Should I Stay or Should I Go


Curatorial Project presented at the 2010 edition of Nuit Blanche (Zone C) in Toronto. Event is archived online at the Center for Contemporary Canadian Art (CCCA)

“Should I Stay or Should I Go” proposed to explore concepts of movement, gridlock, and mobility, responding to daily urban life and to Nuit Blanche as a mass event. Projects dealt with transience and traces of the psychic, physiologic and geographic. They will breathe, count, repeat, spin, lift, layer and time. Projects will intertwine spectacle with subtlety, and play with criticality. They will offer contrasting perspectives, from a rapid blur to a languid static. They will depart and arrive, move and arrest.

Commissioned Projects
Kim Adams (Toronto) Auto Lamp
Annie Onyi Cheung (Toronto) _scape with 6 and 7
Žilvinas Kempinas (New York) Big O
Michael Fernandes (Halifax) Arrivals/Departures
Jocelyn Robert (Quebec City) The Next Community
Julia Loktev (Brooklyn) I Cried For You 
Davide Balula  (Paris) The Endless Pace
Max Streicher (Toronto) Endgame (Coulrophobia)
Martin Arnold & Micah Lexier (Toronto) Erik Satie’s Vexations (1893)
Sandra Rechico (Toronto) 1850

Open Call Projects
Olivia Boudreau (Montreal) Box
France Dubois (Paris) a moment stilled Voyageur
Lili Huston-Herterich & Brad Tinmouth (Toronto) Wait Until You See This
Chris Shepherd (Toronto) The Task
Aubrey Reeves (Toronto) The Calm

The documention here is arranged according to the itinerary printed in the Nuit Blanche programme moving through the Zone from North to South (more or less).

Photo credit: David Reyes

Kim Adams (Toronto) Auto Lamp
A vehicle is supposed to light the way ahead and signal its presence to those behind. Adams shifts Auto Lamp‘s original functionality to a kind of lighthouse on land, or for this occasion, an oversized lamp for night owls. Placed on a rotating display, the Auto Lamp is signalling in place guiding the viewer to both stay and go. Turn off the car, turn on the light. Turning 360º, the road’s line is revised to a slow whirl, a traffic circle of light. Adams’ work frequently involves vehicles, but often his sculptural intervention is additive, the vehicle outgrows its bounds and becomes a bemusing behemoth. Staging a surplus of scenes colliding in a multitude of scales, the resulting sculptures are pure excess. Auto Lamp suggests a new direction for Adams, here the process of subtraction he employs similarly produces an excess, but of the immaterial. Light beams puncture the auto’s body and pour out in all directions – the patterned pores of all sizes create a mesmerizing decorative display. The vehicle’s consistency is compromised, it’s barely there, it’s more holes than whole.

Annie Onyi Cheung (Toronto) _scape with 6 and 7
In _scape with 6 and 7 the rise and fall of the human form is placed at a distance from the reality of anatomy and science. The rhythmic cycle of breathing is presented as an undulating sound and land-scape, exploring and exploiting each breath as a persistent yet variable force. The land here might seem at first to be composed of eerily rolling hills, but is constituted by human chests rising and falling through the seven performers’ breaths. Framed as an anonymous and surreal terrain in motion, the flesh can be perceived as both concrete and abstract. The image is saturated in a manner that is both soothing and overpowering. The meditative tone is coupled with a persevering intensity. The focused attention on the simplicity of breathing is amplified by the plural performance. Through this video projection accompanied by surround sound, we find that each of our breaths is not singular but shared by our neighbour. We are all part of a constantly changing breathscape. Standing next to you is a person breathing.

