Nuit Blanche … or Staying Out Well Past My Bedtime

Husband and I have often complained to each other that we live in a magnificent city and never take advantage of the many things it has to offer.  We’ve travelled extensively in other parts of the world, while ignoring what’s happening in our own backyard.

To be honest, the fault has been mine.  I get rather freaked-out in crowds and have had a couple of spectacular meltdowns in public places …. I’ve even fainted a few of times.  Those occasions have not endeared me to my life partner.  Over time I simply started to avoid anything that might translate into a large gathering of tensely packed people.

Over the past year, I’ve been working hard on this phobia of mine and as a result, we have taken in several activities that, in the past, I would have simply refused to attend. Last night it was Nuit Blanche.

This was the 8th annual all-night outdoor exhibition of artistic displays, performance pieces and videos.  There were (supposedly) over 100 exhibits temporarily setup over a few kilometers in the downtown core.  It never occurred to me that this would result in the largest and most chaotic ‘street party’ I’ve ever seen.

We started at City Hall when it was already well after dark.  The crowd was so congested, we ended up climbing over a fence trying to escape the worst of it.   Naively we thought this was as bad as it was going to get.

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Main roads were closed off to traffic and CLOGGED with people.  At some point, we weren’t even walking anymore … we were simply being moved by the crowd like a river flowing.

I don’t have the most artistic soul in the world, but I do appreciate the unusual and creative. This event however left me feeling more than a little bewildered – what exactly were we supposed to get out of this?

From displays made with rolls of toilet paper …

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Palm trees suspended on cranes over the street …

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Scream boxes, light lasers, buskers, mazes, and more ….  I can’t say I really understood the whole ‘artistic’ side of this event.

After a while, it seemed to me that the crowd was actually the real event.

With Hallowe’en still over 3 weeks away, there were an extraordinary number of people in costumes – from rabbits to zombies.  To be honest, some of those people didn’t look like they were intentionally in costume.  There were those who looked rather creepy in an undead kind of way…. and others were just simply charming.

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Inevitably, the panic started to bubble up and it was time to find a quiet side street to navigate our way back to our parked car.  Without question, this was an interesting excursion into the city at night.

Why is it called Nuit Blanche?  … apparently it means “all-nighter” in French.  I’m always learning something new.

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Gilles and I hamming it up.

About Joanne Sisco

Retired but not idle. Life is an adventure - I plan to continue to embrace it.
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56 Responses to Nuit Blanche … or Staying Out Well Past My Bedtime

  1. Pingback: Changing Seasons: October Is Nature’s Costume Change | My Life Lived Full

  2. jannatwrites says:

    You are way more adventurous than I am! I found it hard to breathe just reading about the crowds 🙂 It sounds like something that’s good to see… once!

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  3. Good for you for trying! I don’t think I’d have made much sense out of it either but at least you can say you’ve been and seen 🙂 xx

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  4. Toilet paper art? Mmh. Not sure about that, lol. I agree with you about crowds and the overwhelming fear and anxiety that accompanies them! I used to love fairs and street parties but have a real problem with them now, so well done you for getting out to see those toilet rolls!

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    • joannesisco says:

      Actually the toilet paper rolls were rather whimsical. On the other hand, I did a double-take on the scream booths. There were HUGE lineups of people to go inside this soundproofed box, smaller than a phone booth, to scream by themselves. Hmmm.
      – long lineup
      – claustrophobic box
      – scream alone in my own ears.
      Maybe not for me 😉

      The bottom line is that I actually had fun – especially when I stopped looking for ‘art’ and started focusing on people watching instead – and we left at the right time when it started to get too overwhelming 🙂

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      • Screaming booth could’ve been fun for me, I like to scream, lol. People watching is great too. I’m really glad that you had fun! Next time it won’t be as bad for you as you know what to expect, and the early morning idea is a good one! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Lynn says:

    I have never attended Nuit Blanche but it looks like you met some very interesting characters! Kudos to you for braving the crowds, despite the disappointing outcome of art!

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    • joannesisco says:

      I was very interesting when I changed my focus from expecting “art” to watching the crowd. I’m not sure I would want to do it again.
      I’ve been reading the reviews in the paper yesterday and today with considerable interest. I wanted to see if I was just creatively unsavvy or if my interpretation of the evening was correct. It appears to be a little of both 🙂

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  6. Sue Slaght says:

    Fabulous photos and good for you to overcome your fears!

