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Postmodernism and the Difference Between Art and Garbage at Toronto's Nuit Blanche

Nuit Blanche is an annual art festival that transforms public spaces into temporary art galleries and encourages everyone to roam the city experiencing contemporary art in a non-traditional context until the sun comes up. In practice, however, Nuit...
October 4, 2012, 1:32pm

Nuit Blanche is an annual all-night art festival that transforms Toronto from a city where not much happens after two in the morning into a city where all sorts of things happen after two in the morning. Parking garages become art galleries, buildings become surfaces for projectors, and people who are normally at home sober are out on the streets getting wasted and filling themselves with street vendor hot dogs. We sent our intern Sam out to ask a bunch of people about postmodernism, and our other intern Brad to jot down to the important differences between garbage on the street and officially sanctioned festival art. Both of them were dicks about it. Watch Sam above and read Brad below.


My old roommate told me that last year, she was looking at a broken, abandoned bike left in the street and a drunk guy next to her said, “Is this an art?” She didn’t know.
This year, I walked through Toronto’s Nuit Blanche and took photos of things that may or may not have been “an art.” Some of these installations were part of the festival and some of them were just things I found posted up or laying around Toronto that fit under the art umbrella. Come help me figure out what’s more deserving of art status with me, if you want.

We’re going to start off with a traditional example: framed artwork hanging up somewhere. The first piece is a picture of a cat on the wall at Get Well, my favorite bar in Toronto. The second is a photo of a woman affixed to a tree, taken by a group of photographers named Hermann & Audrey. Because they posted it to a tree, and not to the wall, it is the art. See how this works? Moving on.

Winner: Photo on a tree.

Someone told me that the smashed car was part of a project curated by Douglas Coupland. It was actually pretty neat. The car looked like my grandmother’s car from the 80s and made me think about how time moves forward and things change and people change and how I’m standing around at an art festival looking at a smashed up car. That made me nostalgic and weirdly disillusioned. The car with the hood open belonged to some asshole who parked it on the street to show off his engine. He was also listening to “Everybody Dance Now” by C+C Music Factory. You may think that this is an example of mixed-media performance art that uses a non-traditional space, i.e. a random guy’s car, to exhibit a sonic experience. You would be wrong about that. Winner: Douglas Coupland.

The girl with the bunny ears and the security guard, standing on either end of that pile of candy, is the art. The guy in the blue spandex suit, knight’s helmet, and fairy wings is not the art. I can only hope that this guy has a girlfriend who’s dad sees this photo and makes fun of him over and over until the relationship ends. No other good can possibly come from that outfit. Winner: That guy’s girlfriend’s dad, if he exists.

The first group of people are watching a projection above them and, though they are experiencing art, they are not the art. The photo of the people snuggling is the art. Or at least I think it is. It’s possible that they were all on MDMA and this spontaneous cuddle fest is the result. Either way, they win. Winner: MDMA.

This one is a bit of a trick. The speaker with the garbage bag over it was blaring Slavoj Zizek’s dystopian lecture on the end of the world, hardcore pornography, and how “life is a crazy dance of illusions.” The other thing is just a light and has nothing to do with hardcore pornography, so who cares? Winner: Hardcore porn speaker.

This one’s a trick too. You’d think that a shopping cart and a toy truck in a parking lot aren’t an art, but then you’d be wrong. They’re both art. Haven’t you learned anything from this? Winner: Art!