Nuit Blanche 2018 picks

As I write this, tonight is Nuit Blanche. Normally, I have posted my picks for what I think might be the must see installations at least a week before, but this week got away from me. 

A couple of things before I begin. First: I really miss the paper program. I used to go and pick up the paper program as soon as it was released a few weeks before the event, and I would read it, and then read it again. I took my time with it. While I agree that we need to reduce paper, the website just isn’t the same for me. I don’t spend as much time with it, and and so I find it a little difficult to get as detailed as I used to with it. Second: let’s face it, I’m not going to Scarborough on my Nuit Blanche adventure, so I’m not really going to be looking at those installations. While I understand why Nuit Blanche was split in this way, I don’t think it was a good idea. Splitting up the event into sections so far apart that there’s no way to walk between them is a terrible idea. So I won’t be including any of the Scarborough installations in my picks. 

Some things that you probably won’t find on my list: video installations and photo installations. I’m usually very disappointed by these. Too often, the “installation” is just photos on a wall, or a projector showing a video on a wall. I like installations that transform space and make me see a familiar location in a new light. Going to a building and just seeing a projection on a wall just doesn’t do that for me.

As always, there’s no way to know, until the night of, what any of these will be like, which will be stunning and which will disappoint. These are some that I think might be interesting. What are you looking forward to?

International Dumpling Festival, 2018

If you know me at all, you know I love me some dumplings, so you have to know that this installation speaks to me (and my tastebuds) on a profound level. I don’t know how this one will look, or if it will be visually stunning. But, really, if I get to eat some dumplings, I think I’m going to be happy with this one.

Radical Histories, 2012–2018

Radical Histories sounds like it could be interesting. A shroud covering the roof edge of city hall.  If it is anything like the picture on the NBTO page, then it could be visually stunning. But there’s also the chance that this might be one of those ones that leaves me saying “that’s all?” when I finally see it. Only tonight will tell.

Make Your Mark, 2018

Can we talk about this one for a second? Using glue, the artist has taken a little cast of a number of the tips of people’s fingers. You know, like we used to do in grade school, but on a massive scale. Is it just me, or does this sound a little gross? I’ll go see it for sure, but there’s something about it that isn’t speaking to me.

Continuum: Pushing Towards the Light, 2018

This one is definitely on my list. The new bridge between The Bay and The Eaton Centre has been a favourite on instagram and for photographers since it was installed, and I cant wait to see it transformed by dancers, and circus and light.

Do Angels Exist, 2018

This one has a heart-rending origin story, but sounds like it will be both moving and visually stunning. As a kinetic sculpture of moving luminescent images, this one is likely to be memorable. And as it is inspired by the loss of the artists mother and and exploring grief and loss, this one could also be quite moving as well.


I have been impressed in the past with some of the installations at the Bata Shoe Museum, and this one sounds like it could be one of those transformative installations. This one transforms an alley into a passage full of light and motion. Sounds like one to see.

Why on earth would you decline your ballot?

Lately, I’ve been seeing lots of posts on Facebook and Twitter giving instructions on how Ontario voters can decline their ballot on election day. There are articles, and even a website extolling the virtues of declining your ballot on election day.

Perhaps I’m overly skeptical, but I’ve been wondering who is benefitting from this campaign? While it is your right to decline your ballot, I wonder about who is behind this push. Why? Because I think its worth thinking about. Who benefits if you decline your vote? How will politicians react to an increase in the number of declined votes? They won’t. They will, in the end, do what politicians do, and play to those who voted for them. They will make choices based on the demographic that votes for them, or that votes at all. And declining your ballot is not voting.

So I wonder to myself, who benefits if people decline their ballot? My skeptical brain thinks its the Tim Hudak and his conservatives. But it doesn’t matter. I tried to do some digging and find out who the website was registered to. But that information isn’t available. Even the about section on the website doesn’t state who is behind it. So that makes me suspect that one of the parties is behind it. Since I don’t like Tim and his cronies, my brain makes me think its him. But let’s be honest, it could also be the Ontario Liberals or even the NDP. I can think of reasons why they would all benefit.

Think of it like this: Declining your vote will not prevent that politician you hate from being elected. Since it takes your vote out of the equation, it may in fact make it more likely that this politician will find themselves in power. Because you didn’t vote. Because declining your vote isn’t the same as voting.

So, do your civic duty. Take part in the election. And choose a candidate. Because that’s what voting is.

The Chicago Sun-Times – Toronto vs. Chicago

Congratulations, Sun-Times. You managed to try and talk up Chicago by demeaning Toronto, and the the process showed your ignorance. Your writer makes a point of saying “I’ve spent some time in Toronto”, and then proceed to list nothing that’s interesting in Toronto, as though desperately trying to make sure you paint Toronto as a bleak, bland wasteland.

They have . . . ah . . . Tim Horton’s doughnuts shops, which I’ve eaten at, and which offers perfectly adequate doughnuts — not the excellent, artisanal doughnuts you’ll find on every block nowadays in Chicag0.

Tim Hortons? Really? That’s the first thing you list as something Toronto has? As though…its our finest restaurant or something? Oh, sure, there are plenty. But there are just as many Starbucks and independent coffee houses. You couldn’t mention those? Or the actual restaurants?

So I won’t start waxing on the generic, anodyne nature of life in Toronto. Its nondescript skyline whose only noteworthy element is a TV antenna. Its generic monuments; the Monument to Multiculturalism in front of the Fairmont Hotel comes to mind. The city also has a memorial to people killed in industrial accidents — I kid you not

The skyline is nondescript? I’ve never thought that. I have always loved our skyline and thought it beautiful. And as for our monuments…really? Yes, there is some crappy public art. What city doesn’t have that? You couldn’t, of course, mention the beautiful theatres, the museums, the art galleries? No, you couldn’t do that, because you can’t for a second let anyone reading think that Toronto has anything of cultural value.