Žilvinas Kempinas (New York) Big O
Big O
engineers air circulation into an invisible pedestal for sculpture. It generates instant sculptures that disappear as soon as they are constituted. Big O also maps the space in which it deploys its loop; the map is imprecise, tenuous, provisional-but also incessant, infinite, obstinate. Given that the loop is made out of videotape Big O can also be viewed as a perverted playback machine which shifts the focus from what’s on the tape to the tape itself. Machines tend to be linear, even when circular there is a path, a direction. Here the course is resolutely aleatory. The sculpture plays the space in which it is aired. It plays in real time, it does not record, it plays in present time only. The ingredients are all readily apparent to the viewer: fans precisely arranged and tape exactly measured, both interacting to animate an expanse of air with the invisible collaboration of ubiquitous gravity. Yet Big O seems magical, its kinetics captivate, its unpredictability lets the mind meander along the same innumerable variations of its dancing tape. In fact, Kempinas is as much a sculptor as a choreographer here, he establishes the parameters and, once set, he turns on the fans and lets the dancer go.

Michael Fernandes (Halifax) Arrivals/Departures
What are you up to? Who are you? What do you miss? What do you want? What did you do? What will you be? What are your plans? What are you missing? What has happened? Where have you been? Where are you heading? A few of the possible set of questions that prompters will ask you. Then, your responses are transcribed onto large blackboards. The aim of this participatory project is to solicit and register a broad sense of ‘travel’. With continuous prying, the prompters encourage responses that are based on life experience, interpersonal relationships as well as the specifics of being ‘here’ and ‘there’. Nothing will be censored. Nothing will be repeated. All misspellings, colloquialisms, slangs, languages will be included. Expressions of mobility in its myriad forms are compiled on the blackboards as they fill up-transitions, transformations, hopes, desires, exiles, reflections and realizations. The significant to and fros of a lifetime are intermixed with musings on the immediate coming and goings of your Nuit Blanche itinerary. The blackboards present the compiled statements on how each of us perceive his or her time and place. The writing on the large boards creates a composition made of a multitude of voices, a poignant reflection of the city in all of its complexity.

Jocelyn Robert (Quebec City) The Next Community
We are bombarded by reports about the supposedly growing individualism in our societies, at the same time newspapers are filled with complaints about the loss of individual freedoms. This work addresses these issues by subtly blending individuals into a collective moving image. Technically, the work functions as follows: there is a photo booth in which visitors are invited to enter one by one to have their picture taken. In the photo booth, there is an operator with a video camera. The video camera doesn’t record, it feeds its signal to a computer. When the portrait framing is ok, the operator saves the picture on the hard drive. It is then processed by a custom-made blender software and becomes part of an “averaged” portrait: an all-in-one picture of the crowd. So when people walk out of the photo booth, they can see their own portrait appear and then slowly melt into the average identity. The bank of pictures is constantly updated as portraits are added, so the more portraits there are, the more diverse the mix. The composite portrait slowly changes over time producing a movie made from many. The work is an extended feature-length movie of everyone becoming an individual fading into the next community.

Julia Loktev (Brooklyn) I Cried For You
“WANTED: Actors who can cry on cue for a video art piece. Your performance will consist of a 10-minute audition during which you will try to make yourself cry. The audition will be presented live in front of an audience during this year’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche. Send headshot to…” This ad will be placed in various Toronto newspapers in the weeks leading up to Nuit Blanche. I Cried For You presents a kind of silent duet where the actor concentrates on getting tears and the director concentrates on getting the shot. Tears function as a kind of currency, the money of emotion. For actors, tears are a test, a badge of honor, acting degree zero. You are watching a performance, and yet the tears are “real” – no onions, no glycerin eyedrops. Some actors cry, others don’t. Both success and failure are of interest. The focus is not in the fact of crying, but in the process of an actor trying to make him/herself cry. The narrative of crying is stripped, it is left up to the imagination of the viewer to infer. Alongside the audition, close-up and wide shots are projected next to each other-as you watch, your attention drifts between the two. The close-up draws you into a fiction, but then the wide shot pulls you out-you’re back in the documentary. This is, after all, just an audition.

