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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

That Wonderful Nuit

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Our path through Nuit Blanche began in Yorkville, where I gave a tour of some secret and not-so-secret parts of Yorkville early in the evening. On the subway to Bay Station, I was a little angry that it was raining. Why does God hate Toronto? The rain though didn’t deter anybody though (and made it almost cozy), and there was a big group waiting to walk around, and most of them stayed until the end — and we gained more as we went. We started at the Yorkville rock — I invited other people to share their thoughts on places we stopped at. One woman said that when they put the rock together (it was shipped from up north and all the pieces were numbered, like a puzzle) they kept getting it wrong and starting over again. Zanta made an appearance behind me on top of the Rock. It was interesting to watch the faces of the tour folk change from curious to shock as they looked up above me at the shirtless one (though covered in a see-through orange plastic rain jacket) — I explained what I knew about Zanta, and he told everybody his website address, then moved on.

It was, I think, a wonderful night. The amount of people out in Yorkville and around OCAD between 9pm-2am was amazing. It had the feeling of a house party that stretched over many city blocks. Around 11:30pm, in the fog of philosophers walk, there was a loud SPLAT as a young woman slipped at the top of the hill (she was impatient with the crowds and tried to detour along the slope) and slid down the mud on her bum. The crowd went “Oh!” with the first splat, then a long “Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” as we watched her slide to a stop. She raised her hand in victory at the end, and everyone cheered.

So many pieces addressed, took advantage of and/or just had fun with public space. Many overlapped with each other, and addressed similar themes. At Yorkville and Hazelton Avenues, I started talking about the Myna Bird and Penny Farthing coffeehouses that were there, and a few feet away the giant video installation I am Curious showed archival clips of those café’s — a nice, unplanned overlap.

It was also neat how we were able to zig-zag through public and semi-public spaces throughout the night (and all those pools — Hart House & Fastwurms, Harrison Baths & the sad and tragic story of Roy & Silo’s gay penguin divorce and eventually the Trinty Bellwoods pool). We felt like Billy in the Family Circus, leaving a hash-marked trail on the map of downtown Toronto, in and out of buildings, with a hundred impromptu meetings along the way. By 4am we were standing outside of the Gladstone, no energy to wait in the short line to get inside, so we dispersed.

Usually big, civic events have a certain awkwardness to them — a sort of lowest-common-denominator entertainment that either won’t offend or that tries to appeal to greatest number of people. This night didn’t feel like that. It was spread out and decentralized, and we got the feeling that power and planning was put into the hands of the right people, and that trickled down to a bunch of artists who did some really neat things — and still, a load of people came out to see it. People are smart, and if you do something good, they’ll come out and see it.

Nuit Blanche needs to happen every year. More zones! Suburban zones too! Not to put too fine (or happy fuzzy) a point on it, but it seemed to capture the wonder and joy of the Blackout night, but without the thawing meat and people trapped in elevators.



  1. “it seemed to capture the wonder and joy of the Blackout night”

    That’s exactly it. That’s what I felt, thousands of people out of their houses, away from their TVs and computers, all exploring the city, being friendly to one another and enjoying themselves, whatever their take on the art was.

    There was a sense of play and wonder that I wish I could feel all the time when out in Toronto.

    Best of all, I really did find everyone very friendly. I think this is the first event of this size I’ve ever been to where I wasn’t once pushed, elbowed or stepped on.

  2. Did our Mayor, David Miller, have anything to do with the success of this Nuit Blanche? We haven’t heard him take credit, exactly. But we saw the weird slogan that’s come to be associated with the Miller era: “Toronto: Live with Culture,” everywhere. We suspect the Nuit Blanche has sealed his victory over Jane Pitfield, just like that last mayor, Mel Lastman, sealed victory over Tooker Gomberg with his “Moose in the City” imagery.

  3. My girlfriend and I really wanted to go, but the rain did deter us. Since we were coming from out of town, and the GO shuts down after 1:30, we didn’t want to risk getting stuck in lousy weather with no place to go.

    Stupid weather.

  4. Allderblob> I think it might be a stretch to say the Moose sealed Lastman’s victory, as it was probably in the bag without them (though as I write this, I suddenly think you’re putting us on with the suggestion). It’s nice to think art has such a transformative effect though.

  5. How come I felt like this event totally snuck up on me? The first I ever heard of it was the Thursday when the weeklies came out and by then I had other plans.

  6. How cool would it be if next year they turn off the power grid for Nuit Blanche. I’m pipedreaming and logistically it would be hugely daunting, but I’d be all for it!

  7. I really wanted to go, but had no one to go with, with my boyfriend out of town. Being a lone girl, it didn’t feel quite right (or fun) attending an all-night event alone. The fog installation sounded so great … I know it’s unlikely, but I hope it returns for next year.