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  7. Good morning! Oh, Joanne, I relate to this on soooo many levels. I haven’t fainted yet but on our trips to Asia where you are just swept up in teeming masses of people EVERYWHERE, I feel myself growing internally agitated. And hey, we’re in the month of Halloween….why suppress to the urge to get all vampirish and bite somebody’s neck?

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    • joannesisco says:

      It’s funny you should mention Asia. We’ve had many conversations about visiting China and Japan, but I’m always putting on the brakes. Agitated is a really good word for it!

      The photo was a moment of silliness outside a maze with strobe lights flashing. Sometimes those are the best moments 🙂

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  8. eep! Not me, *especially* the ” we weren’t even walking anymore … we were simply being moved by the crowd like a river flowing.” part. Nope, won’t find me there no way, no how. But I’m glad you went, because I can see what I am missing, especially the cute couple at the end, where she is not whispering sweet nothings, but hollering, “GET ME OUTTA HERE!”

    Fun post, my dear. Thanks!

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  9. bulldog says:

    Joanne… love the photos… not too keen on the crowds either… I suppose that’s why I love the isolation of the bush with the animals and birds… went to a concert with Linda for the first time a week or so back… in the end I moved to higher ground, out of the crowd and took videos of Linda dancing away with the crowd,,,, oh well to each their own…

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    • joannesisco says:

      I’m with you Bulldog. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in a small town with escape to the countryside only minutes away.

      For me, concerts are a different kind of hell altogether. I can’t take loud noises and have to wear earplugs on those rare occasions we’ve gone. Even with earplugs, I’m a mess at the end.

      As you said, to each their own 🙂

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  10. Hello. I’m new to your site. Enjoyed your posting. Typically I love these kinds of gatherings but must admit I find the ratio of younger to older a bit unnerving. The art installations are just fun – they do them because they can. Maybe trying to express themselves or make people think, or maybe, like I said, just because they can. Good on you for sticking it out, and judging from that great photo, you were enjoying yourselves. Honestly, it is good to see large gatherings of young people having fun, dressing up etc. Esp. with all that is happening in what seems every corner of our world. We need to see smiles and laughter.

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    • joannesisco says:

      You are right on the mark – it was almost entirely young people. This was one incidence however where the imbalance in vintage representation didn’t spook me at all.
      … and people were clearly having fun.

      Thank you so much for visiting my site! I really appreciate your thoughtful comment 🙂

      Like

  11. M-R says:

    It’s actually totally unwise to be part of a crowd so dense it’s moving you involuntarily, Joanne: in such environments people get killed very easily. It only takes one person to fall and one other to misinterpret the reason … You’re sensible not to like being there !!
    The kind of art that has a urinal becoming the most famous item ever – http://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/feb/09/art – has fooled too many people too much of the time, it seems to me. Still, I suppose I’m obliged to say chacun son goût

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  12. Wow, what a way to test your limits in crowds! I don’t like busy spaces either so I can totally relate. 🙂

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    • joannesisco says:

      Since the crowd was overwhelmingly young people, I wonder if a dislike for crowds develops with us? Hmmm – something to ponder, although I know son #1 is also uncomfortable in crowds … and he’s my social butterfly 🙂

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  13. Love that shot of you two! I’m super impressed that you climb fences, fight crowds, take in the sights, and even get caught up and carried along by crowds….actually, if you think about it, you guys would be great bank robbers…..no one would suspect you as you seem to blend into your surroundings with much aplomb and you probably already know all the back ways out of town from trying to avoid your meltdowns. Hmmmm.

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  14. TheLastWord says:

    28 years in Calcutta with a population density of 24,000/km2 (and I think they are underestimating). During the recently concluded festival week, the traffic jams are of epic proportions, like nothing else I’ve ever seen, and I’m not talking about vehicular traffic only 🙂

    Yet: I don’t like crowds and generally avoid fairs and this kind of this.

    Good for you to brave it out. Based on your report and the pics, I shall not make the attempt to experience it. Now if it had been a warm summer night, and had music rather than art, then maybe I may have been persuaded.

    Nice pictures!

