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Nuit Blanche 2009

October 3, 2009
It is a joy to return to the City of Light, to the home of good friends, in anticipation of a full night of art, the Sleepless Night: Nuit Blanche. The English language Press Kit was a welcome resource, preparing me for the strong presence of video installations. I like video. As with all art, some is fantastic, some is rubbish. But for me, it is just not as engaging in a setting where the audience is moving, wandering, as other more sculptural media are. But video is the modern form. It can speak with greater breadth and depth than can oil on canvas. I am the first to admit I’ve had my fill of dark old Dutch Masters, rooms of prosperous men in fabulous hats. But Nuit Blanche lays a lot of ground to cover, stylistically and, more pragmatically, geographically. So I peruse the Press Kit, read the descriptions of the major artists and their works, and do a little planning for the night.

Now, after a decadent meal of crepes and cider (we watched a mountain of butter disappear onto the griddle even as a good and tasty portion of it was disappearing down our gullets), we head off into the night.

We find, by plan, an interesting melange of sound, motion, light, and color. Giant glowing multicolor crystals had grown up inside Notre Dame. A monstrous UFO-like disco ball hovered over the Senate and Luxembourg Gardens, spinning and dancing its lights across the grounds, the pond, the low-hanging clouds. A 40 voice motet was played through 40 speakers in a circle, giving the effect of being in an incredible choir.

Shadows of sweetly frightening figures played across a screen in the park. Imagine the music from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

A hillside covered in red umbrellas looked down on a lake, glowing with blue, white, and red lights beneath its surface. These are but a few of the wonderful artworks Paris put out for free, for the night, for the people. If I were Parisienne, I would take that Press Kit well before, find the most auspicious bit of sidewalk or square, and put up my own art. It’s quite possible that some of what we saw was exactly that. The whole scene would be enriched by greater density of art, one night of Burning Man distilled, more participants encouraged amongst the audience. And of course, more fire is always good. Like many of the pieces themselves, the Sleepless Nights are growing works in process around the world. Find one near you! Take it it, mull it around, see what comes out, and call it your art. (all photos: cvl)

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