It's quiet in the city at 5 am, even here by the university and the downtown. But tonight it won't be. From seven this evening until seven tomorrow morning it's Nuit Blanche in Toronto. That means the downtown and uptown streets will be thronged with people looking at, and looking for, art events, performances, happenings.
There's a Nuit Blanche guide online, with maps and explanations, numbered dots for each piece or performance or art event. But there are always a lot of unofficial happenings that "erupt" too; finding them is a matter of luck. In the last few days all around the city I imagine there have been conversations like the ones I've had with friends: what are you aiming to get to at Nuit Blanche? or "what have you heard is a must-see?" or "I'm going to ask my artist friend w hat she's heard about".
The buzz is fun, and I've found in the past that there are treasures of various kinds of insight, and just wondrous sights, to be discovered and experienced. But best of all I think is the energy, the feeling that this is one giant performance, that we are all, the more-than-a-million people who come out for it, performers in a giant happening. I love looking at people's faces as they come on say a wonderful video installation or an amazing street performance or as they wander, a little dazed, at two in the morning. The streetcars (trams is the word outsiders might use) run all night on the main east-west streets, connecting some outlying pockets of intense Nuit Blanche activity to the downtown. And those streetcars will be crowded and full of conversations, rather like those at the film festival: "did you see the one where...?"
Like many ambitious multi-strand human efforts, it all becomes a metaphor for life and living. There are the serendipitously discovered wonders that thrill; the pieces on the event map that I head to purposely and that are either as great as I hoped or a disappointment; there are the chance encounters with friends and with strangers in the crowd; I overhear snatches of conversation but catch only the middle of the story, not the end or the beginning; and I am propelled by a need to keep moving, to try to take it all in, to not miss a thing, even though I know there's a lot I will not see, for it's impossible to encompass it all.
By moving around effortfully and ambitiously, I will feel I've given it my best, but another form of participation would be to just hang out in one place where several things are going on/being performed, and watch people's reactions, watch my own changing understanding of the crowd, the performances, the event. It's a good idea, but I just can't do it. I am driven, as I am in life, with the urge to connect to, have a glimpse of, try to understand, as much of what is going on as possible...
And afterward, tomorrow as I'm making ChocoSol chocolate chocolate-filled flatbreads for the Slow Foods picnic, and through the coming weeks, I expect that images and sensations from this Nuit Blanche will be replaying in my mind's eye, reverberating, growing and changing.
Nuit Blanche goes on after dawn arrives. The images projected on buildings get shut off, the performance artists wend wearily home, but the energy and the ideas embodied in the strong pieces go on resonating in our imaginations, warming us and stretching us.
And for food? A solid early supper, probably Thai grilled beef salad, for the friends that will be dropping by, and sticky rice, and I don't know what else. Then plenty of bread and cheese and cake to snack on when i and they drop back in occasionally through the night. The other part of the instructions is of course to wear comfortable shoes, I wear my running shoes, and layered clothing, for inside places can be hot but outside there are light showers and cool temps.
here we go!!!