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nuit blanche with neville

behind the pink curtain...
this past weekend was montreal's "nuit blanche", a night dedicated to celebrating the arts and encouraging members of the community to discover all the different sorts of cultural exchanges that are taking place when they aren't looking. since it promised to be chilly outside, i opted to stick downtown, where many exhibits can be seen just by wandering through the underground city, without needing to venture outside. i also elected to go out earlier. it's a sad side effect of the event that a lot of teenagers who aren't interested in anything remotely artistic use it as an excuse to stay out late and get really, obnoxiously drunk.

don't get me wrong: i am all about finding ways to stay out past curfew. i used to volunteer every year for halifax's annual "shadow-painting", a chilling sort of memorial to the victims of the hiroshima and nagasaki bombings, where thousands of people were literally reduced to their shadows on the ground. and i'm not going to deny that part of the appeal was getting to stay out all night. but my friends and i actually did end up running around various parts of the city, using stencils or taking turns lying down on the ground to have our outlines painted. i don't think i ever had so much as a shared drink. to me it was enjoyable in great measure because we believed in it. and i know that there are many young people who treat the nuit blanche the way my friends and i would have- as an opportunity to do something enjoyable that has a whiff of naughty adventure about it. they're just being drowned out by the people who are taking turns trying to knock the artwork down and barfing on the gallery floors.

by heading out earlier, i avoided those who were showing up just to be able to say they were out late without parental supervision and it turned out for the better. unfortunately, the weather outdoors was not nearly as cold as predicted and the temperatures indoors, where it was difficult to remove one's cloak and hat. so i ended up spending a lot of time being hot and uncomfortable, which does tend to be a little distracting.

however, i did manage to take in a decent number of the smaller events [crowds around the nerve centre of place des arts were intimidating even earlier on], including almost all of the exhibits at the belgo centre, something i've missed the last few years because i've gotten too late a start.

also this year, for the first time, i chose to interact with the exhibits in my own special way. many installations invite participation from viewers, but i've generally been content to observe. this year, though, i thought i would bring something to the party in honour of its all-night nature. something that combines the worlds of art and insomnia.

i brought neville.

i also added him to a table covering when we stopped for snacks
it started out innocently enough. i though for once i'd make a little contribution to the annual graffiti mural that's created deep within the underground city, comprising work by known, unknown and non-artists. before long, it came to me that adding neville was a perfect idea, but once i'd left him in one place, i couldn't stop. i kept adding him and adding him in various guises, as anyone who follows by twitter/ facebook/ instagram feed can attest.

i was kind of annoyed that i forgot his eye bags
i was given a template and told to draw within it. i refused.
sort of a drive-by neville-ing
i also added this to the group mural. i hate that she's lop-sided, but i was too.
there were a number of interesting exhibits, of course, as there always are. but really, this particular night was marked by my neville campaign. but here are a few other takeaways:

light boxes with words or phrases related to "mothers", many disturbing.
a thousand photo paper cranes
hey, it's me and kathleen, getting in the way which never happens
art should always involve a giant mallet
also, giant pickles
and acid trip decor
i wrapped things up by spending a few minutes in a studio space converted to a small meditation centre, where participants were invited to just come in, unwind, shut up and meditate for a few minutes. longtime readers of this blog may remember that i'm a total failure when it comes to meditation, but, shockingly, i found that i was able to get closer to the desired state, despite the high levels of background noise. the woman running the group [visual artist jennifer hamilton] had a very soothing and welcoming demeanour.

also, i made a new friend
although i salute the city's attempts to spread things out a little more- there were events further north, along the blue line of the metro for the first time- there is still far too much concentrated in the place des arts/ place des festivals complex. and it seemed like other "campuses" had fewer events this year, particularly around old montreal, in the string of galleries that line st. paul st. and i am still a purist who thinks that "all night" should mean all night, not just "until when the bars normally close". [i know a friend of mine who works at one of the participating venues would like to tell me to shut up for saying that, but i can't help it.] that said, it's hard to argue with something that brings you in contact with myriad art forms, let's you add your own little egotistical touches and costs you nothing. vive la nuit blanche!

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