Quietly viewing art in the din of Nuit Blanche

October comes with a chill. Since the beginning of the month the sun has been elusive and so our little patch has become a gothic setting, not unlike the town in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – a fav of mine as a child. We also had our driveway dug up and re-gravelled which cut our phone/internet line in half leaving us without outside world contact for a day (we don’t have a strong tower near us so we are still very early 21st century and use a line for high speed). It was quiet. Once back online however the noise began to peak with the steady stream of civil unrest and art revelry.

This year I presented my new work ‘a little red’ at Nuit Blanche, a raucaus festive art event that happens throughout one night in downtown Toronto. My work has some political edge to it and I wanted to give it a debut in an environment with an anything goes atmosphere. It proved to be the perfect and not perfect venue for my piece. Nuit Blanche is at once a distracted free for all made all the more chaotic by the ubiquitous iphone; gorgeous young people showing off their new fall fare taking pictures of themselves with weirdness and oddness, and it can have moments of thoughtful contemplation where the noise of it is doused by an artist who takes their work seriously. I sit between the two camps and although I thought the humour in my piece might work to my advantage, it was actually the serious edge of my writing (the stuff about fairness, eqaulity and other Marxist references) that really caught hold of people. In the recent weeks after my presentation I now see why my work had the impact that I totally didn’t expect: people agreed with me and were somewhat empowered by it (as empowered as you can be at midnight on a freezing October night fuelled by energy drinks, coffee and alcohol – the new accessories for viewing art or anything really).

The Occupy movement has now spread to mainstream media and around the world becoming less about people sitting in a tiny, damp park in downtown New York and more about how the culture can affect change through the drumbeat, both real and virtual, of righteous anger and thoughtful protest. Or thoughtful anger and righteous protest, they both are at work. Bizarrely I have been thinking this very thing for years; all we needed was to cloud the air waves up with our voices, shape debate based on completely new rules, offer tangible ideas about how to vent your ideas and frustrations in viable smart ways, and be ready to allow the organic flow of a ‘movement’ (point defined, shape not so much) to spread and move the way it needs to without allowing anything or body to co-opt it.

And art can play a vital role here, which is the idea I had for my project: create something that is undefined but purposeful so that other mediums can spring from it in a natural and unforced way. Ground ideas in need and importance then play with them and keep in mind what impact they can have. All very airy fairy perhaps but only in this writing. When I got down off my little soap box in the corner of the Arta gallery and a group of young people approached me to tell me how much they enjoyed my piece (all of them standing quietly and attentively throughout the presentation) and thanked me, I was somewhat overwhelmed. People are listening, they are listening to the din of change everywhere, even in the crazy setting of the over endowed Nuit Blanche.

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The revolution is nigh

Wall Street is presently being occupied by activists of all stripes who would like to see our economies wrestled from the grip of the FIRE industries (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate) and the whimsy of speculators, traders, brokers, hedge funds and all other forms of revenue making realms that use the structure of a casino to run our world. Major media organizations are not covering the story at all, including our own national paper the Globe and Mail. There was a small story in the Toronto Star however, I switched allegiances a year ago, if you haven’t yet, do it. The occupation has been covered extensively by the Guardian in the UK, not the most left of papers. That country however saw what a hot summer and anger can do to a population, so perhaps their awareness of that slim thread which holds society together is far more keen.

Only Keith Olberman (Jon Stewart, Colbert and Maher have all mentioned it as well) has done any television coverage wondering aloud that if it were a right wing protest it would be everywhere. I think however that it doesn’t have anything to do with politics. I think it’s just money this time. All those major media outlets are traded daily on the stock exchange and their managers and owners know that ruffling the investors feathers would just create even more instability than there already is. Or perhaps the media itself has become its own power and that coverage is like elections, it doesn’t matter how hard you work, how well you do, only that you win or in this case get covered. Yes, perhaps what this represents is the casualty of a crucial institution that once helped keep our country and the US democratic. Now it seems the media is used to anethestatize and/or brain wash and thats about it. Some would argue that it was the point in the first place.

As I age I realize how tremendously fragile this whole society idea is. In fact, it seems now that most people never really believed it to begin with. Why would we have allowed our food prices to be speculated on creating the poorest people in our culture more hardship. Why aren’t we making things easier? Why are things getting harder? I believe it is a choice and not inevitable. Forty years of conservative politics and economic policies have rendered us incapable of being the compassionate people I was taught to be.

I refuse to believe however things are lost. In fact I am beginning to get more hopeful than less. This occupation of Wall Street is just a beginning. The Arab world; the people who gave us math, astronomy, farming and many other gifts have now given us something else – hope. Civil unrest is the answer and I for one can’t wait to join up: I will perform my “a little red, a manifesto in fairy tale form” this October 1st at Nuit Blanche in Toronto.

#art #digital #social media #Ontario #ruralness