NuWe Blanche. 2011.
My independent mobile nuit blanche giant outstallation art returned for a third year.
This year though, in a nod to expected cuts to City Hall arts funding by the Ford Regime, I cut back the amount of Giant Letters used to four, down from eleven.
Biking and wandering the different zones all night with only four of my giant N U W E letters turned out to be quite manageable. Without volunteers this year, handling all eleven giant N U W E B L A N C H E letters and co-ordinating a dozen or so people for each photo myself would have been quite challenging.
First stop was atop Queen’s Park North. The triangle traffic island had become an impromptu stage for Asian improv troupe, Asiansploitation.
I met them earlier in the day doing a sneak peek performance in Christie Pits Park. They entertained the crowd with a sketch based on my suggestion of Performing the Job of Mayor of Toronto. A hilarious on-the-spot display that ended with the elimination of bike lanes… which in fact, is happening right now along Pharmacy Avenue in Scarborough. They have a show coming up on November 11-12 (George Ignatieff Theatre) and I hope people can make it out. I’m intending to see them again.
Four members of Asiansploitation and one member from the audience answered my request to hold up N U W E. And with that first photo captured “NuWe” Blanche 2011 was off and running.
The second stop for the night… sucked. Unlike 2010 when this turned out to be one of the best NuWe Blanche stops, there was not much going on in front of The Royal Ontario Museum tonight. Unofficially, it became a random salsa spot, with boom box volumes of Latin dance music echoing and strangers becoming one-off dance floor partners.
However, The ROM was devoid of that nuit blanche energy. The rush of people rushing to and from art installations elsewhere interrupted numerous attempts to engage people with NuWe.
Four young college aged ladies finally stepped up for this one photo. With that captured, I headed back south.
These are people waiting in line to enter The Gardiner Museum. They more than made up for the cold shoulder just around the corner at The ROM.
Back into Queen’s Park and discovered people staring all 1984-like into this bizarre illuminated corral. Dylan Reid would tweet it best.
Fifteen minutes later I found this year’s sweet spot for NuWe Blanche, Yonge Street south of Cartlon/College Streets.
This wide stretch of Yonge Street didn’t have any official nuit blanche programming nor installations yet as the pedestrian corridor connecting Zone A and Zone B it was quickly filled with independent buskers and unannounced performances. Everyone, and everthing organically seemed to fall into place, to fall into the original intention of nuit blanche. And what’s that? Julian Sleath, programming manager for special events at the City of Toronto explains it best:
the same problem that we all have in the arts is getting people to have their first experience. And sometimes you have to take that first experience to them.
Nuit Blanche itself is completely centred around and utterly dependent on that visitor participation and that sort of direct engagement, either as a voyeur or a viewer, or as an actual participant.
Look ! It’s . . . The Four Guys !
This was one of the funnest groups of NuWeBlanchers all night. They really got into the moment and made it a blast!
These three decided to go all out and pose like Charlie’s Angels as I snapped their picture.
By midnight, hundreds of people had held the giant N U W E letters, yet hardly any young ones had. Few kids were still out with their folks. Then a dad and his two kids asked to hold the W E . The dad was really into it taking all sorts of photos of his children holding up the big letters. They’d end up being the only real NuWe kids all night.
Co-Eds . . .
. . . ’nuff said!
NuWe was here in the northbound lanes on Yonge Street for several hours. The crowds would ebb and flow, making a moment’s rest into an easy photo-opportunity for all.
Upon arrival on Thursday, he hooked up with Toronto Psychogeography Society‘s irregular Thursday night epic walks to re-acquaint himself with the Toronto frame of mind. Didn’t work. He’s still puzzled why anyone would leave Barcelona, or Paris, to live in Toronto.
Even Nuit Blanche tonight is little comparison to the daily culture of centuries old Eurocities he’d just returned from. We reminded each other of why we choose to live in Toronto. It’s not the city of today that keeps us here. It is the promise of what Toronto is becoming, in what it can and must evolve into that keeps us here.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Fabiola’s friends immediately went all anagramming trying to place the letters into every word combination except N U W E.
M E N U was the best anagram they came up with.
FierceFab decided to hold on to the letter N.
As good as this spot was, after somewhere in the neighbourhood of four hours, it was time to hop into another zone.
Along the way, as I was biking south on Church Street, I heard my name being called out.
It was Sydney Webster (@SydneyWebster1) and Sean Killackey (@seankillackey). They follow me on twitter (@HiMYSYeD), recognized me and gave a shout out! I flagged them down at the corner of Church and Gould Streets . . .
On Gould Street at Victoria on the Ryerson University Campus, I found these three didn’t have a camera or even a cameraphone on them! This was a first all night. I snapped this photo and instantly emailed it to them.
The cobbler’s children go shoeless
He decided to turn his camera on me and capture me holding up W E in N U W E.
Back on Yonge Street, the crowds were thicker, and rowdier. It was getting challenging in deciding who wasn’t drunk enough to trust them with holding up a letter. Didn’t want a re-run of last year chasing those drunk Aussies into the back seat of a cab, then fighting to get my letters back !
Throughout this nuit blanche, somewhere between 500 and 1,000 people held up the NuWe Blanche letters. I lost count after a few hours.
As the nuit wore one, I would set up the shot, ask people to hand me their cameraphones or cameras as I snapped them but didn’t photograph everyone everytime with my own camera.
The night flowed smoother the more selective I got in which groups of people I photographed for my own NuWe collection.
As a few sober girls were holding up N U W E, the group of drunk guys I had turned away only minutes before suddenly rushed back into the frame and took over posing in and around and behind the letters.
I snapped the picture and quickly rounded up the letters out from the hands of these tipsy young men.
This last shot of the night was taken just north of the Yonge-Dundas scramble intersection.
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