[-empyre-] NIGHTSENSE

Jennifer Fisher jefish at yorku.ca
Thu Apr 5 02:22:46 EST 2012

Dear Ashley,

Thank you for your thoughts. The question of intersubjective relationships between the audience and the artists was certainly an interesting aspect of the works that featured performance. For example, Rebecca Belmore's Gone Indian implicated the audience (whether they knew it or not) within a pow wow ritual. Belmore used sage and sweetgrass to demarcate a bank plaza as liminal space. Her performance with Michael Greyeyes, her Cree colleague in full regalia, was a spectacle to behold. While he danced, she pounded pennies in the manner of grinding corn with a stone. In terms of the artist-audience relationship then, the public -- out for an evening of art viewing -- became implicated in an art event that was simultaneously a political and sacred act of reclamation.

Because of the diversity of the audiences, which were multiple, I cannot presume to identity a particular subjective privilege that you mention. Nor were there any exclusions that we could discern -- when the audience rises to a million+ just about every possible demographic is engaged. What may not be evident from photographs is that the codes of connoisseurship upheld in museums and galleries -- not running, not speaking loudly, not eating and so on -- do not apply. Certainly people were out that night to see art and have a good time. The kinds of counter-movements that emerged were more akin to what happens when people line up for a rock concert --  groups enjoying themselves while waiting in line (long waits of up to several hours occurred for some pieces). And of course social media played an important role in mobilizing the audience. Viewers would take pictures, send images and impressions about the artworks to each other. So there was a network that came alive that night and impacted on the movement of people through the zone, as well as entertaining them during waiting periods.  

All best,

On 2012-04-03, at 12:30 PM, Ashley Ferro-Murray wrote:

> Hi Jim and Jennifer, 
> Looking forward to hearing more on your experience curating NIGHTSENSE. I was lucky enough to encounter this project via your presentation at Performance Studies International conference a few years back and I remember images of large scale art installations covering the public city spaces of Toronto. Some projects take place outside while others take place inside of landmark buildings around Toronto, is this right? 
> I am interested in the question you closed with about mass subjectivity and I wonder if we want to extend that question to also consider an intersubjective relationship that might arise out of such participatory events. I remember from your images of the events a good deal of participation between artists and viewers, and between viewers themselves. At this point, are there certain people who are excluded from the city when such large art events bring thousands of people to the downtown area? If so, I wonder what kind of privilege the subjectivities that are created carry to the artworks. In other words, I wonder whose "public" or maybe counter-public we expect when thinking in terms of large scale and public curatorial and installation projects. In thinking about this can we use these mass art events to curate counter-movements - literally the movement of people between city buildings for purposes other than their ordinary use - in a city and include those who are often left out of the ordinary city space in one way or another?
> Ashley 
> On Mon, Apr 2, 2012 at 6:12 PM, Renate Ferro <rtf9 at cornell.edu> wrote:
> Dear Jim and Jennifer,
> Thanks so much for giving our readers and subscribers the url to
> NIGHTSENSE on the displaycult website
> http://www.displaycult.com/exhibitions/NIGHTSENSE.html
> Your post brings up so many issues that I want to ask you about but I
> think I'll just begin with two basic ones.  Many of our international
> subscribers may not know the Toronto Nuitblanche is.  Can you give us
> a bit more information? ( How did you come to curate the event? Who
> funds these spectacular projects? Is there an all call for artist
> participants or do you mine them from your own networks? Who in the
> world orchestrates the masses of people?  Given the duration I figure
> that is more of a arts festival? Do you think that NIghtsense is
> Toronto specific? Could it migrate to another location or would that
> be impossible? )  Well too many questions but if each of you could
> take a few of these and tell empyre more about the event then perhaps
> we can wrap our heads around the statement I pulled off the
> DisplayCult website.
> "DisplayCult is a curatorial collaborative that aims to rethink
> exhibition prototypes by amplifying sensory aesthetics, interrogating
> the diverse histories of display, and engaging with the performative
> aspects of presentation."
> Looking forward to hearing more about Nightsense and how do you
> characterize the word "curating" in your own practices.  Thanks so
> much.  Renate
> On Mon, Apr 2, 2012 at 2:22 PM, Jim Drobnick <displaycult at sympatico.ca> wrote:
> > Dear Renate and Tim,
> >
> > Thanks for inviting us to participate in this month’s series of
> > conversations.
> >
> > To start one thread, we thought we would begin with a relatively recent
> > project of ours, NIGHTSENSE, that formed part of Toronto’s Nuit Blanche in
> > 2009. We are revisiting this project at this time because we are editing a
> > special issue of Public magazine on the topic of “Art and Civic Spectacle.”
> >
> > NIGHTSENSE featured visual and extra-visual artworks within the shadowy
> > world of Toronto’s financial district. Addressing the spectre of market
> > destabilization, the invisible transmission of broadcast signals, as well as
> > hauntings from a locale where early Toronto history has been all but erased,
> > these projects to engaged the audience in both critical and ludic
> > participation. NIGHTSENSE invited a reconsideration of the normal sensory
> > economy by intensifying the subtle but powerful links between bodies,
> > aesthetic perception and shifts in capital. (Images can be found
> > at http://www.displaycult.com/exhibitions/NIGHTSENSE.html)
> >
> > The overall context in which NIGHTSENSE appeared was Nuit Blanche, which we
> > hope list members have experienced or read about. These events last all
> > night long in a number of cities worldwide, and typically involve thousands
> > of visitors (1,000,000 or so in Toronto for each of the past couple of
> > years). Artists produce large-scale performances and interventions that
> > engage, critique and reconceptualize the urban context.
> >
> > Our issue of Public will address ­­­­the dynamics and significance of these
> > popular mass events. How do the monumental artworks of city-wide exhibitions
> > relate to the diverse histories of spectacle? What are the opportunities and
> > challenges of such events? When audience levels reach into the hundreds of
> > thousands, what issues are raised about spectatorship and participation?
> > What impact can curating have on mass subjectivities?
> >
> > We’re interested in starting a discussion based on these questions, and any
> > others that may arise from the list. We look forward to hearing your
> > thoughts.
> >
> > All the best,
> > Jennifer and Jim
> >
> > Jim Drobnick and Jennifer Fisher
> > DisplayCult
> > www.displaycult.com
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > empyre forum
> > empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> > http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> --
> Renate Ferro
> Visiting Assistant Professor of Art
> Cornell University
> Department of Art, Tjaden Hall Office #420
> Ithaca, NY  14853
> Email:   <rtf9 at cornell.edu>
> URL:  http://www.renateferro.net
>       http://www.privatesecretspubliclies.net
> Lab:  http://www.tinkerfactory.net
> Managing Co-moderator of -empyre- soft skinned space
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu/
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empyre
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> -- 
> Ashley Ferro-Murray 
> PhD Student
> Dept. Theater, Dance & Performance Studies 
> University of California, Berkeley
> ferromurray.net
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

Jennifer Fisher, PhD
Associate Professor, Contemporary Art and Curatorial Studies
Department of Visual Arts CFA 252
4700 Keele Street
Toronto, ON  M3J 1P3
jefish at yorku.ca

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