Davide Balula (Paris) The Endless Pace (variation for 60 dancers)
The Endless Pace (variation for 60 dancers) is a performance involving 60 dancers, wherein the movements of the dancers materialize the passage of time. The dancers are aligned on the periphery of a circle, sitting and facing outwards. They become the face of a clock. Over the course of 12 hours, for the entire duration of Nuit Blanche, the dancers mimic the rotation of the second, minute and hour hands. The mechanical movements are translated into human movements. The second hand passes through the dancers in, appropriately, seconds. The minute hand becomes a 60 second dance solo (movements are choreographed by collaborator Biba Bell). This human clock marks an hour’s passing, upon its end it begins anew, tracing the path of the following hour. The endlessness alluded to in the work’s title lies in this hourly repetition. And also in the fact that time cannot be circumvented, it is relentless. We have to endure its infinite duration. To dance time literally enables us to enter time, to embody its moves and to pace ourselves within its tenacious grasp. From within we can perhaps do without and cause time to slip and slide. Through dance, the seconds become fluid, the minutes become unique moments. Human time.

Max Streicher (Toronto) Endgame (Coulrophobia)
A back alley is negative space, a liminal zone between the architectural order on either side-stage for the shady and dangerous. In Endgame (Coulrophobia)* giant inflatable clown heads are stuck between two buildings high over an alley. The heads are made of vinyl from recycled billboards. Referring to the history of collage as a tool for turning propaganda against itself, the artist has stated: “There is something satisfying in reshaping corporate ads into something whimsical, generous or even scary”. Clowns on their own embody a certain tension; we expect them to be funny and yet many people experience them as sinister. The tension here is physical as the heads are held in place by their own internal air pressure. Their squeezed and distorted expressions add to a sense of urgency. It is a situation that invites any number of imaginative narratives. Perhaps they are renegade parade balloons whose joyride has gone tragically wrong. In any case, these happy-go-lucky characters are now pinned in a back alley. While still monumental, they are now vulnerable in a way that invites a kind of empathy, but possibly a guilty empathy, or schadenfreude, fear combined with the pleasing anticipation of a spectacularly destructive end.
*Fear of clowns.

Martin Arnold & Micah Lexier (Toronto) Erik Satie’s Vexations (1893)
Written in 1893, Erik Satie’s Vexations was never published nor publicly heard during his lifetime. He left 39 beats of hand scrawled, insidiously vexing music-hard to read and hard to remember-and the following cryptic instruction: “to repeat 840 times this motif, it is advisable to prepare oneself in the most absolute silence, by some serious immobilities.” A number of performers (most notably John Cage) have ventured to take him at his word and successively play the piece 840 times, taking between 15 and 27 hours to do so. We only have 12 hours so we’re dividing it: two pianos playing simultaneously, 420 passes per piano. Our Vexations is staged in the majestic arched expanse of a cathedral of commerce, perhaps therefore taking part in a highly irregular sort of exchange. We’ll be counting; tonight, by playing 840 scores-each a vexation-once. After each score is played it is transformed into a folded paper sculpture-840 scores creating 840 objects-giving shape to the sound and echoing the team of pianists weaving the composition’s unmonumental but resolutely vexing notes. Satie said: “Before I compose a piece, I walk around it several times, accompanied by myself.” We invite you to walk around Vexations, hopefully several times as it accumulates through the night.

Sandra Rechico (Toronto) 1850
In the 1850s the shore of Lake Ontario reached what is now Front Street. Since then, the shoreline’s contour has changed as the lake has been altered to make room for a growing city. Using landfill the lakeshore has been moved approximately one kilometer south. The new land was created first for industry, and more recently, for housing and parks. This piece marks a boundary: the boundary of where city once met water and now, the boundary of Zone C. A marker of this former shoreline will be recreated though an array of lights projecting an immersive wash of blue. The saturation of colour creates a hazy mirage of the water that once met the land. The light parallels the mutability and fluidity of water, creating a space that people can move through without resistance. The spectacle of the lights combined with the subtlety of the personal experience within this ghost of water, offers a space for the playfulness associated with a shoreline. The evocation of a beach amidst the concrete streets and sidewalks fuses the timeline to a now that is both 1850 and 2010.

