My Nuit Blanche Adventure: Show Time

During Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2010, I was making random notes to capture my thoughts and experiences. Although these entries are typed up and posted after the event took place, they are based on notes made in the heat of the moment.

My Nuit Blanche Adventure: Part 3: Show Time

Inside the venue, the five of us are going over the procedures one last time. The three volunteers get a crash course in the concepts behind this series. Each volunteer was equipped with a digital camera. In case a viewer arrived without a camera of their own, our volunteers would be able to show them the effect. It is important not to exclude members of out audience. We went over some logistics.
“Expect a film crew to come in and document the work, expect an organizer to come around and confirm some things, expect these people to do this, watch out for that”, etc.
When all that is settled, Brad and I exchange some silly banter. I’m terrible with small talk, but I’m going to be doing a lot of it this evening, so it’s a good idea to get warmed up, and Brad’s quick wit is a big help. It forces me to start thinking in words, then gets me doing it faster.

I have a terrible fear that something should be going horribly wrong at any moment. I can’t think of anything that we missed, but the whole set up process just seemed too easy. Nothing is ever this easy. Brad assures me that when you plan everything out ahead of time, this is how things should go; it all just works.

Show time arrives, and it’s time to begin our Nuit Blanche adventure. The doors are opened, and no one rushes in.
In my planning, I had been so worried about accommodating a massive crowd, I never thought about the possibility that no one would show up. I guess we are a bit off the beaten path, and the sign is kinda hard to see, but no one? No one at all? Not one single person waiting to get in? This is really depress…..oh, wow, people!

Nuit Blanche is like a wave. At first, there is only a trickle of viewers, but that number rapidly increases throughout the evening until it reaches an exciting peak, which is followed by a long and steady decay. Finally, for the last few hours, there isn’t much of anything. And like any wave, it has to start somewhere. Our venue just wasn’t where most people were starting from, but after a short delay, they certainly did arrive.

Right from the start, the very first person in was thrilled, he handed us his card, and described a very cool project that he is working on that could incorporate our invisible painting idea. I am excited for the opportunity; to be perfectly honest, I hadn’t really thought about where to take this project from here. My thought process had been:
1. This is cool.
2. How do we make it happen.
3. Lets make it happen.
4. We’re making it happen.
5. OK, it happened.

I had no “6. after that happens…”
So, having a new target in sight was very exciting. I need goals and deadlines, I need something to work towards, otherwise I just kind of wander aimlessly from experiment to experiment, never producing anything of show-quality. And now I have that much-needed new target.

Groups of people are coming and going. We discover one little mistake we had made: we failed to test how well brand-new top of the line DSLR cameras work, and unfortunately, the answer was “they don’t”. I only have a Nikon D70, a fantastic, but very old DSLR. It worked fine, and the invisible images were fully visible to the camera. I just assumed others would work as well. I don’t have the budget to purchase and test out every camera on the market. (If anyone does want to provide me with that budget, please let me know. ;)) Luckily, everyone who had a DSLR also had a cell phone camera, and that worked fine. But it is something I should have anticipated.

My Mom arrives. This is her first Nuit Blanche experience.
“Kyle, What did you bring for food?”
What do you mean?
“You are going to be here for 13 hours, you need to eat something, don’t you.”
Hmm…I didn’t think of that. I guess my plan is to just not get hungry. Surprisingly, it works.

If I were modest, this next paragraph would be excluded; however, I am egotistical and boastful, so it’s still here.
A good number of our viewers, I would go so far as saying most of our viewers make a point of coming up and thanking us for such a wonderful display. Many even tell us that ours is the best display they have seen all night. Ours is the best they’ve seen? For the last four days, “Nuit Blanche” has been the number one trending topic on Twitter for all of Canada. In the entire country, more people are talking about this one event than anything else; and the people at this most-talked-about event are telling Brad and I that our display is their favourite. I cannot even begin to explain the joy that these words give me. In everything that’s going on around us in this crazy all night art thing, we have earned their attention.

A pair of Astronomer/Physicists come in, and immediately know exactly what our secret is. I don’t have to explain a thing, they know the method, even the exact frequency of light we are using for the invisible images. They also explain some other odd digital camera quirks that this project has revealed. I love talking to scientists. I often wish that I could become one myself someday. Their passion and curiosity is a source of inspiration for me, and this pair were wonderful. After talking to them, I had achieved flow, I was in the zone, I was warmed up, and I felt ready for anything.

The film crew had arrived. They want to talk to us briefly. We explain the project to them. They seem excited by it; genuinely excited.
“OK, cool. Well, here is the art, you can document it….wait, why is the camera pointing at us?”
“You’re on in three…two…one…”
There is nothing like a camera being shoved in your face and a surprise interview to let you know that you are not, in fact, ready for anything.

Thankfully, Brad starts talking right away, giving me some time to compose my thoughts. How does he do it? How can he just make eloquent sentences like that on the fly? I say my piece, we move on, we say some more stuff.
“This piece was also my favourite because…hmm, I don’t know where I was going with that, sorry….”
Well, that sounded a little foolish. It’s a really good thing mistakes like that can be edited out.
“So, when can we see the footage?”
“The footage is streaming live.”
That is not at all want I wanted to hear. My heart starts beating even faster at this point.
They need some filler material, so they pick a random person from the audience and ask them to describe how they feel about “Take a Picture”. Little did they know the person they picked was actually our friend Dave, and Dave did an excellent job of summing up exactly what I had wanted to say, but didn’t.

For me, this was the peak of the night. Everything after this point was slow and steady decline. The crowds thinned as the evening progressed. The people also grew steadily more obnoxious. The liquor bottles poking out of their back pockets revealed the reason for their crass behaviour. The number of guests slows to a trickle. We haven’t seen anyone in 30 minutes.

The official event inspector person arrives around 6:30am, checking up on us to make sure we haven’t closed down early. He looks far too exhausted to be impressed, but he still makes an effort, and we exchange some small talk. Shortly after he leaves, we decide to close up and go home. We sneak out 15 minutes early. We thank our wonderful hosts at Levack Block for making the night possible, and the group of us exchange goodbyes before we each embark on our long walks home.

It had been a cold night. In all the excitement getting ready for this, the one thing I had forgotten to bring (other than food) was a jacket. Luckily, Andy was accompanying me for most of the walk, and he bought me a hot chocolate. There is nothing like a hot drink on a cold morning. I take my last sips as I turn the key and enter my apartment. My next few days are wide open. For the first time in weeks, I plan on sleeping for more than two hours. Its going to be wonderful.

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Kyle Clements

Kyle Clements is a Toronto-based artist and nerd. During his thesis at the Ontario College of Art and Design, Kyle began working on his Urban Landscapes series, a body of work that aims to capture the energy and excitement of life in the fast-paced urban environment. After graduating from OCAD in 2006, Kyle spent a year living in Asia to gather source material and experience in a different kind or urban environment. His work is vibrant and colourful. Whether painting the harsh Northern landscape, or capturing the overwhelming buzz of life in the city, his acrylic paintings hover between representation and abstraction.