Posts Tagged ‘holidays’
My last two posts were about public celebrations in Toronto, centered around things–sports teams, art festivals–that are popular if problematic.
What goes on in your community? What are some things you celebrate? Are there issues with these?
(I choose to consider this the last post of Saturday, not the first post of Sunday. My prerogative.)
This past week, I have been highlighting photos from my Nuit Blanche experience. I found it a bit flat, the riot at Yonge and Dundas was easily overlooked, but others like Torontoist came across some interesting things. The news, coming immediately afterwards, that Scotiabank was dropping its sponsorship. As others like the Toronto Star‘s Martin Knelman have pointed out, the loss of this sponsorship hardly dooms this popular festival. (Scotiabank, apparently, provides less than a third of its funding.) It does, local journalist Paul Gallant argued at Yahoo News, make it important to define what exactly Nuit Blanche is. Is it a public art event? Is it a holiday? Is it a mixture? How can these energies be galvanized? Et cetera.
More and more art lovers are unwilling to swim through rowdy crowds or stand in line for more than an hour for a three-minute encounter with a piece of art that may or may not disappoint. The Eaton Centre stopped participating a few years ago because they couldn’t police the vandalism and the litter happening in the building. This week major Nuit Blanche sponsor Scotiabank, which contributed as much as 50 per cent of Nuit Blanche’s $3-million budget, revealed that it had given organizers notice back in February, stating the festival “no longer aligns with our sponsorship strategy.” People are wondering whether Toronto’s all-night art happening, which in its early years felt like a night of delight and magic, has lost its way.
Which is a little ironic, considering that the real focus of the night—the art itself—has never been more thoughtfully programmed. “There have been some pretty concerted efforts to make it into a truly international event that’s mindful of art world gravitas. But I don’t know if that worked or if people cared,” says David Balzer, art writer and author of Curationism: How Curating Took Over the Art World and Everything Else. Twelve of the 117 official entries this year were by high-profile Latin American artists, while Paris- and New York-based artist JR, known around the world for his large black and white portraits, was given centre stage at Nathan Phillips Square. “I’ve never been 100 per cent on criticizing Nuit Blanche as this vulgar spectacle because it’s provided some openings for international artists to come, and provided openings for local and Canadian artists to kick it up a notch,” says Balzer.
Over the years the works on display have been hit and miss. Some are huge crowd-pleasers, like a UFO crash site with ET and Yoda inside a giant tent, while others are decidedly low key, like a piece this year where the artist simply reversed traffic signs on a one-way street.
“I know that it has helped introduce a whole new audience to performance and installation art. So that’s good,” says R.M. Vaughan, author of Bright Eyes: Insomnia and its Cultures and an artist who has participated in several Nuit Blanches over the years. “I don’t think anybody was ever ready for the numbers of people who showed up, and continue to show up. The works that do best in Nuit Blanche are the big, loud, sparkly outdoor spectacles. There is arguably a ‘Nuit Blanche Style’ of project now. The party versus art dynamic is frustrating, but only for the artists. We always wonder, where are you people the rest of the year?”
Toronto artist Sanda Rechico points out that there is a difference between an art exhibition and a festival—and that Nuit Blanche clearly fits into the latter category. “People come out for festivals for particular reasons. Some people come out for TIFF [Toronto International Film Festival] and they don’t even want to see the films, they just want to see the celebrities. The problem may just be crowd control and not much more,” says Rechico, who has participated in Nuit Blanche in the past. “Because it’s all night and it’s overnight, it brings that idea of party into the mix. And whenever there’s a party, somebody’s going to spill a drink.”