dear all y’all,
Agent Scott hereof GRL Canada, not-so-fresh from Nuit Blanche.
I was asked to write about Nuit Blanche from an artists perspective, but it’s kinda funny… you see, I didn’t actually SEE ANYTHING at Nuit Blanche at all besides my installation (for those of you who saw GRL at Artengine and Gallery SAW this summer, it was the same piece), so you probably know more about this than me. But… I’m getting paid to write this… and therein lies the crutch – with the prevalence of interactive work (“we’ve made it! Bourriad has his come-uppance!”), I felt somewhat guilty that I was the one being paid (mind you, I wasn’t actually paid anything – even the ‘artist fee’ section of my budget went to our 10,000-lumen projector – and likewise, I realize that the project could not have been realized without me…). I’m not sure how many other artists felt this way; I didn’t hear any of the still-unsolved ethical objections about status divisions (paid/unpaid, producer/creator) inherent in social practice raised. The same goes for the ‘audience’ for that matter; I imagine some of the ‘silent majority’ that came out were delighted at their so-called participatory opportunities, while the contemporary art veterans were either jaded or obligingly cautious…
What I am trying to get at though, is the biggest constructive criticism I can muster about this year’s event – and the biggest thing I noticed from being ‘on the inside’ – is the institutional lack of an aesthetic framework, particularly surrounding the prevalence of interactive work at this year’s event. Besides the marketing copy and print deadlines, there was very little talk at all from the City (I should say that in the case of my producers, they were so eerily efficient that there was very little to say).
Now, I realize that there were separate Zones, with separate Curators. I also understand the scope of what the producers must have gone through to even produce the disparate pieces, let alone asking them to instill and manage a large-scale dialogue throughout the varied artists and curators. And far be it from me to normally suggest a top-down implementation of anything, especially something relating to creative production.
But I do think that there was a major opportunity left on the table here. The field of Relational Aesthetics (and I am sensitive to blanket-statementing several pieces at once, as well as realizing a large portion of the pieces don’t fall into this category at all) is still nebulous in its strategies and implementations. Seeing upwards of several dozen artists bring social pieces to the table would have been a fantastic opportunity for all of us to learn from each other.
I’m not sure what this would look like, nor could I say what the projected outcomes would have been. I’ve never tried to manage something so large, and would be extremely skeptical about the communication strategies becoming much more hierarchical than I would prefer… (I should say that I am approaching this from an anarcho-bias).
Some would say that relational work is the future of contemporary art (media-based or not), and I tend to agree with that statement. If so, how are we communicating with our audiences and collaborators? How is the audience learning the rules of the game? How are we developing our strategies vis-a-vis each other? How are the political implications taken beyond a spatio-temporal boundary? In this sense, Nuit Blanche becomes a microcosm of a decentralized contemporary art dialogue, that ebbs and flows in something akin to a memetic struggle of ideas, difficult to map, and even more to influence.
Now, I have never seen such an event on such a scale, and far be it from me to condemn it to perdition. And this was my first Nuit Blanche, so I really don’t have any basis to react to the holier-than-thou cries of homogenization year after year (though I believe it). But, like pretty much any other art event I have ever attended, the liberatory and aesthetic potential remained largely untapped. With adverts and cues and crowd control barricades (the ultimate mark of a City-run event) how radical or personal of a stamp can one inscribe upon their city?