Nuit Blanche was this weekend. Once again the city lit up, filled with more than a million people. It all started with talking to strangers – several, in fact. The boy taking communications classes, the tourists who didn’t know it was Nuit Blanche and thought Toronto was like that every night, the guys who sang One Direction in two-part harmony. Then we started walking; walking past the five-storey space invaders game projected on the side of a building, walking with the girl dressed as a robot for no apparent reason. We’re like moths drawn to a flame, shamelessly seeking out the light and the noise, walking around Toronto all night long; laughing, screaming, running around Toronto, all night long.
The next morning you hear about the most memorable exhibits. You wish you’d been among the crowds watching the dancers twist by, close enough to touch. Promise yourself that, next year, you won’t join the people pretending to be sheep at Harbour Front; that you’ll take more pictures, try to capture the night on film so you won’t forget. It’s already starting to blur again. Did we really lie down in the middle of the road and pretend to be an exhibit? Did we actually have a dance party on top of the paper boxes? You don’t want to forget Nuit Blanche – don’t want to forget the freedom. You hardly ever feel that free. Free to scream for no reason other than that you feel like it, free to talk to strangers, free to let go, to forget, if only for a while. Free to be insane.
For that night, everyone else is just as insane as you.
I gently turned the focus lens of my camera to the side and saw the razor-sharp images of my world slowly slurred into a blur. There were no people, no places, no buildings, no faces. Only colours streaming ‘cross my eyes.
This was my second year at Nuit Blanche, and this time I had shown up with camera in hand, ready to stumble upon some hidden meaning of this world. Crowds of teenagers, lights flashing in the night, drugs, alcohol, and a little a bit of art seemed liked a recipe for a good amateur film. And so I stared upon my cast, a small bunch of eager misfits whom I chose to call my friends. Eager for what? I decided it was going to be the basis of my film, for I never quite understood why people went to Nuit Blanche; I always had trouble finding the art. Following these prime examples of teenage curiosity, I was going to find the meaning of my project, and with it the ever-elusive meaning of this White Night.
And so we slid across the neon stained sidewalks, with cheap alcohol burning our throats, looking for some art, which we could not seem to find, as my camera tried to find the perfect angles from which it could extract the purpose of this expedition: the why.
We shoved our way through crowds. Trying to look at something. Some performance, some music, some something, some light, some fun. Something to look at. Unsure of where to go, unsure of what to find, and where to look. Looking for things to film. It didn’t really seem to matter, but I don’t know. And slowly soon, our minds slipped somewhere; poison seems to do that. And my camera had a harder time focusing. And the strong stench of the smoke of indifference blew across my face. Lights and music drove me to hide behind my lens.
Being around so many people, so many young people, you begin to feel the angst creeping up and through your mind. You don’t know why – not always – but there’s something quite distinct happening. Whether you choose to simply observe it, like I did last year, or you choose to allow yourself to become intoxicated by the excitement and the radiant body heat of the crowd, it is there, and it drives you towards something: to wander aimlessly headlong into night. Because I think that people are surrounded by direction, street signs, and parents, and are surrounded by some strange but omnipresent search for purpose that needs to be subdued and at times needs to be forgotten.
Sometimes it’s best to just be and just do. As my friend said to me as she stared into my camera, “there doesn’t always need to be a point.”