly, a group of people of obviously different socioeconomic strata started congregating, singing country western and kylie minogue type pop. Literally, fifty year olds hockey fans with their arms around 25 year old H&M girls’ hips. It was bizarrely familial, not at all debauched. I wondered how the hell did this ever come to be? On the other hand, I was on a El across from this older, “authentic”-type intellectual, maybe a clerk-by-day, poetry-reading-denizen-at-night, with quirky glasses etc. I thought I’d love to have coffee with this dude, but then his face contorted like a seven year old’s on the verge of a tantrum, and he started crying quietly. I went from total enthusiasm to averting my gaze and hoping this guy didn’t say shit to me in a second.
    I feel resistance to “curating” has largely to do with the sense that artists like to pretend that any sort of mediation on behalf of the avant-garde (and which contemporary artist doesn’t believe they’re part of it) renders it lame, vitiates its revolutionary possibilities. The museum as mausoleum and all that jazz. Also, “curating” as a term/occupation has leaked into obvious capitalist enterprises beyond galleries (clothing shops for one), so it sucks to have this diluted signifier bandied about when an artist “suffers” for his or her work, even though they too wish to sell it.

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