First Class Riot; Nuit Blanche 2011

Photo by Jordan Janisse // Jellyfish Installation

Since I had felt quite underdressed the night previous at The Drugs’ Festival Psychedelique at Negative Space, for Nuit Blanche I dolled myself up with eyeliner, some pearls of Elise’s, and a blazer of mine that I pretty much never wear. Indeed, I felt like putting myself out there for a night I hoped to be a little more out-there than Winnipeg’s first stab at Nuit Blanche the previous year.

First up was the drawing competition happening at the Edge Gallery hosted by the Places for Peanuts drawing club. Having been friends with some of the Peanuts—who are mostly Art City employees/volunteers—but never having attended their drawing club, I was keen to get drawing, and started making scribbling after scribbling of shit and drawings of people shitting as soon as Janessa handed out the paper pads and pens. (A pad which I later passed on to Kelly Ruth that night.) Soon enough, Chesterfieldians Elise, Scott, Ryan, and I got to playing a game of visual Telephone to warm ourselves up for Drawball(?) taking the name of Team Ottoman[sp?]. Drawball, which is pretty much Pictionary on speed, felt like some sort of “bring it bring it” b-boy/b-girl battle, with the practiced Peanuts definitely strutting their stuff ’n’ scribbles, and taking home their Cracker Jack prizes. But fuck, how can someone draw “Deal with it”?!

Then it was off to the heart of the Exchange for soon to be a number of things. Amuse, who were listed under the program as Amuse, said that they had a new name but I couldn’t understand them and they said if you didn’t like their new name, you could leave. Guy Maddin’s Hauntings I was showing at Platform Gallery, as it had been for nearly a month, and there seemed to be a feverishly hungry group around the food table and a probably justifiable hostile bar staff. I had invested much of my time on opening night watching the projection loops of the absurd fables of Maddin’s, and I was in more of a social mood on this night, so I couldn’t stand still. Notably, however, there were many people taking in the screening, even more than opening night, and Maddin himself was in attendance, unlike the opening.

Outside the Artspace was the usual smoking cigarettes and shooting the shit, though every socialite who seems to be in occasional attendance eventually seemed to breeze through. Said hi to Heidi Phillips who was hanging out with Ian Campbell who worked on Balloon, a wickedly hilarious short which screened the night before at WNDX. I talked to my brother, who was setting up for a dance party in Artspace’s alley, which was about to be DJ’d by him, Mike B. and Rob Vilar. A number of jellyfish—made out of umbrellas and tethered together in a scale-like fashion—were hanging from the roof of the alley. ’Round midnight, there was a modest number of people there, but when I swung by again at 4 a.m., it was packed side to side and back to front.

Hanging out in Old Market Square was a breeze and nearly approaching a level of Folk Fest excitement, with the Trolleys banging away by the Line Up, surrounded by a crowd. Said hello to Jaimz Asmundson, who let me back into the Artspace building and told me I looked pretty. This Hisses were playing very loudly in the lobby of the Artspace with their onslaught of riffage rife with noir drama.

Finally off to the Plug-In and WAG, which was definitely the central location of Winnipeg’s Nuit Blanche. With the blaze of Plug-In ICA’s fluorescents, the Buhler Centre looked appropriately lively. The Stella’s Café built into the corner of the building looked like an unruly futuristic diner. The exhibit at Plug-In ICA, the heart that has no love/pain/generosity is not a heart, was detailed, showing a war-torn country rebuilding—or rather being rebuilt by every other world power. What grabbed me most was the photo of a sign for a livestock station with a Canadian Flag on it, which read “Artificial Insemination Station.” There was also a multimedia projection from Sarah Houle who’s in the Alberta band Ghostkeeper. “Is it about forming identity?” asked someone in the space. Naw, it’s definitely about making some cool shit, thazzall. Then Heather Komus took me over to Sandee Moore’s puddle of puke, replete with plastic Cheerios, saddled up against the window with a greenish colour and moulded into the gallery in a trickle and eventual puddle which turned white and had greyish footprints which were so distinct. What a wonderful detail, footprints! “I wonder if those footprints are supposed to be there…” I wondered aloud to Heather, and she said, “I’m not sure,” and I put my foot down gingerly and one of the two ladies standing across the puddle of puke from us said, “Yeah, yeah, no, please don’t do that. We’re trying to preserve the art.” I raised the point that wouldn’t there be a velvet rope if they were trying to preserve it? The other lady identified her position with the gallery, adding that she was the velvet rope. After about five seconds of uncomfortable silence, I walked straight out.

Outside, Elise was talking to Sandee Moore, who was rather jazzed over the fact that someone had taken the rubber wiener from the hot dog sitting in the puke which lay outside of the gallery, hoping that news of that rubber wiener would show up in the form of a tweet or a Facebook status. As I went to take a look at the puke outside, I watched my friend Mello, looking at the art on the wall, accidentally squish both her heels into the puke, and act really embarrassed once confronted. She looked at those of us laughing outside, and I flashed her a double thumbs up.

Behind the WAG, I walked over to see a bit of a screening of Moonkey, which looked like some cool sci-fi movie with monkeys in it, with some even cooler-sounding no wave datastep whatever is flourishing in a scene in this city—but no sooner than a minute that I had sat on a curb had it shut off. “What, just like that? Just like that?!” I call to the woman biking by.

“Just like that!” she called back.

’Round about this time, the WAG’s line was nearly nothing, so our group of seven got in no problem. Inside, there was an Artcadia—delicious designer games and loud music provided by Mr. Ghosty and everyone else behind Data Dance stuff—I can’t remember who was DJing, as I was much too distracted playing They Bleed Pixels, a gory but smooth platformer utilizing an Xbox 360 controller.

The exhibits upstairs were all open, and (at 2:00 a.m.?) still teeming with people. CCCP were prancing around as art cheerleaders, telling everyone in hushed tones to get rowdy. I lol’d pretty good. Then I was super peopled-out at this point so I went downstairs, to the auditorium for the Uniter-presented cult classics, in time for the last half of everyone’s favourite aughts angst film, (and as I was reminded, mine too) Donnie Darko.

Did I have fun? Hell, I could write an essay on how social dynamics greatly changed (and improved) with so many more people on the street, though I counted 23 alcoholic beverage containers from the doors of the WAG to the building’s point nearest Portage—be a little more discrete, people! However, there were notable amounts of people swarming to see the art and actively looking at the art and totally talking about the art, even if some of us were a little more in go mode than others or dancing to some DJs, or whatever.

Like Folk Fest, Nuit Blanche could be a time for people to unhinge from their usual decorum and socialize on a level that’s freeing even without the use of drugs or alcohol, and we should definitely celebrate it for being a hyper-public event which brings out more than just your usual crowd.

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