Nuit Blanche 2008

The city as art. That’s kind of the idea behind Nuit Blanche, the annual, all night downtown art fest that Toronto has adopted from France. Corporately sponsored installations of strange things happen all over the city, often on a grand scale. Here’s a photo from the first year where a gymnasium full of balls were whipped by visitors at each other while children DJed records. I got one thrown at my face so hard that it literally knocked the snot out of me. Still, good fun!


This year featured the glass windows of our city hall projecting pixelized art and messages, a giant horde of roaming zombies, a sports stadium where you cheer on a field of super hyped mascots who gradually get less pumped as 6am nears and a waterfall pouring out of a 3rd story window… interesting stuff. There’s an estimate that a million people came out to wander the city and experience art, even if they didn’t understand it. It’s usually a pretty good time if you can find the places without the huge lineups to get in. This year, instead of joining the throngs of underwhelmed, but fairly well entertained citizens, I decided to set up my own art thing. I basically live across the street from one of the biggest centres for exhibits that night (the Art College and Art Gallery) so me and a few friends did our own guerilla art thing that was meant to be more engaging and accessable than the sort of stuff we were used to seeing. But most importantly, we just wanted to have some fun. I made a sign that promised HIDEOUS CARICATURES and then tried to deliver.


I drew ’em fast and furious, probably over 100 people between 10pm and 3am. I not only exaggerated their prominant features but added spiders out of people’s noses, ragged teeth, crossed eyes etc. to make ’em extra ugly. It was interesting to see how people would react, since people are often more vain and sensitive about the facial feature that got them picked on in school, big ears! Only one person all night long was saddend by my drawing. Everyone else was laughing and having a good time. I think the atmosphere and the promise that I was trying to make them look ugly made them more easy going. My compatriots did awesome caricatures as well. Matt Collins drew a group of 5 people as the rock band Kiss and on another occasion , after having drawn someone’s jacket, he decided “Your head is going to be a house”.


Another buddy, Peter Mohideen, tried to actually sketch people earnestly. Another friend, Pete Thorne, really went against the grain, often just handing people a drawing of a question mark or grape soda after asking them their name, hobbies, how they were enjoying their night etc. If someone was hanging around behind us and liked Pete’s work he’d actually draw that person a real caricature to just kept thwarting people’s expectations. They’re art was super funny and played well against my semi-earnest attempts to do likeknesses. Of course the drawings seemed better at the moment and I didn’t get photos of the best ones but here’s a simple example. They were usually ugly and even weirder.


I must acknowledge the idea of drawing “Hideous Caricatures” is not my own. My friend Steve Manale (often mentioned on the blog) had his done by an artist at the San Diego Comicon a few years ago. I think the artist was Trevor Alixopulous but I can’t be sure. I hope he’s cool with me sniping his idea for a night of fun.