Sunday, October 01, 2006

Nuit blanche sur nos bicyclettes

Allison and I went out on our bicycles for Nuit blanche, Toronto's public art night. We actually started with a trip to take photographs for one of Allison's art projects. We found Queen and Dunn a delightful place, with (among many other charming features) a small Caribbean takeout which offers the dish that for me epitomises Toronto's open multicultural society: Halal jerk chicken.

We went on to 48 Abell Street, where a friend of ours wants to replace a superannuated factory full of illegal artist's lofts with a mixed-use development containing 199 units of low-income housing. Then we rode on south through Liberty Village, down Sudbury Street to Wellington, where we stopped for coffee at the charming Olde York pub. Despite its name, the Olde York actually features fifties modern decor, and a menu directly from the multicultural Toronto of today. After that, we cycled into the center of the city, did some shopping, and had dinner.

After dinner, we headed off to the Royal Ontario Museum and Philosopher's Walk for the art installations there. We found the weather cooperated perfectly with the "white night" theme of the evening, with a white sky and the kind of cool humidity that makes the fall air near the Great Lakes feel like velvet. Michael Snow had projected a video of grazing sheep onto the dome of the McLachlan planetarium; in the dark with the white sky behind we could not tell where the dome began or ended, so the field of sheep loomed eerily out of the semi-dark, like a window into a more peaceful reality.

From the front of the ROM, we went back to philosopher's walk, visiting first the silver tree. The silver tree exhibit consisted of a tree wrapped in silver paper or Mylar, with strips of paper containing hopes (peace, etc.) hanging from the branches. With numerous participants grouped around it, it had the feel of a pagan ritual. It left me thinking about the nexus between the the beautiful and the spiritual; how religious rituals so often consciously aim at beauty in their surroundings and execution.

From the tree, we went south to the fog installation. Again, the weather cooperated perfectly; in the damp air, the fog generators put out a barely penetrable haze, out of which a throng loomed in eerie twos and threes. I turned off my bicycle headlight as we cautiously walked our bikes along the path, but I left my tail light on.

Afterwards, we rode over to an opening at the Spencer Gallery, an excellent little gallery on Markham Street specialising in contemporary international art. A friend had recommended the opening to us, and we enjoyed it very much.

Afterward, we rode home, an adventure in itself. A ride to West Toronto presents an interesting challenge. The streets that offer the best bicycle route to Bloor West and Old Mill, Dupont and Annette, can prove tricky to turn on. A Toronto Councillor once likened cycling in Toronto traffic to swimming with sharks, and I rather like swimming with sharks. The adrenaline rush I felt hanging nose to nose with a BMW in the left turn lane of Dufferin Street at Dupont capped a wonderful evening.

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