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    • joannesisco says:

      Thanks 🙂
      You’re right about the weather being a significant factor to enjoying an activity. I’m grateful it was a nice evening to be out … if it had been cold or wet, I wouldn’t have been very enthusiastic.

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  15. NancyTex says:

    I’m big into art (as you likely noticed from my house video), and so I made a point of attending Nuit Blanche the past two years. In 2 visits and countless art installations, I can say I was impressed by one (total). I guess these large scale installations are designed more to provoke thought (or just baffle :-))
    At any rate, I gave it some thought this weekend but ultimately decided I wasn’t feeling it.

    p.s. Last year we attended with another couple, friends of ours. I’ve established I’m s fast walker, right? Add to that my claustrophobia/crowding issues and it means I’m darting in and around to just avoid the crush. My friend Jason made the comment, “thank God for that platinum blonde hair or we’d never find you!” Ed just shook his head, as in, welcome to my world. 🙂 Since I have recently darkened my hair to a dirty blonde, I figured I would save Ed the stress of hunting for me in the crowd without the benefit of bright blonde hair to chase. 🙂

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  16. pscapp says:

    Good for you for venturing out. I say, why let the kids have all the fun? But as Yogi Berra once said, ” It’s too crowded, nobody goes there anymore.”

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  17. Mrs. P says:

    Wow…I applaud your taking the bull by the horns and showing it who’s master. Confronting fear is the most challenging thing a person can do but at the same time the victory when one does overcome it is awesome…a giant in the making type stuff.

    I don’t get the art either. Actually, I am terrible about art appreciation and don’t know the works of the most famous artists. I think the word “all nighter” was a hint as to what type of event this would be…and even who might come out to play. 😉

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    • joannesisco says:

      LOL – I think you are totally correct. If I had had my way, we would have gone to sleep until 2 or 3 am and then gone downtown.
      I’m reasonably confident it wouldn’t have been so crowded … or odd.
      On the other hand, it might have been more odd 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Crowds… not my thing either. But nice to have done it once. Now you know what you’re (NOT) missing 😉 Did you swipe yourself a roll of bog paper…?

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  19. Sammy D. says:

    Joanne – wonderful “ham it up” shot of you two. I would have been TOTALLY freaked at the first signs of a claustrophobic mass of people. Kudos for being brave and lasting as long as you did. There is so much that is meaningful in our world, it boggles my mind how many times I find myself thinking “what is the point of THAT?” about some frivolous thing someone is doing or has concocted.

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    • joannesisco says:

      hahaha – glad you liked our silly photo. It was unplanned and I added it to the blog only at the last minute.

      I find it interesting that some people are energized by doing things like this … and what REALLY freaked me out last night were the number of young children. SERIOUSLY! I would never have taken my boys out in a crowd … I would have been terrified of losing them.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Oh, you made me laugh, Joanne! Well done on getting out there. We’re only just getting in on this sort of event here. We can be a bit slow – except in the technology department where we are some of the earliest adopters of new technology despite the fact that we pay way more for it than anybody else….

    What was I saying? Oh, yes. Melbourne held its first White Night event last year and even my little ol’ town got in on the act this year with a night art event. But it only went from 6 – 10pm. :-/

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  21. Mike says:

    Funny post. Stream a good movie, stay home.

    Liked by 1 person

    • joannesisco says:

      Are you suggesting that fighting crowds late at night and climbing fences at our age isn’t a good idea? 😉

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      • Mike says:

        Well, the fence climbing would certainly be a bad idea for me, and did suggest the possibility of some panic for you, which cannot be pleasant. And what the hell does one make of that toilet paper display? Even a bad movie could be better than that

        Liked by 1 person

  22. Good for you for getting out there and trying it out – something we’ve never done…would you go again? Great last shot.

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    • joannesisco says:

      I don’t know if I would want to do Nuit Blanche again … but if I did, I would go during the middle of the night, say 4 am. I think the crowds were too much of a distraction, It never occurred to me that sooooo many people would be drawn to this event.
      I should also comment on the fact that the crowd was very predominantly young people. We were clearly out of our age bracket 🙂

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  23. treerabold says:

    Always hard to go outside of our comfort zone. Glad you gave it a try…even if it turned out to be a bit odd!!
    The goofing around picture is quite fun!!

    Like

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