Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Nuit Blanche WPG

Back in 2008, I attended my first Nuit Blanche in Toronto. It was amazing. The streets were packed with people of all ages, and every corner had a different exhibit. It helped, I suppose, that the neighbourhood I lived in at the time was close to OCAD, so a lot of art students were participating.

Unfortunately, it was an unseasonably cold night and I was not dressed warmly enough. So I turned in early. I wish I hadn't. Because I didn't realize that not all Nuit Blanches are created equal.

Saturday Night

This past Saturday evening and into the night, I went with a small group to check out Nuit Blanche Winnipeg. My love and I had an engagement earlier in the evening, so by the time we met up with our group it was nearly 11:30 p.m. But that's okay, right? Nuit Blanche is all night! Wrong.

Apparently, what we didn't realize and what I should have researched before was the fact that in Winnipeg, where most of everything shuts down at 6 p.m. on any old regular day, most of the exhibits shut down at midnight. Balls. We did see a tiny handful of art installations, but because most of the evening was already over, the crowd that was attracted by the post-midnight fare consisted of a bunch of 22-year-old hipsters rather than actual artists.

Highlights

It wasn't all bad. The best was the Costume Museum of Canada's exhibit, "From Bloomers to Bikinis." It was really cool to see Victoria biking outfits, 50s ball gowns and 80s workout thongs. And for free. I'm not sure whether it was the best of the entire night, but definitely the best opened after midnight.

There was also something called "the Alley" off of Market Square where a light installation was set up. It was nice to look up while walking in the space, seeing little blobs of white and red and blue like colorful stars above. In spite of the fact that I stepped in something ominously slimy and one of the group stepped on something else that cracked underfoot.

Lowlights

The Market Square in the Exchange District itself was a stupid hipster party during which the DJs sang bad covers of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones over dance beats. Contemporary art. Yeah, okay.

Then there was a Tale for Two, which although it was a neat concept (music played on headphones while you look down into a light box to see a photo of arranged clay miniatures) didn't make sense. It was a story, I supposed, and so tried to attach a narrative structure to it. But I couldn't. Maybe that was the point? Either way I felt quite disturbed my it. Surrounding that exhibit was another massive crowd of young hipster, milling and getting high. Sigh.

There was a Mad Men party. There was a bike along that ended in a party. That was part of the problem, wasn't it? The night was more about parties that ended at midnight or 2 a.m. than it was about exhibits that presented until 6 a.m. I suppose a lot of folks in this city wouldn't stay up until 6 a.m.?

The worst thing that happened that night, however, was when we went into a building that was actually an art space during daylight hours. We walked in and were met by a trio of high, giggling hipster girls who told us there was nothing to see in there. After we were turned away, I looked at my Nuit Blanche flyer. There was supposed to be something in that building. There was meant to be an art exhibit that lasted all night long.

Conclusion

Maybe it's not fair to judge the event of one city of approximately 750,000 people to the same event of a city of 5 million people. After all, Toronto's Nuit Blanche has a corporate sponsor. As much as I'd hate to admit it, that helps. Toronto is, (whether we want to agree to the fact or not) the nation's centre of arts and culture -- arguably one of the most artsy and most culturey cities on the continent. Whereas Winnipeg is just -- well, not much. But coming from 'out east' to this city, I suppose I did expect more. Perhaps it's just my eastern go-getter attitude grinding up against this prairie town's love of comfort and the status quo. Not sure. Either way, experiencing Winnipeg's Nuit Blanche, for me, represents a microcosm of my Winnipeg experience in total: limitless possibilities for awesome, lost opportunity to be awesome.