Saturday, October 3, 2015

Nuit Off-Blanche

My first Nuit Blanche was Toronto's second: back in 2007, my boyfriend and I wandered the streets until dawn. I don't remember much of what we saw, but I do remember the dreamy electro music that played during OCAD's atrium during their free pancake breakfast, and our pact to hail the first cab we saw on our walk home, and that we ended up sprawled in his twin bed as the day greyed out up us, never having caught that cab after all.

The following year, my heart was broken: the boyfriend had become the ex, and I did Nuit Blanche with friends, the ghost of past loves dogging me around the city, installation to installation. I remember a cloud of fog around Hart House, and handwritten wishes tied to a tree. I remember "come home baby I need you here" being one of those wishes, and my heart broke even more. Everything in my life seemed irreparable. In the fog, I cried, and let myself be seen by strangers. To be seen by friends would have been too intimate.

Over the years, Nuit Blanche has been a place to meet secret lovers, to meet friends, to wear layers, to fill water bottles full of whiskey. The best way to do the night is by bike, following the masses as they roil from one place to the next. Exhibits that are wildly popular at eleven PM or one AM usually thin out around dawn—I saw Lower Bay Station, and its claustrophobic sound installation, that way—and the crowds go from parents with children, to drunk college friend groups, to dedicated up-all-nighters. There are places of refuge, like the Gardiner Museum. There are places of wild revelry, like Trinity Bellwoods. And there are overlays of memories—old friends I once knew, new friends I never saw again.

The art is almost always forgettable. I don't mean that in a bad way, but it's like going to a museum. At some point, fatigue sets in. The art blends together, creating one super Picass-brant, and the day is a dreamy blur. Nuit Blanche is the same way. The night becomes about the trips between art sites, the blurry cell phone pictures, and trying to push through the throngs of people to get back to your bike, or onto the streetcar, or to see the thing that we all came to see.

And: the back-to-back years of romance and then mourning still seep through, even though I'm now married. It's like going back to a grave, in a way. It never feels quite normal. It never doesn't haven't that memory.

The last few year, I've skipped Nuit Blanche. Last year, I was in New York City, partying in a Brooklyn warehouse with a thousand other weirdos. Years before, it's been too cold, too rainy, too many people, too spread out, too esoteric, too mainstream. It's been not my scene. And frankly, that's okay. Nuit Blanche is dedicated to experience: it's to be immersed in art, to run around the city with friends, to show your kids the crazy scupltures at MOCCA. It's to have new experiences—and to try to recreate that for myself year after year is a misguided attempt to hang onto something that evaporated into the fog years ago.

Leave it to the kids, the art fans, the college students. Leave it to the new lovers. I'll be at home, with my husband, loving that.

Image via the Culturatti