“Nuit Blanche”. What does that mean? There’s no way of knowing.
But after a few years of Nuit Blanche in Winnipeg, we do know what it involves: an entire night of contemporary art invading our space.
Normally art is contained within the galleries. This way, we can all safely avoid it. It’s a system that works, like prisons or nuclear waste disposal sites. Art has a place and the public is spared that maddening experience that art provokes: the feeling of being confronted with something that wants you to think, or feel, or something.
Nuit Blanche shuts down our society’s art confinement system. It’s a real pain in the ass.
Plus, it’s contemporary art, which is even worse, because the artists aren’t even dead yet, so nobody has decided which of them are geniuses yet, and the artist may be the one standing right beside you while you stare at the art, so you have to act like you’re taking away some modicum of meaning from the work. In reality you just feel dumb, because you don’t “get it”, and then you feel angry that someone made you feel dumb, and then you feel bitter and spiteful, and you counter with the idea that there MAY BE NOTHING TO GET! It could be a sham! This “artist” person may have nothing important to say at all!
It would all be fine, this confrontation of art, if we were steeped in art education, and actually possessed the knowledge base to fit the work into some context and the critical framework to compose a thoughtful response. But we’re not steeped. No one steeped us. We never got around to steeping ourselves. The critical framework we possess only supports responses such as “interesting” or “I like it” or “very interesting” or “I really love how she really exposes the power structures that construct our identities and how we often collude in that process” or “neat”.
Art. What does it mean? There’s no way of knowing.
It’s a silent totem.
A mirrored void.
A White Night.
Nuit Blanche is on at various locations downtown, in the Exchange and in St. Boniface this Saturday night, all night. I’d suggest avoiding those areas all together. If not, I’ll see you there.
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More information about the slew of events involved is available at http://nuitblanchewinnipeg.ca/
Ross McCannell is a writer and tree-planter. He winters in Winnipeg. Follow him on Twitter @RossMcCannell.