And all of this, because Canadian Business magazine had an article about how Toronto might be larger in size than Chicago. Well, congratulations. You just showed how small you really are.

Building An Arts Community

At the beginning of the year, I talked about wanting to put together a “creative support group“.  I said:

I’d like to propose a regular get-together of creative people.  Coffee (or beer for those who drink it) at some place where we can sit and talk about theatre, or writing (or whatever) in the hopes that I can keep the creative juices flowing (and hopefully so can the other folks participating).

A few people contacted me, so we made a Facebook group, and we’ve had a couple of meetings.  Basically, its people who have a creative leaning getting together and talking about the things that they are working on, general encouragement, and just socializing with people who create.

Last night, we happened to be discussing yesterday’s post, and we started talking about the disparate arts disciplines.  The people who met yesterday were predominantly of theatrical disciplines and we were discussing how there is a distinct lack of “community”.  We talked about how the theatre “community” exists on something of an existential level: theatre folks tend to meet up while working on a project, and then go their separate ways.  One of the folks called the “theatre community” more of an underground brother (or sister)-hood.  If you extend the community discussion to include other disciplines, things get more muddy.  How many of us network with dancers, or painters or sculptors, etc?  Very few of us, we found.

Why don’t we socialize with artists from other disciplines?  And if we don’t, how can we possibly become the kind of “boosters” of the arts in general, that I talked about yesterday?

When I first started organizing the “support group for creative people”, I envisioned it as something that encompassed artists of many disciplines.  Due to the network of people I have friended on Facebook, most of those who have joined in the group have been theatre people.  But I’d love to have dancers, other performers, and artists from non-performing disciplines join us.

I have found the regular get-togethers of this “support group” to be creatively invigorating.  I’d encourage you to form your own: gather together artists of all stripes, and talk about what you’re working on, encourage each other, learn about the arts that you don’t “get”, and keep yourself inspired through interacting with other creative people.

And maybe, if we all do something like this, we’ll start building the kind of unified community that can better become the kind of arts boosters we need to be in order to help bring more audiences to art in general, so that we can all

“make the case for the case for the relevancy and value of our art”?

The Importance of the Arts and Government Funding

Yesterday, Howard Sherman, the director of the American Theatre Wing posted a blog entitled This is not a Political Blog.  In this blog post, he opens a discussion about why governments find it so easy to cut arts funding programs, like the National Endowment for the Arts in the US, or the various arts programs that have been cut (or threatened with cuts) in Canada (for example see the situation in BC).

The heart of the discussion starts with this statement:

The reason the NEA (and the NEH and NPR and PBS) make for such easy targets is that their audiences and their artists fail to make a case for their intrinsic value.

He has an excellent point.  Those of us who are involved in the arts and for whom the arts matter to a great deal can talk about how important the arts are, but mostly we’re preaching to the choir.  How do we make this something that people who aren’t involved in the arts believe in?  In the blog post, Mr. Sherman talks about how, from time to time, there have been talks about creating a “Got milk” advertising campaign for the arts.  After all, pork, cotton and milk still have to remind people of their importance, why not the arts?

But is an advertising campaign really the way to go about it?  I’m not so sure.  How would an advertising campaign be paid for?  If the people behind the campaign used even a few cents of public money, you know for a fact that this would be jumped on by the folks at The Sun, and likely decried by the conservative leaders (See Stephen Harper’s “Average Canadians” comments from a few years ago).  So, what to do?

The part of the blog post that really got me thinking was this:

A big part of the problem is that those of us who are profoundly dedicated to the arts hold them as a sacred belief; we are called to them as surely as religious leaders are called to the cloth. Yet to pursue the comparison, religious leaders spend one day every week making the case for the relevancy and value of their religion (these are called sermons), while we spend our time selling tickets to individual productions or exhibits.

He’s absolutely right.  We don’t spend a lot of time making the case for the relevancy or value of our craft.  Rather, we do a lot of shilling for people to buy show tickets.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be trying to sell our shows.  Rather, why aren’t we spending more time encouraging people to go to other people’s shows as well?  And not just within the same disciplines.  Theatre people should be promoting dancers, art gallery shows, etc.  How else can we raise awareness of the arts that are occurring all around us.

People who are passionate about the arts “get” that they are important.  People who don’t really care about the arts (and thus don’t go to see shows, galleries, etc), don’t see why they are important.  For them, the arts are something for the “elite” or the rich.  Something that’s not for them.  And I think that in a way, we feed this belief by doing little more than promoting our own stuff.  If we’re not acting as boosters for the arts in general then how can someone who thinks of the arts as a waste of public money think of us as anything other than (as our Prime Minister put it) whiners complaining about our cushy, subsidized lifestyles [paraphrased].

I think we all need to do more to talk up other shows, other artists, other disciplines.  We all need to work harder to raise general awareness of the arts, bridge the gap between those who care about the arts, and those who don’t yet care about the arts.

To that end, if you have something you want me to promote, let me know about it.  I’ll promote the heck out of it, be it theatre, dance, a gallery show, whatever.  All I ask, is that you do the same.  Promote a show that’s not yours.  Promote something outside of your discipline.  Boost the arts in general, rather than just the thing you are directly involved with.

How else can we “make the case for the case for the relevancy and value of our art”?