Nuit blanche

Until very recently, I had never heard of Ann Hamilton. Saturday night we were part of her “listening choir” at Nuit Blanche, the all-night art celebration. Hamilton, who represented the U.S. at the 1999 Venice Biennale, is an installation artist who teaches at Ohio State University. As part of her contribution to Nuit Blanche she led the two-dozen member choir in our offering, which consisted of standing silently, eyes closed, in a line inside the Ontario College of Art and Design, listening to the noises around for twelve minutes. We then repeated the “performance” outside on McCaul Street. Some passersby tried to disrupt our Zen-like concentration but most were just baffled.

The process was meant to teach us how to listen and after a while you could indeed sense a difference in the ambient noise. The banalities of overheard conversations faded away and the sounds of the street took on wave-like aspects. Unusual noises seemed to worm their way through.

Sarah Milroy happened upon the scene and described it in today’s Globe and Mail as a “beatific assembly of tranquil souls in the midst of the hubbub, their stillness was a little startling, calling you back to a kind of mindfulness in the midst of all the hoo-haw.”

The choir continued at other locations, but Sandy and I broke away to see as well as hear. Next stop was Crop, by Andrew Waite, at Pride Gallery. We saw Andrew’s earlier visit to the cornfields in 2004 when he and Sandy were both students in Florence. This version, in aluminum as before, is larger, lighter and more sophisticated. One day, he will represent Canada at the Biennale. See for yourself.

Then it was on to Iconclash in Grange Park where anyone who dared could dance on screen with footage from Cecil B. DeMille. From there, the next visits were all about memory in a series of houses on D’Arcy Street. Covered windows showed playful shadows of previous dwellers moving about, sitting at table, a child playing with a doll. Artist Millie Chen had lived in some of the houses; in this case it was OK to peer into peoples’ lives.

Event Horizon in King’s College Circle was a little too reminiscent of 9/11 for my taste. Emergency Room Recruitment Centre at Hart House was as chaotic as it was meant to be and then, suddenly, in the next room we were amidst the permanent Group of Seven collection and you thought, “Hey, this is the real thing, stop a while.”

DVJ Kriel’s Ground Loop at the ROM was the only disappointment. The projections on the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal were barely visible. But high in the eastern sky was the waning Harvest Moon, eerily embraced by wispy clouds, a reminder that nature is an artist, too.

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