NUIT BLANCHE TORONTO 2011; THE BURNING HEART
So I’d meant to visit the Heart Machine. It seemed to be a nifty concept, the idea of taking control of your city, instead of passively waiting for the city to happen and you just being an observer. As the artist had written, the interaction between citizen and city was meant to be symbiotic.
Long before you saw the exhibit you could see the orange flicker of the Heart Machine on the upper walls of nearby buildings. I was especially interested as the Heart Machine had been featured last year at the counter-cultural Burning Man Festival in Nevada. The whole idea is that these 4 big severed arteries or maybe it was the Vena Cava, would belch huge roiling puffs of flame into the sky when triggered to do so by some good citizen who was beating at the heart. Well it certainly was a spectacle and it drew a crowd of citizens who chose to interact with the exhibit.
Carl, Jeff, Maggie and I were standing around the Heart Machine somewhat passively watching this fire twirling girl toss a flaming stick around when this Mohawk’d fellow climbed up onto a reddish mound that I took to be the heart. Immediately the heart seemed to be picking up the pace. The pulse was increasing and the night above was lit by great roars and exhalations of fire. Then the citizens arrived – planned or not they certainly added to the atmosphere and if it had not been for the chill in the air I could well have imagined that I was at the Burning man Festival myself.
I felt it first – this primitive vibration in my gut, a pounding beat explained as “Step-Dub” by Jeff who is familiar with the rave scene. The street was packed and a mob was moving toward us – the smell of weed (cannabis) preceding their arrival. It was a mobile rave where the police were conspicuous in their absence, several hundred youths in varying degrees of stonedness, one fellow near me puffing a joint so large it lit the crowd up all around him. There was this guy who looked like Renfield from Dracula, faeries, various pseudo Manga characters, kids in masks, costumes, fancy gowns and tons of neon glow sticks. And of course a couple of rave queens in a pickup and another vehicle behind that was like a float. “Water, anybody got water?” a young fellow cried out to nobody in particular.
The music was pounding out so loud that I could barely hear Maggie saying “Lets get out of here, this is getting out of control”. As though in reaction to the new arrivals, the heart was now spewing flame as though it had just ruptured. A fire engine was caught up in the mess and its siren added to the chaos.
You might say that these citizens of Toronto had come to interact with the heart, and interact they did!!! It was a symbiosis that seemed symbolic of recent interactions – read into it what you will.
Photograph copyright Michael Gordon
Post from guest blogger Michael Gordon. For more on the Nuit Blanche Toronto 2011 visit Michael's website http://www.rockwatching.wordpress.com/