Toronto’s 2012 Nuit Blanche hit the streets with love and beauty I have not seen in years. The day started with a quick visit to my friend Talia‘s birthday brunch, at a west-downtown backyard house, with friends, some of which burn and all good souls. We spoke of life, love, breakups and art and where to host the next musical event.
A quick ride downtown got me to Jon’s place, it took a bit of convincing and we finally got out of the house and marched our way down Queen Street towards city hall. The theme, as I found out, was “The End of the World”. How fitting to the days we live in: governments mulling buying stealth bombers capable nuking this or that country, home values crashing, jobs lost, fear and anarchy just around the corner.
The images projects on the six satellite dishes reminded me of a Lori Anderson show I saw years back: it was a rewind of a total war, the atomic mushroom dust cloud shrinks back into the bombs that fly up into the planes that deliver them and fly backwards into their bases, to the initial state of peace. We stayed and watched with the rest of the audience.
Moving forward, we looked for the entrance for Toronto City Hall underground garage, to see the show by Douglas Copeland, aptly named “Museum For The End Of The World”. I was dressed in a US Army jacket, a head cover, carrying a large, heavy, black backpack and sporting shiny high tops. The cops (and so the others) scanned me upside down, I could look like one of those soldiers who come to take it all away from you, but I guess the shoes and the rolled up jeans (cycling) gave it away. We kept moving down the ramp into the hazy red-lit garage.
Walking down, we come across a scene depicting a car smashed in some sort of an accident, and a back-lit black and white sign announcing the yet to come…
We roll forward with the crowd which is surprisingly relaxed, respectful and interested. We next see a set of three rooms: a classroom, an office and a living room. Each of these rooms have zombie-like actors, pale painted faces, and they are moving slowly, writing (but not really) on the blackboard, watching television but do not understand it, two bodies lying in the office. The audience mixes up and sits “in class” but no teaching happens, an office without any work, a living room equipped with a zombie family. Oh yeah, we notice Pink Floyd quotes on the class desks ‘shorter of breath and one day closer to”. Death is not mentioned, perhaps bc in the eternal zombie hell there is no death, its an infinite landscape of pain, fear, anger and desperation. But then again, do zombies have feelings?
The garage is “littered” with what looks like spilled interior body organs, broken down supermarket cart, even a body, I think it was a real person but it dark and unlit for some reason.
I walk right to the exhibits, while Jon stays somewhat remote and observe the scene as a whole. “Watch the children”, he notes, “the girls are inspecting the scenes and the dead bodies without hesitation, yet the boys are afraid, cautious, and keep a safe distance from what it is”. Amazing how at such young age we develop these trends, isn’t it?
Hey Jon, I should ask him next time I see him, do the live-dead have feelings? he’d probably answer, ” they’re just utilizing their primal lizard brains, so they are reflexes only. “. Ha! I should have known that. If he’s right – and he usually is – it tells me that we reach the end of days when we lose feelings, when we forget love. The burner analogies are clear in the theme, execution and around. Additional evidence mounts throughout the night: LED lights, people wearing blinkies and glowsticks (please use battery operated not the chemical ones!) and the sacred-city that was felt so strongly in the air, all that with the fact that throughout my nightly roam I simply let go, cancelling my plans and let the wind carry me on to a beautiful adventure, tells me there is something greater here that the eye can see.
We keep trolling the underground garage – my blinky lights get shinier in the dark and the walk becomes easier. The it hits me, tonight, full moon and a Saturday night, exactly four weeks since the man burnt. Tomorrow night, then, will be four weeks since Curls and I made it to temple burn. What does that mean? Past collides with future. Letting go is the lesson of the night and once again we move forward in the now. It’s a burning man night, no matter how you look at it. Infinite sea of pain and love as Ezra would say. The End of the World is a start of a new one – a living-dead one, in our case.
We reach an installation that reminds me of an organic-machine, or perhaps it’s a machine that grows into life..? which way is it I can’t tell. I keep pointing to the artery/vain connection to Jon who silently watches the show, me, and the children. The guard comes by and tells us some of the signals come from Alaska, although they are months old. Whatever. The effect is clear. Man-Machine are mixed, Matrix version 1.0. Spirits in the Material World. Call it what you like. I get it now.
The next section of the show takes us into the end of God and nature. Ha! Nietzche would have been all over this one, wouldn’t he? High-Res photos of seeds, microbes and nature elements posted inside a round barrel-like containers, which are made of reflective material on the inside. Simple and stunning effect, the distortion created symbolizes the distortion of nature that man brought upon himself. No longer usable the seeds are too deformed and GMOed to use for growth. We lose nature, we lose god, we lose ourselves. Photo-op time.
There must be at least a dozen of these things. We keep walking and come across a 2009 find that according to the sign, some loner had left a camper in the same parking garage we are in, collecting items to help him survive the nuclear-zombie apocalyptic holocaust, the items are presented in a museum-style encased in glass. There is no interaction here – pARTicipation in burner lingo, and we move on to the a camper installation with a buncha canned food items in it spread all over the place. OK, I get the idea but this piece not moving me especially after the above so we march on.
Getting near the end (of the world) and there are couple of funny and somewhat interactive pieces of lost real-estate. They are more funny then good, but they allow people to pose with them. Again, these pieces are far from being up-to-par with what we’ve seen so far, but the message is clear, perhaps a bit too literal. Leave some room for imagination, will ya. Well here it is, I gave it some color treatment cause the original was blah.
Just before the ramp back up there is another installation of a duck-like bird mounted on an oil well and forced to dip its head into an oil barrel. Again, great idea but faded execution. We go up the ramp to get fresh air and then perhaps the best part comes along: there’s a shipping container filled with smoke and lights, and burner-type ravers dance in and around it, to the sounds of the playa: hardcore breaks. Where the hell is JD Mack? are you behind this? The installation is inaccessible, below us and although it’s fun to watch, it is not interactive and I keep the dusty camera in my pocket. Boom.
We turn west towards University, and just at the Provincial court building we come to see these two, massive alien balls. “The Aliens are here Jonny!” I knew it. Some people are taking photos with it, I, like the boys, take a more careful approach, snap and go:
We take a break on University Ave and then I walk Jon back to his place, pick up my bike and head back into the darkness.
… continue to Part 2: Mike Gibbs Rocks @ Nuit Black
copyright note: all the images here are original and I took them. If you’d like to use them, you can, I only ask you credit HouseOf Dust.info and send me a link to where you posted them, thank you.