Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Nuit Blanche in Toronto - October 4th, 2008.

Okay here is the last catch-up post, closing out 2008 on a good note. It's a doozy. Get some coffee and settle in. If you didn't get to Nuit Blanche you will probably want to go next year after you read this.

We went to Nuit Blanche in Toronto in early October. This is an all night art event. There were over 300 separate outdoor and indoor exhibits of all kinds of art. There were thick guidebooks and maps and you really had to think and plan where you wanted to go. It started at sundown and went until sunrise. we started at 9:30pm and finished at 4am. We walked all that time, except for a couple of extremely crowded streetcar and subway rides. When we emerged from the car park it was like Canada day here in Ottawa. That's the only other experience I have had with crowds that large. People everywhere and really fun, really happy and relaxed attitude. Everyone was out to discover things. They were curious and talking about art, and art was everywhere.
Just heading over to the info tent we came across Boxheads. Two people with boxes on their heads giving out flyers for a performance. They couldn't see anything. You just walked up to them and took the flyer. Kind of creepy and interesting. Simple and strangely effective.
Heading over to the subway to get to our first destination, the Distillery District, we walked through the Eaton Centre and saw this inflatable construct.
We had to stay focused to stay on track.

It was huge and had I known you could stand in it and walk around inside it we would have made the trek to go up and get in it but I am easily distracted

so we had to stick to the plan.

After the subway ride and a streetcar ride we walked a few blocks and found the Distillery group of buildings. Old brick building with brick or cobblestone streets, open only to walkers, no cars, it certainly gives a great first impression. I was looking for a specific building that had a print of mine on display that I made specifically for the Nuit Blanche Secrets Show at Proof Gallery.

Leading up to the building where Proof Gallery was, we walked through an alleyway full of constructions and projections. As you walked through the light you were part of the show.

We found Proof Studio Gallery and the wall of prints
(this one is mine) and after meeting the happy and busy owner we took a look around the rest of the building. In the lobby was an art installation called secrets. You could write a secret on a small piece of paper and tie it to a helium balloon and it floated up to the ceiling. As you walked through the balloons you could read the anonymous writings. I grabbed a few of the secrets laying on the ground cause the balloons had popped but I never felt more like a yellow-bellied thief than I did taking these secrets! In the end though, they inspired one of the handmade books I made for my own secret-themed apprenticeship. It was just a coincidence that they too were doing secrets. Guess it's in the air.

From here we covered the Distillery grounds and found a jazz band playing outside. It was such a beautiful evening. Like a summer night and not an October evening. It wouldn't have been half as much fun doing this in a cold rain.

We consulted the guidebook and it led us to Kensington market where they were having a pie eating contest.
I was more interested in the light-up hair thingies and the hat and wings of the two girls in front of us. We left there and entered a church across the street where there were some singers performing, with a big screen TV to show it to the crowd. The pews were super comfy and there was a very warm feeling being in this old church so full of life and love. It really was a magical atmosphere. I've never held a particular fondness for Toronto until this evening. It's made me think of moving there, except it's even more expensive than it is here. Still. It's not out of the question.

From here we headed out to see the waterfall. Everyone was talking about the waterfall. It was a streetcar ride west and then a walk of at least 6 or 7 blocks. By now it was around 1am and I was really losing steam. Still, as we got closer to the falls the people were talking about it even more so I was really spurred on by that. And then, all of a sudden we saw it.
Out of the third story of an abandoned buidling was a roaring waterfall. The water was landing in a jumble of childrens plastic toys. It was very impressive. I wondered how long they took to set this installation up and what kinds of city permits were involved. It was very impressive. We decided to follow this street and came across another installation that I just love.
These were glowing sound boxes as as you approached them you would hear the sounds of apartment life: cats, voices, doors, elevator doors etc. Not only was the sound interesting but the light they cast was so moody. My pictures of the installation make me want to paint to try to capture the feeling this light creates in me. As we left there I looked up to see a fake blazing fire in an old warehouse. I thought it was just the full corner but it continued down the whole block.

These were projections of a fire done from the inside of the building out onto the windows. They felt real but the lack of sound and heat and smoke made you do a doubletake. This whole street was a great find only to be equalled by what we found a block later. (By now it was well past 2am and I was full of energy, just anxious to see what else we'd find.) Walking past a packed (!) outdoor patio we saw a Yoko Ono installation. Hanging from a crane with stadium lights on it was this silk sign. It was surprisingly moving. I was surprised I felt that way.
Once past the sign you saw a street filled with trees with wishes written on white tags from their branches. Yoko encouraged people to write their wishes onto the tags and tie them to the trees. Actually everything was covered with wishes: trees, bushes, tall grass. I flipped a few around and read "anyone but Harper" (we were going into an election and this wish, alas, did not come true),

This one wished and wondered who would clean this mess up in the morning

And this person wished for the Iraq war to be over and to give peace a chance.
At the end of the wish tree street there was a fake snowstorm
and a sauna set up. Had it been colder this would have been a fantastic find. As it was we pressed on. Inside the building next to it they were showing Russian films and outside on the grass was a small sign telling us that
honesty is the best poetry. Other signs along the way were these No Bad Art posters stapled to telephone poles.

