I always say “the best place to be at a party, is to be working for the party.” Helping to facilitate someone’s else’s good time is way more rewarding then worrying about your own. For this year’s Nuit Blanche I worked for the party. Over the years, NB has become one giant open air art party more concerned with spectacle than true artistic contemplation but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there, you just have to seek it out.
This time around, I had the pleasure of working for artists Martha Griffith and Marian Whihak at their installation Take a Penny. My job was to help hand out mints; each one hand printed with an image of our lost copper friend: the penny. 30 000 mints in total were on display and ready for consumption or to be rolled into coin rolls. The piece was set up inside one of the concourses at Scotia Plaza in Toronto’s financial district.
I really liked the piece, and it was perfect for this kind of event. It worked on many levels, from eye candy to pun to labour intensive process to conceptual idea. It included a participatory element that encouraged people to roll their own coin rolls, along with the idea that each person got to take a piece of the art with them. Inevitably the mints would melt away just like the penny.
I got to hand out free candy to literally thousands of people. For me, the most fun was the split second it would take people to contemplate whether they wanted a mint or not. Roughly 80% of the people when asked, would pause for a second, mull it over in their mind and then emphatically say “Yes, yes I would like a mint.” About half the people who initially said no, would come back a few seconds later smiling sheepishly, cause let’s face it ‘Who doesn’t want a mint?’
At about 5 in the morning I got an opportunity to go do a little exploring. This was the perfect time, the bulk of the crowds had made their way home out of the light drizzle that was falling. There were still a number of people around but you had clear access to all the work. My first stop was to Kelly Richardson’s large video projection Mariner 9. It shows the Martian landscape littered with space junk. Next, I made my way to Ai Weiwei’s Forever, set up in front of City Hall. This was the center piece of this year’s Nuit Blanche and was a nice compliment to his exhibition at the AGO. Inside City Hall was a long line of toys holding protest signs called The Little People by Work Party. Next stop, Shrine by John Notten which was a cathedral made out of garbage bins.
The highlight for me on my brief tour was Tadashi Kawanta’s Garden Tower Toronto made from hundreds of chairs.
This year’s theme seemed to be multiples: multiple chairs, multiple toys, multiple bicycles and multiple mints. NB is over for another year and now I need to catch up on my sleep.