This year the festival hit a huge milestone with over a million people roaming the streets of Toronto, an amazing jump from the 425,000 that attended in 2007. While the popularity of the event bodes well for exposure of the artists and the city, I wonder how it has changed the way we experience the installations. Many of the popular pieces housed inside, had lines that could have you waiting for an hour. In other cases the crowds were so large, that the art almost got lost in the visual and literal noise of the city. However, this success has brought contemporary art to a much broader audience and, through its anonymity, given people a chance to engage where they might otherwise have felt that daunting feeling of not understanding.
While some may argue that the event has changed from its almost impromptu nature of a few years ago, the true success of the evening is the way it allows Torontonians to engage with their city on a very different level. It exposes areas of the city that people may not have encountered and, especially this year with the interactive elements, it creates a dialogue in which to interact with others. Not only were there the official applications of “My Night” and “Night Navigator” for iPhones and Blackberries, but also many of the side projects had attendees posting reviews and photos of what they’d seen throughout the event. Not only were the opportunities for interactions on the technical side, but also with the chance for the audience to participate in the art. Many of the installations allowed attendees to sing, dance, ride, crawl, build and play with the art, breaking down the barriers that contemporary art often creates.
Overall, my absolute highlight was the Music Inside/Out at the TELUS Centre. Not only was I impressed by the new addition to The Royal Conservatory, which is understated and elegant, but the light and sound installation was a hauntingly beautiful piece that followed you as you explored the building. This is something you had to attend early enough to catch the real artists, the musicians, before they went home to bed. Later in the night, they were replaced by an electronic soundtrack, which did not have the same power and presence as the live performers.
Although the crowds did become a bit overwhelming, preventing me from seeing some key installations, it was the vibe and the buzz from all the attendees that really made the night. It is always exciting to see people occupying otherwise empty spaces around the city, just too bad it’s only one night per year.
What were some of your highlights from Nuit Blanche 2009 and how do you think it could be improved for 2010?
Photo of Music Inside/Out in Koerner Hall by Nicole Bruun-Meyer