I looked forward to seeing them along the way. In addition there were 35 strategically placed signs talking about art. A bunch were clustered on the shoulder of a road in the grass. Two favorites were these
Choose one or two or more artists you've experienced tonight and decide to follow their work over the years... take a snapshot of this moment in time, and Focus On The Process The Product Will Follow
We walked to the streetcar, then took the subway over to the Gardiner Ceramic Museum which was free admission and open all night. Mexican artists were working on a Day of the Dead altar inside. Outside, at the bus stop, I saw this which was amusing

We hopped on the subway and then walked back to City Hall where the car was. It was 3:30am and the streets were as busy as when we started out at 9:30pm. There were still lineups at the food trucks. I wanted to take in the lights at City Hall for awhile before we left. So we found a bench and watched the show. Each floor was programmed to follow a pattern and I saw the lights play Tetris, and Pong, and count, and here is a figure dancing across.
Sitting there we wondered if we should stay to watch the sun come up, about 2 hours from then. We decided to call it a night and head back to where we were staying as we had to get back on the road the next day to get home.
We were blessed with fantastic, summerlike weather for the drive home and decided to make a small pitstop in Cobourg to go visit the water.
It never looked better. I can almost imagine a summer day looking at this photo and I need that cause we are going into my worst month, the one that depresses me the most: January.
So long 2008, you're in the rear view mirror now.
2009 step right in.

I saw Robin Williams at Scotiabank Place on November 19, 2008

I have two things to blog about before 2008 ends. Two events I went to and didn't get a chance to post my images. One was Robin Williams at Scotiabankplace in Ottawa on November 19th.
I brought my sketchbook to see what I could get with it. Each sketch is about 10 seconds, some were much longer, well anything where he isn't onstage. That was all pre-show either from the screens near the stage or just the empty stage.

The show was sold out in minutes when the tickets went on sale in the summer.

It was the middle of midterms and getting final assignments done plus Christmas sales and an excellerated firing schedule in the kiln room where I also work and I was exhausted. I was looking forward to laughing so hard that I couldn't breath and I wanted it to STOP STOP NO MORE NO MORE...

That didn't happen. Was it me? was I too stressed to relax? Probably partly yes, but I think Robin Williams had low energy. He said he had just returned from doing shows in the UK. Maybe he was tired? I got that feeling but I couldn't tell if it was him or me or what. I did laugh, don't get me wrong, it was fun and I was glad to go and everything, but I didn't get to lose all my stress there on the floor of Scotiabankplace. Given how I was feeling I probably needed three more hours to feel better. So take all that with a grain of salt.

We had floor seats, row 25. Best seats we've ever got for anything. My guy said the tickets were "stupid expensive" but I didn't want to know. I just wanted to go and we haven't had to move or anything for the cost of those tickets so...
His set was surprisingly plain. I realized that it's not about the stuff, it's all about him. That really amazed when when I took it in. He can fill an empty stage.

There were these weird scaffold-like structures and a row of potted plants on the floor at the base of the scaffolds, a round cocktail table draped in black cloth, a white stool (I don't think he ever sat down on it), two bottles of coke and some water on the table with the mic. He also had a head-mic.

Mostly he did everything within a five foot area in front of the table. He had his hands on his hips a lot. Drawing him wasn't that interesting... he was very static. But then he'd do/say something and I'd be laughing and not drawing.

I found it very tough to draw where we were. My neighbours were practically on top of me and I just wanted to listen and watch. So every once in a while I'd try to get something but it seemed I would start when he was in a lull. I think this is why my impression of him is that he's a lot more still that I imagined he'd be or than I'd seen on TV.

I'd go again though given the chance.
Robin asked the audience not to take pictures during his show. I only saw a very rare flash go off. I was dying to but didn't and then at the end of the show, during his encore, he gave us premission to take his picture and I wasn't going to but figured I might as well, so I had a few for the blog and for me to compare with my drawings. This is what I got

Wonder who I'll get to see next year? This year it was Wayne Newton, Don Rickles and Robin Williams. I hope I see more than three acts next year. Crossing my fingers.