Olivia Boudreau (Montreal) Box
A video projection of a 12-hour long sequence that shows, in real time, a horse inside a stall. Staring at this physically and symbolically powerful beast, we become immersed in the banality of its daily life. Contained within a restrictive stall, in other words caged, the animal reveals its imprisoned isolation. Moreover, the sequence displays a temporality that challenges our own. The horse’s wait reveals a relationship to the passing of time that, most of the time, we try to avoid. The animal’s imposing and palpable presence within the confines of such an exiguous space confronts us with the aspects of our lives that are similarly stalled. The horse will be there all night long, of that there is no doubt. What about the viewer, highly solicited during a night where there are so many things to see and places to go? What type of presence and attention can be given and expected on such a night? Box questions the way we inhabit time in our daily urban lives.

France Dubois (Paris) a moment stilled Voyageur
Magnificent landscapes are projected on the windows of a minivan parked on the street. These moving images function as the vehicle’s recorded memories. They may be the traces of past drives across the world, or the promise of future travels. The simultaneous allusion to past and future is also present through a double projection device which attempts to restitute the two fundamental dimensions of a voyage: what we have left behind and what remains ahead. The typical European scenery-travelling shots of the Alps-displayed by the Voyageur is also a reference to the back and forth migrations between the Old and the New World. The to and fro passages betweens these worlds is not only of populations and commodities but also of theoretical and philosophical trends and traditions. Taking the form of breathtaking iconic landscapes, a metaphoric voyage of ideas scrolls through the suburban minivan sitting idle in its parking spot. The incitation to travel here is perhaps one that opens onto an internal geography. The invitation to the voyage is made with a poetic tinge, the road traveled is more than a line down the middle, it is an ever changing sensorium.

Lili Huston-Herterich & Brad Tinmouth (Toronto) Wait Until You See This
One of the most vocalized criticisms of Nuit Blanche in Toronto is summarized perfectly by Toronto’s Eye Weekly’s arts editor David Balzer: “my experience of Nuit Blanche 2009 changed drastically at 5am on Sunday morning… because the much-dreaded lines – which characterized and smothered almost everything – had died down.” Balzer’s association of sluggish lines with Nuit Blanche is precisely what Wait Until You See This explores. In a culture of adrenaline-fueled exponential consumption, waiting in line is a bane to our existence. Nevertheless, curiosity compels us towards long lines due to the expected promise of a rewarding end, even though our impatience reminds us throughout of our precious time wasted. What happens when the line itself is the end we are waiting for? What happens when the line is all there is? Huston-Herterich and Tinmout’s Wait Until You See This toys with the phenomenon of waiting: the anticipation that justifies the monotony of passing time. The installation creates a void of sensational stimulation and hyperbolic spectacle forcing viewers to consider the possibilities offered by the static state.

Chris Shepherd (Toronto) The Task
The Task is a performance in which the artist moves and neatly stacks approximately 15 tons of concrete blocks from one location to another and back again. After 12 hours the performance venue will look as it did at the start: as if nothing has happened despite the challenging physical work that has taken place. During the heavy lifting the artist will take the odd 15-minute pause and a half-hour break at midnight. This longer break will mark the halfway point; where all the concrete blocks will have been moved from one location to the other. The work might then appear to be finished, but in reality it’s only about to start its process of placing all the blocks back to their original place. The physical and mental challenges entailed by this activity allude to the tediousness of everyday routines, but also totheir potential to be meditative, enjoyable, and rewarding.

Aubrey Reeves (Toronto) The Calm
Part of a larger research project called The Storm and The Calm, this work is loosely inspired by the fate of a young sailor who was the sole survivor of the crew of the Lord Ashburton, a cargo schooner that crashed in 1857 on Grand Manan Island, in the Bay of Fundy. Through the lens of this particular shipwreck story, The Calm explores the broader archetype of the castaway. From The Odyssey, to The Tempest and Robinson Crusoe, the lone survivor of a shipwreck has been a potent metaphor for exploring self-discovery through isolation. Cut off from society, the castaway in this work must measure out time by the ebb and flow of tides. The pair of videos show a placid coastline of mudflats, water and sky. In one of the videos, the outgoing tide deposits a woman on the shore. She wakes to a vision of salvation that proves to be elusive. Meanwhile in the other video, she meditatively walks a labyrinth path until she is engulfed by the rising sea. Across a span of 40 minutes, the character in both videos attempts to find a path to psychological survival.